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Re: [BKARTS] Wood for Book Covers

Thanks, Jack. Very helpful article on your website--the pictures of the wood
in different stages of sawing are really useful.


On Tue, 29 Jul 2008 22:48:16 +62925, Jack C. Thompson <tcl@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Barbara,
> Below is the text of an article I wrote about processing wood to make
> book covers.  The illustration mentioned is on my website:
> http://www.teleport.com/~tcl
> 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
> below.
> In my own conservation work I use Oregon white oak.
> Cheers,
> Jack
> >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
> on
> >the covers.  I've been doing research on different woods, but would
> >definitely appreciate any advice you have to offer.
> >
> >
> >Barbara
> 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
> U.S.A.
> 503/735-3942
> http://www.teleport.com/~tcl
> "The lyfe so short; the craft so long to lerne."
> Chaucer  _Parlement of Foules_  1386
>             ***********************************************
>           NOW ONLINE, The Bonefolder, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2008 at
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>             For all your subscription questions, go to the
>                      Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive.
>         See <http://www.philobiblon.com> for full information.
>             ***********************************************

Barbara Simler
Moon Bindery
Kamloops, BC

           NOW ONLINE, The Bonefolder, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2008 at
             For all your subscription questions, go to the
                      Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive.
         See <http://www.philobiblon.com> for full information.

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