Facets, the Next Logical Step #4: Dying, Part 1: I don't believe what just happened!

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 12-30-2010 03:15 AM 2276 reads 3 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Veneering and Marquetry, (What was I thinking?) Part 4 of Facets, the Next Logical Step series Part 5: Alignment and Trimming the Marquetry »

This is a “special segment” that I just had to post because I had an amazing emotional roller coaster day in the shop today. After spending my life in woodworking I had something happen in front of my eyes today that I’m still not sure I believe. My task for the day was to have been dying the leaf segments and top pentagon parts and getting the center segment glued up so that tomorrow I could accurately align the other segments to it and get them glued up also.
Things were progressing along nicely and I had the leaf looking really good with subtly changing tones and little details like veins and such appearing very “natural”. I won’t get into showing you that just yet because that’s all gone now and will have to be redone later.

Soooooo, here’s the story, When I “watercolor” dye these things it is necessary to get them quite wet. That’s been OK in the past (one project with smaller pieces) because when dried with a hairdryer, they returned to size and shape nicely. These pieces were bigger and maybe got wetter and certainly got dried dryer because when I went to fit the leaf segments into the pentagon pieces, where they had been perfect fits, I found them to be not only about 1/8” too small but way out of shape due to the multi-directional grain orientations. I was almost physically sick.They appeared to be miles beyond repair in any way I could think of. Since at this point there was nothing to lose I decided to spray them down with water on both sides (hence the necessity to re-do the dye details) and see what happened.

This is what happened. They rolled up in little balls and came apart at several joints.

When I got the moisture balanced out so that they were sort of flat, unbelievably (to me anyway) they were over 1/4” too big!

Still nothing to lose and an opportunity to learn something at hand, I thought I would see if I could finese them back down to size with the hairdryer. This photo was taken one minute after the last one. About 1/2 of that time was hairdryer time.

Encouraged by this I repeated the process, again about 30 seconds of heat. What had been over a quarter inch two minutes ago was only a sixteenth now!

I was on a roll and went for another half minute with the following results. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I flat out would not believe it. There will certainly be a lot more sleeping going on around here than there would have been if I had left it where I told myself I should, sprayed down. (But I just can’t seem to leave things alone)

The Bottom line is that no matter how long you’ve been around there will always be something new you can learn about wood that will amaze you.

Thanks for coming along on the ride. Next time I hope I will be able to give you the dying segment I meant to be doing today.


-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

14 comments so far

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3330 days

#1 posted 12-30-2010 03:30 AM

That ended up being a great save on the leaves. Ingenuity (or however it is spelled) and experimentation have saved the day many times. Looking really good so far.

View a1Jim's profile


117113 posts in 3599 days

#2 posted 12-30-2010 03:32 AM

Really enjoying this great blog well done ,very well illustrated and explained .

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3039 days

#3 posted 12-30-2010 03:41 AM

Seems hard to believe but I know wood does warp but never would have thought the piece would be salvageable! Nice save, I’m way impressed!

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View terrilynne's profile


836 posts in 2915 days

#4 posted 12-30-2010 04:15 AM

You’re such a genius at troubleshooting!

-- Terri, Rocky Mountain High Colorado!

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4114 days

#5 posted 12-30-2010 06:14 AM

Amazing save again Paul. So glad for you. I’m sure it was a big scare but if anyone knows about what water and air does to wood, it’d be a shipwright I guess… so thankfully your project was in the best of hands.

Thanks for the wonderful pics, and as always, very much looking forward to seeing the next step…

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View sras's profile


4805 posts in 3151 days

#6 posted 12-30-2010 07:27 AM

If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I flat out would not believe it.
end quote

Nice pun Paul! Seriously – I am impressed you pulled this one off. Looks like you sized the situation up well and pulled it off seamlessly.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2819 days

#7 posted 12-30-2010 09:57 AM

Thanks everyone, but really what happened is I got lucky. Next time it will be good management.
Thanks again

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3903 days

#8 posted 12-30-2010 03:38 PM

That is so cool and a nice recovery. The time lapse photos are a treat. I can only imagine what would have come out of my mouth.

I have always kept the visual in my head that wood is like a bunch of straws (which, duh, it is). They fill up with moisture and expand in width only, not in length. This helps me predict why gluing only works on the long grain and also how the wood will expand. You pictures are right on, in that your leaf is made of two angles glued together. If you were to fill up the straws (which you did), the pattern would rotate clockwise (which it did). But wow, that is a lot of movement.

I get such a kick out of such dumb stuff.
Thanks for the ride,

PS Do you think that ‘veneer softener’ would help next time?

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2819 days

#9 posted 12-30-2010 06:32 PM

Steve, That’s a good conceptualization of wood movement. It’s not really what it did that surprised me as much as it was the extent of the distortion. I was surprised that with all the little variations in wood density, porosity etc. that after getting that far off it would come back so exactly.

I’ve never read anything about “softeners” before but from a quick bit of research this morning, I’d say no it wouldn’t likely have had much of an effect here.

This experience makes me a lot braver about further experimentation with dying this way. It seems that if you can get this back to shape…. anything is possible.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View tdv's profile


1188 posts in 3092 days

#10 posted 01-03-2011 03:08 AM

That was a phenomenal save Paul I’m glad you captured it in pictures it would have been a stretch to imagine it could be pulled back that precisely wouldn’t it?

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3356 days

#11 posted 01-03-2011 08:27 PM

I’m glad I don’t know all that much about wood, because your surreal experience there might otherwise drive me nuts trying to figure out how that happened. Anyway, I hope the relief more than offset the stress.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3058 days

#12 posted 01-10-2011 09:14 PM

Very useful information from both yourself and various people’s comments. Must favourite this blog.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3182 days

#13 posted 01-11-2011 02:00 PM

Nice blog Paul. You mention “Next time it will be good management”. I assume you mean you’d dye them before cutting or do you have other preventative measures? I’ve never done marquetry, this intrigues me.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2819 days

#14 posted 01-11-2011 05:51 PM

What I meant is that it’s all experimental for me right now and I have been lucky a few times but that as I learn more about it hopefully more of my success will be my good work and less of it luck.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

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