Ipe lumber. How best to clean it up - man this stuff is hard.

  • Advertise with us

« back to Wood & Lumber forum

Forum topic by Randy_ATX posted 04-04-2012 04:35 PM 7378 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Randy_ATX's profile


879 posts in 2471 days

04-04-2012 04:35 PM

Topic tags/keywords: ipe

My mom and step-dad have a lot of Ipe decking they want to re-purpose from a pool deck they removed. It is about 4” wide by 5/8” thick, random longer lengths. It is weathered but still solid and was only installed about 5 years ago. I took a small piece about 3 feet long and thought this is nothing my 6” grizzly jointer can’t take care of. I recently just had a guy sharpen the carbide tipped knives. I fired it up, ran a couple of feet of the board into it, only taking about 1/32 off. Looked great, nice clean brown wood showing through. Second pass went well at first but hit a small knot which is probably present in all of the boards to some extent. Then I noticed a ridge in the wood. Shut down, checked the knives and sure enough there was a small chip in the tip of the carbide.

So I am asking, have others had any luck in cleaning up the surface of Ipe? Sanding all of this is out of the question. Would HSS work better and last longer than carbide tipped knives in this scenario?

I wasn’t that familiar with Ipe, but here is a little bit about it including the Janka hardness rating (3680).

Thanks for any advice.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

18 replies so far

View DustyRich's profile


12 posts in 2347 days

#1 posted 04-04-2012 08:37 PM

I’ve built a couple of Ipe decks and splined some Ipe together with polyurethane glue for a customer who wanted a wood floor on a covered back porch. She didn’t want to have to deal with painting the floor all the time like the t&g pine floor that was there and rotted out anyway. Ipe has a natural grit in the wood itself and is very hard on cutting tools. We burned thru a few splining bits and one 2 hp router ! That was over 9 years ago and she loves it. It grayed out a little unevenly because some areas of the porch get more rain/sun than others. It is also very dense and sometimes does not take finishes evenly because its just too hard to soak in. I have cleaned up pieces and applied Cabot’s Austrailian Timber Stain with good results. What ever type blades you decide to use, just know you are going to use a couple of sets, maybe more depending on how much Ipe you have to play with.

View ellen35's profile


2738 posts in 3461 days

#2 posted 04-04-2012 08:51 PM

Someone gave me some ipe… rather than dull all my machine blades, I took it to the dump and put it in the “you can have it” section.
I think it is only good for outdoor decks and such.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View Randy_ATX's profile


879 posts in 2471 days

#3 posted 04-04-2012 08:58 PM

Thanks Rich and Ellen. I should be clear – it is to be reused for another outdoor area. I know they spent a fair amount of money on it. It does have the grayness you speak of – one of the reasons it would be nice to clean up the surface and try to seal it a bit better than the first time.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View BlankMan's profile


1490 posts in 3382 days

#4 posted 04-04-2012 09:04 PM

Randy, I remember reading someplace about ipe that once it turns gray pressure washing it removes the gray and gets it back to it’s original color. Worth a shot in my book. I’d probably try with at least a 3000psi one though, not one of those little ones.

-- -Curt, Milwaukee, WI

View Randy_ATX's profile


879 posts in 2471 days

#5 posted 04-04-2012 09:33 PM

Thanks Curt. I may need to use that as plan B. Took a look at your site, I am envious of your workshop, tools and clamps. What do you think about the HSS vs Carbide?

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 2894 days

#6 posted 04-04-2012 09:44 PM

I built a large deck with ipe last year. You are right, it is heavy and hard.

Don’t waste your time with HSS. Carbide is the only way to go. Still, it won’t last that long.

If you are just going to reinstall it for outdoor use, your best bet is to use the pressure washer on it. I haven’t done that to mine yet, but after working with it I can’t imagine any other way. I had to cut out holes for downspouts on my deck. I used a sawsall with blades for cutting steel. The worked pretty well, but I couldn’t cut more than about 3 holes before that blade would be shot.

I did us a router with carbide bits for a few small things and it routed well, too if that helps you.

I know I’ve read that some folks build furniture, etc with ipe here on LJ. Maybe Rich Greer? I wondered how they do it while I was working on my deck. Maybe they will chime in and give more info for you.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2390 days

#7 posted 04-04-2012 09:52 PM

I made my 36×84 desk top out of 5/4×6 ipe decking finished with Cabot Australian Timber Oil that I left outside for a couple weeks to cure. The only cutting I had to do was to jig saw a curve on the ends, and it took a couple blades. Pressure washing sounds like the way to go.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View BlankMan's profile


1490 posts in 3382 days

#8 posted 04-04-2012 10:18 PM

Thanks Randy. You’d get more mileage out of carbide but once it dulls or nicks it’s more costly. I’ve heard that ipe was hard on knives but never worked with it myself. Almost used it for my raised gardens, was that close.

I’m thinking a Shelix type cutterhead would maybe be the way to go, from what I heard I don’t know that I’d try with HSS. Not suggesting you run out and buy helical cutterheads by no means. But at least with one indexing the inserts as they dull/nick might get you farther but still take a toll on longevity and be replacing them a lot sooner.

Rock and a hard place. HSS I suspect you’d go through a lot of them as you already discovered. Straight carbide probably last longer but more costly and how much longer? Wouldn’t surprise me at all if the cost of the knives needed to do this would exceed the cost of a Shelix cutterhead.

-- -Curt, Milwaukee, WI

View oluf's profile


260 posts in 3068 days

#9 posted 04-05-2012 03:20 AM

Try pressure washing. If that dos’nt work use a nine inch body grinder with 80 grit disks to clean the surface you want to be the show side. Ware a good mask if you grind it.

-- Nils, So. Central MI. Wood is honest.Take the effort to understand what it has to tell you before you try to change it.

View doughan's profile


96 posts in 2620 days

#10 posted 04-05-2012 03:52 AM

Not sure if this was the cause of your chipped carbide but while working on some of the hardest honduran mahogany i have ever run across there was a particularly hard spot that ruined a carbide blade.When i looked at it carefully it was an actually rock that had been surrounded by the growing tree.Birds eat rocks and they come out sometimes too…if they get lodged in a spot on the tree that expands around them you have a blade/carbide chipping area in an already hard wood.

View Tomj's profile


204 posts in 2411 days

#11 posted 04-05-2012 08:24 AM

Ipe really is some hard stuff, not as bad as Purple Heart but really hard. Some people are allergic to it the dust that is. It’s great for bows. Trying to get seal on it or glue it is hard too due to it being so oily. I have never tried planning it just 60 grit on a belt sander. It dulls any blade it touches. Good luck.

View Randy_ATX's profile


879 posts in 2471 days

#12 posted 04-05-2012 08:20 PM

Thanks everyone for your input – I appreciate it. Since there is probably 2000bf I will need to come up with an efficient system.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View chrisstef's profile


17429 posts in 3035 days

#13 posted 04-05-2012 08:26 PM

I think LJ A1Jim does a lot of work with ipe maybe you can ask him via a pm.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4950 posts in 3989 days

#14 posted 04-05-2012 08:35 PM

I have found (as of today) that some planer blades are ground with a 40+ degree edge. That’s too much angle. I grind to about 30 degrees. I see less chip with that grind.


View Jeff's profile


440 posts in 3223 days

#15 posted 04-05-2012 08:43 PM

Most commercial deck cleaners have Clorox bleach in them. You could try a small area with bleach to see if the grey color comes off. Then pressure wash.

showing 1 through 15 of 18 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics