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Re: [BKARTS] Deep South Wood for Book Covers?

What wood, if any, would you suggest from the Southern LA/MS area.
-----Original Message-----
From: Book_Arts-L [mailto:BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Jack C.
Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 6:48 PM
To: BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [BKARTS] Wood for Book Covers


Below is the text of an article I wrote about processing wood to make
book covers.  The illustration mentioned is on my website:


Among the woods you mention, poplar might work.  Maple is difficut to
split, and while cedar is very easy to split, the oils wouldn't do the
textblock any good.  I don't recommend using sawn wood, as you'll read

In my own conservation work I use Oregon white oak.



>I'm thinking about making a few coptic books with wooden covers, and I have
>a few questions about the wood I would need to use (apologies if this topic
>has already been covered--I did look in the list archives, but didn't find
>quite what I was looking for).
>I'd like to use wood that's native to the region I live in (British
>Columbia, Canada), so I was thinking of using maple, poplar, or cedar. Do I
>need to use quarter sawn wood to avoid warping? It's a bit harder to locate
>quarter sawn wood, so I'm wondering if it's really essential or not.
>Also, are there any other woods (not necessarily Pacific North American)
>that you recommend for covers? I'm planning to do a bit of simple carving
>the covers.  I've been doing research on different woods, but would
>definitely appreciate any advice you have to offer.

Wood is laid down in increments on trees which may, generally, be seen and
counted as annual growth rings.  Although some trees may appear to have
grown straight out of the ground most have some degree of spiral twist.
The twist may be right- or left-handed.  Timber cut from trees with left
handed twist tends to open up as it ages; timber from right handed twist
tends to close up as it ages.

To insure a high degree of confidence that a pair of boards for a book are
likely to remain in plane, in service, they should be split (not sawn) out
from quarters of air dried wood which has right hand twist.  When a tree
has been felled,  quartered, and cut to length, it may be split and stacked
with the bark facing in and out in alternating layers to dry, as
illustrated.  The quarters may be likewise stacked.  There are advantages
with either method.  Splitting the boards out soon after falling the tree
is easier, but the stack must be carefully monitored as it dries.
Splitting the boards from quarters which have been air dried for a few
years is harder on the hand, mallet, and froe, but the quarters may be left
more or less to their own devices as they season. There is a danger that
the wood will become case hardened.  This happens when the wood on the
outside of the quarter dries before the inside, making a very tough barrier
to split through.

	With either method of splitting there is more firewood and kindling
than book boards.  The important advantage of quarter-split boards is that
the splitting action follows the twist, if any, of the wood; a saw leaves
all boards straight.  For the moment.  During times of extreme and rapid
changes in relative humidity,   including floods, sawn, kiln dried boards
are more likely to warp than air dried, split boards.

My practice is to air dry quarters (generally of Oregon White Oak) for a
few years in the garage before splitting them.  Those boards which split
out straight or fairly straight, are dressed down with a broad hatchet (a
hatchet which is flat on one side and beveled on the other) and taken to my
basement workshop for a year or so.  Those which remain in plane are trued
up with a small drawknife, round bottomed spoke shave, and planes, and
brought down to a thickness of a quarter-inch or less, following which they
are brought to the lab where they lay on a shelf for another year, or
longer, until I need them.  I cannot say for certain that boards prepared
in this fashion will never warp or twist in service, but I do not believe
that it is likely.

With the exception of the froe and some scrapers, all edge tools used in
preparing wooden boards by hand have one characteristic in common; they are
flat on one side and beveled on the other.  The basic tools which I use in
making wooden  boards are a mallet and froe, broad hatchet, draw knife,
curved spoke shave, skew plane, rabbet plane (for quarter-bound work),
handled scrapers, unhandled  scrapers, files (metal working files also work
well on wood), and a  variety of chisels.

Even with a tool as simple as the froe, there are two types; one for
hardwoods and another for softwoods.  The type which is most effective on
hardwoods is thicker than that used for softwoods.  Each type will work on
either sort of wood, but the softwood froe, not unlike a thin wedge, is
more likely to be pinched tight in hardwood.  This leads to aggravation,
and ultimately, profanity.  With either type of froe, sharpening should not
produce a facet; instead, the faces should be slightly rounded.  If the
struck edge has a slight crown, the mallet will last longer.  Mallets
should be taken from the root stock of a young tree, the size depending on
the type of use (i.e., hardwood or softwood) and strength of the users arm.
I like a mallet to be about 18 inches in length and about 6 inches in
diameter.  Remove the bark and smooth out the edges with an axe, then form
the handle using a drawknife.  If the handle is formed by sawing into the
mallet and splitting away the excess wood with a chisel, a weak point will
be created where the handle joins the head.

Thompson Conservation Lab.
7549 N. Fenwick
Portland, OR  97217



"The lyfe so short; the craft so long to lerne."
Chaucer  _Parlement of Foules_  1386

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