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Denatured alcohol to dry wood

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Tad Lynch, Mar 2, 2009.

  1. Tad Lynch

    Tad Lynch KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Nov 14, 2006
    I have spoken with a couple of woodturning guys who swear by using denatured alcohol to dry wood. They soak the block in the alcohol for a period of time, then wrap it paper letting it dry for a while. There is some info on the web if you search on it, but I was wondering if any of you have tried it first hand. I plan on trying it out just out of curiosity.

    Tad Lynch
  2. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    An old chemist speaking here.

    This works because of the miscibility of water and ethanol. They will mix, or diffuse, into a homogemous liquid.

    When a piece of wood with a high moisture content - AKA "Green Wood" - is soaked in denatured alcohol, the water in the wood and the alcohol outside will mix until the percentage is equal. Then, when you let the alcohol evaporate, it will leave much less water behind in the wood. Simple enough....

    Here is the rub for knife work.
    The woodturners who do this are doing it on rough turned green wood bowls. The wall thickness is fairly thin. The other thing is that when a woodworker says the wood is "stabilized" he means that the moisture content is equal with the ambient air moisture. That is a very different thing then when a knife maker says that a piece of wood is stabilized ( impregnated with a resin). A wood turner is perfectly happy with 10-15% moisture content, compared to the 30-40% green wood.
    The process also does not work on any dense or resinous woods. It works well on soft, wet woods, like holly, poplar,buckeye, box elder,etc.
    When I used to turn a lot, I used alcohol a few times, but switched to PEG "stabilizers" ( which won't work for knives at all).
    It also takes a good volume of alcohol to make sure the water becomes a minor percentage of the final mix.

    Alcohol drying won't penetrate too deeply ( at least not fast), so it might work on scales, but blocks may be too thick. There is still a good chance of some warpage with the alcohol treatment. That is why woodturners pre-turn the wood leaving some extra to take off on the lathe and make it round again.

    As a treatment to speed up drying before resin stabilization, alcohol might be of some use, but at the price of several gallons of alcohol, - just letting it air dry for six months to a year may be a better method.

  3. A C Richards

    A C Richards KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 14, 2006
    I have done it with acetone as well. It does not seem to take a long to soak or dry the wood.
  4. Fiddleback

    Fiddleback Knifemaker Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 19, 2005
    Drying wood quickly can also cause warping and checking. Whats the rush?
  5. delbert ealy

    delbert ealy

    May 3, 2004
    There is this marvelous new invention
    Kiln drying
  6. mete

    mete Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    A microwave will do it. Haven't tried it.One of the gun makers used this to dry wood for stocks.
    Salt will do it too ! In the '60s there was a shortage of gunstock wood so Browning decided to speed up drying by treating them with salt to pull out the moisture.It worked but you had some salt remaining in the wood !! If you take the stock off you'll see that where it touched the metal , the metal is rusted !!! Not recommended !

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