Drying wood in the microwave?

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Asa Samuel

Native
May 6, 2009
1,450
0
St Austell.
Hi there,

I was just watching a video on youtube - Joerg Sprave's video on making a wooden slingshot - and Joerg made a slingshot from a wooden fork he collected a few days before. Because it was still fresh he said that he put the wood in the microwave a few times to dry it out.

I can understand how the principal works; microwaves heat up liquid in food and would hopefully boil off the moisture from the wood. But how effective is this and would it weaken the wood? Obviously it isn't worth it if you are trying to burn the wood but how long would you reckon it would take to dry off a smallish piece of wood for you to carve?

Will ask the bloke himself to see what he says as well :)

Cheers!
 

HillBill

Bushcrafter through and through
Oct 1, 2008
8,113
59
W. Yorkshire
Never tried it myself, but if he uses the wood for a slingshot ( and he knocks up some powerful ones) then I doubt the wood would be weakened by it :)
 

lannyman8

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jan 18, 2009
4,005
2
Dark side of the Moon
i would have thought it would make micro cracks as it gets dryer......

in any case defrost would be the way to go as it would dry slower, try it and tell us all.....
 

robin wood

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Oct 29, 2007
3,054
1
derbyshire
www.robin-wood.co.uk
It works well for drying wood but the idea of drying wood to carve is not good, it is far better to carve green then dry afterwards.
To dry wood in microwave heat it until it is warm-hot to the touch then let cool down. You can do this on full power but keep popping the door open to feel how hot it is. If you are using roundwood it is more likely to crack, if you are using split half or quarter sections it is fine.
 
Feb 15, 2011
3,860
0
Elsewhere
Micro wave ovens don't actually use heat, the electromagnetic waves activate & agitate the water molecules which in turn produces heat, so the stuff is cooked from the inside out, which might explain why burls are easier to hollow out after, as they are softened by being partially cooked.
 

robin wood

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Oct 29, 2007
3,054
1
derbyshire
www.robin-wood.co.uk
My experience is that wood dried in the microwave is just like wood dried most other ways far harder than green wood. Far far easier to carve your item green then let it dry. The only point I could see in drying wood in the microwave in small quantities would be say for knife scales where complete dryness is important and I can get that from green wood in a very short time.
The reason most folk want to dry their wood is because they are worried it will split if they use it green. You have to learn a few basic rules in order to work green wood, start by splitting the round in half and removing the pith, understand the wood and work with it rather than against it.
 

Asa Samuel

Native
May 6, 2009
1,450
0
St Austell.
Thanks for the replies!

As regards to the carving aspect of it, he peeled off the bark of a blackthorn fork and then used a rasp and file almost as much as a small knife so although I'm sure it would be easier to carve green I don't think it was too much harder for him to carve it dry (He is also the size of a mountain; could probably carve concrete easy enough!).


The appeal I think here is that if you are just making one-off pieces having the wood dry sooner rather than later is a fine thing. If you are making many pieces and already have wood drying that can be selected from then that must be nice but for someone who doesn't carve very often it sounds ok to me!
 

jackcbr

Native
Sep 25, 2008
1,561
0
47
Gatwick, UK
www.pickleimages.co.uk
funnily i was chatting with a turner over the weekend who suggested using this method. He said short periods on defrost and allow to cool fully. Also weigh it after each set in the microwave, once you get 2 the same, it's done.
 

Woodcutter2

Forager
Jul 31, 2011
175
13
Conyer, Kent
www.tpknives.com
An alternative to the microwave but slower is to use an electric plant propogator, they give a low but consistent heat ideal for controlled drying, I use one to dry many of the part seasoned exotic hardwoods I use for knife scales, I found that sometimes with the microwave the wood developed hairline cracks inside which were not apparent until I carved into it and set my self back a few hours.

I support the scales on 8mm square bearers and turn them 3-4 times in 24-48 hours (or more depending on the moisture loss) touch wood, it works a treat
 

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