Seasoning Laburnum

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Seasoning Laburnum

Postby Tpfairfax » Mon Jun 22, 2015 3:38 pm

Ladies and Gentlemen

I have just managed to get hold of a mature Laburnum which a friend had to cut. Still needs to be seasoned - but I am currently ruminating on the seasoning strategy.

Has anyone used laburnum - or seasoned it? - I haven't yet!

At this stage, my key challenge is whether to season it in the round (with waxed ends) or to cut billets based on the heart wood and season these.

On this - Many of the pieces have a good width of dark heart wood (ranging from 2-5" heartwood with up to 2" sapwood) - there are some more bits to come which are bigger - I would be interested whether people just use the heart wood (my gut instinct) or whether anyone has had success with the slightly lighter sapwood (as I note a number of Laburnum pipes I have seen appear quite pale). I note that a combination of light and dark may be interesting.

On another note - there is quite a bit of it so I thought I would cut a couple of "green heartwood billets" and treat them with PEG (see previous posts on PEG) to see how this works (PEG treatment seems to be more effective on green wood). If anyone has any other experiments that would be interesting - let me know!

I would appreciate any thoughts, guidance, ideas.


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Location: Mindrum, Northumberland. TD12 4QN
Full Name: Tom Fairfax

Re: Seasoning Laburnum

Postby Francis Wood » Thu Jun 25, 2015 7:45 pm

Hello Tom,

I should confess at the start that I've never used laburnum though I doubt that the seasoning process is significantly different from any other wood of comparable density.

As to the method, I think that depends chiefly on how much time you're willing to allow the process. Waxing the ends is necessary to prevent cracking whatever you do. Seasoning in the round will produce more useable wood if you are willing to wait that long. A longtitudinal crack will almost certainly develop as the wood shrinks in a tangential direction and you might want to preempt that with a modest sawcut.

For faster results, I'd cut some work pieces much closer to the eventual desired sizes, allowing sufficient for some unpredictable dimensional change. I would then monitor the progress of the seasoning process by accurately weighing a specimen piece of average size. Digital kitchen scales are sufficiently accurate for the job. When the weight stabilises, so has the internal moisture and you can declare the piece 'seasoned'.

There are almost certainly pipes made of this wood since it turns well, is usually free and grows well in these islands However I suspect that in pipe-form, 'laburnum' is often a code word for "I've no idea what this is but it's quite dark and softer than ebony and blackwood".

Laburnum is actually less toxic than it is generally supposed, and the wood is less poisonous than the berries. But I'd advise particular care when turning and sanding since thare are additional hazards with this material.

No idea about PEG, but it seems to have stabilised the warship Vasa which sank off Stockholm in 1628. It looked pretty good when I saw it a few years ago.

I hope you'll report back on any experiments.

All best, Francis
Francis Wood
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Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 7:38 pm

Re: Seasoning Laburnum

Postby pipemakermike » Fri Jun 26, 2015 10:56 am

I have used waterglass (sodium silicate) to seal the ends of cut wood. I have also some laburnum given to me some 10 years ago. I guess that it will be seasoned by now<G>
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Full Name: Mike Nelson

Re: Seasoning Laburnum

Postby garagepiper » Thu Apr 14, 2016 3:45 pm

Hi Tom,

To avoid radial splitting, you'd need to saw your laburnum logs lengthwise into 4 quarters as soon as cut.

In order to get all heartwood for Northumbrian pipes, the logs would need to be at least 6" diameter - for Uilleanns you'd need maybe 8" diameter ones.

Stack outside in an airy shed/under roof with softwood spacers for at least a year then take inside for another two.

Turn them into cylinders but to cope with further drying/distortion, the diameters of these would need to be about 50% more than needed for turning the actual pipe pieces.

Apart from its fancy grain pattern, laburnum is a very dense close-grained timber, can be turned to very fine details and polishes up well.

And, don't worry, the dust is no more toxic than is iroko.

Go find your tree!

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