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What, if anything, do I need to do to this ebony handle?

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Forum topic by Jonathan posted 12-18-2010 06:29 PM 982 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Jonathan

2608 posts in 2513 days


12-18-2010 06:29 PM

I’m getting ready to try and wrap up another Christmas gift. I have made a small ebony handle for a drawer out of an ebony pen blank.

I am wondering if I need to use something like Pentacryl on the ebony, or if I can just apply shellac? I am planning on shellacing the entire piece with SealCoat, but could shellac the handle separately so that the back is sealed as well, if need be, as I haven’t glued-on the handle yet. I just don’t want this ebony checking or cracking, if I can help it. I have sanded it through 600-grit. After the SealCoat (however many coats it’s going to take), I plan on applying several coats of Renaissance Wax.

Thanks for the help, in advance!

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."


8 replies so far

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mfike

100 posts in 3128 days


#1 posted 12-18-2010 06:51 PM

I would think that as long as the ebony is dry you wouldn’t have to worry about checks or cracks.

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Ole

67 posts in 2539 days


#2 posted 12-18-2010 07:01 PM

Was it sealed in wax when you bought it? If it wasn’t, has it had time to acclimate to your shop? If it was sealed in wax… you may have a relatively green piece of wood.

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Jonathan

2608 posts in 2513 days


#3 posted 12-18-2010 07:15 PM

It was a pen blank that I bought at Rockler a couple of months ago and it’s been sitting in my basement workshop ever since then. The ends were sealed in wax, so I’m assuming it’s (relatively) green.

If I soak it in all around in shellac before glueing it onto the front of the drawer, do you think that will do the trick?
It’s a very small piece at about 3/4”x 5/16” and sort of a triangular shape, so soaking it would not be difficult at all. I’m just wondering if I need to go to something more extreme than shellac?

I have never worked with ebony, so that’s why I’m asking. Not really any green wood as far as woodworking goes either, just green cedar picket fences, which is a totally different ballgame, at least, in my eyes.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

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Jonathan

2608 posts in 2513 days


#4 posted 12-18-2010 07:18 PM

I also forgot to mention that this piece will be going from our dry climate in Colorado (although my basement is obviously a bit more humid), to live in Maryland this week, so it’ll be going to a more humid environment.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 3386 days


#5 posted 12-19-2010 01:07 AM

As I see it part of the problem is that you do not know the current moisture content of the piece so best you can do is a somewhat educated guess. Ebony being dense changes MC rather slowly and that is to your advantage but it would be nice to have it relatively close to the Maryland average EMC to prevent the checking. So here’s my ‘educated’ guess – From a Denver basement to a Md home might be not that much different humidity wise and since it’s a pretty small piece it should may/could have reached EMC with your basement in the couple of months you had it. Also the shellac finish will mitigate moisture exchange somewhat to slow down an already slow process with dense ebony. I think (guess) you will be OK doing as you plan to do.

I have been working with some ebony in a rather moist area. I had a small test piece (1×1x5) that I oven dried to 0% MC and have been monitoring its absorption for around one month. It is setting out where the average RH is about 60-80% and the wood has only risen to a MC of 5.87% where as other wood samples are around 8-10% already. I expect them to reach around 14% when stabalized. All that to say ebony is changing the slowest of all the pieces. and again I think that will work to your advantage. Slow is better because it is a rapid change that causes the forces of tension in the wood to cause splitting.

Here’s a shot of my ebony project.

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Jonathan

2608 posts in 2513 days


#6 posted 12-19-2010 01:31 AM

Bill, even though your taking an educated guess, your explanation makes sense. Maybe I need to add a moisture meter to my last minute Christmas list?

I don’t think the pine has reached it’s ultimate dryness level either.

I figured that shellacking everything would hopefully help avoid any major issues, and from what you’ve said above, it would appear that’d be the case.

I’m going to go ahead and shellac everything as best I can, both inside and out and hopefully things will be OK. Since this is a bandsaw box, there is a bit of wiggle room as far as all tolerances are concerned.

My main concern was with the ebony in that it is sort of going to be one of the focal points of the box and I didn’t want to draw attention to a “problem” area.

Thank you for your input on this one.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

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Bill Davis

226 posts in 3386 days


#7 posted 12-19-2010 02:47 AM

Back on the wax thing. I believe the main reasons to apply wax is two fold, 1) as a thin finish to provide a sheen, and 2) as a thick coating principally on the end grain (since wood absorbs moisture 10-20 times as fast through endgrain) to slow moisture exchange thereby hopefully eliminating wood damage due to too much internal stress. Both are only temporary uses and not to be viewed as long term. The ‘sheen’ use is temporary because it is thin and vulnerable so we keep buying furniture wax to restore the desired appearance. But many wax finishes just attract dust, which keeps selling the stuff cuz we got to keep redoing it. The thick coating of wax for checking control is most likely removed before machining the wood. It keeps the piece from checking before you buy the nice looking piece but is no guarantee it will remain check free once you get it depending on conditions of how you dry/store/season/acclimate it.

And on the pine’s ‘ultimate dryness’, the moisture content or dryness of wood is an ever changing property because wood is hygroscopic and therefore ever taking in and giving off moisture as its environment (%RH) changes. We try to mitigate the potential problems caused my this natural characteristic by pre-shrinking (drying) it to close to its expected environment MC, then slowing the effects of its inevitable RH changes by applying a finish which slows (more or less) the ongoing moisture sorption rate.

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rance

4245 posts in 2623 days


#8 posted 12-19-2010 04:11 AM

Jonathan, some of the problems with pen blanks cracking come from the fact that they are being drilled, which causes heat in them. You are not going through that so you’ve eliminated part of the problem.

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

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