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Question about boiling green wood to minimize cracking/warping

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Here in northern CA we're lucky to have regular access to madrone. While it's glorious to turn, it's difficult to dry intact since the wood warps and wiggles a lot along the way. Boiling, steaming or pressure-cooking the wood seems to stabilize it. I've heard folks mention that one should use a "non-reactive" pot for this, but it's unclear what reaction I'm trying to avoid. For example, I've successfully used steel, stainless steel and aluminum pots for this. Are there any woods for which aluminum would _not_ be appropriate? And are there other woods for which this process would be useful? I'll certainly experiment with olive next time I get some fresh.
 

Dennis J Gooding

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Richard is correct. Madrone, like oak has a high tannin content which reacts with iron to produce a black compound. Even enameled steel pots are not safe if they have any pitting of the enamel coating.
 
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Stainless steel, or galvanized pots/horse troughs would be best. Dale Larson up in Portland boils all of his madrone. He did a demo for the club in Salem and I told him it looked really weird because it was actually round... I turn a lot of madrone, and like mine to warp. I prefer spring harvested trees, turn to 1/4 inch thick, round over rims, wrap the rim in stretch film, then start drying on the concrete shop floor. Up on wire racks after a couple of days. Dry in a week to 10 days max. Some times I will go to 5/16 thick. Summer and fall harvested trees tend to crack more. Other than that, what I didn't like about the boiled bowls was that it tends to muddle the colors together. I like the colors in the unboiled bowls better. I guess I could add that it was, to me, a lot of extra work and cost when making bowls...

robo hippy
 
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How much spalting or mold do you experience when wrapping the rims? I have a copy of an article Dale wrote that details the entire process if you're interested Kalia.
 
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Stainless steel, or galvanized pots/horse troughs would be best. Dale Larson up in Portland boils all of his madrone. He did a demo for the club in Salem and I told him it looked really weird because it was actually round... I turn a lot of madrone, and like mine to warp. I prefer spring harvested trees, turn to 1/4 inch thick, round over rims, wrap the rim in stretch film, then start drying on the concrete shop floor. Up on wire racks after a couple of days. Dry in a week to 10 days max. Some times I will go to 5/16 thick. Summer and fall harvested trees tend to crack more. Other than that, what I didn't like about the boiled bowls was that it tends to muddle the colors together. I like the colors in the unboiled bowls better. I guess I could add that it was, to me, a lot of extra work and cost when making bowls...

robo hippy
Any thoughts about aluminum? I have permission to co-opt my husband's old aluminum brewing kettle which is big enough for moderate loads of bowls. OR I could go out and plonk down some cash for a steel crab pot.
 
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Kalia,
I have used a enameled pot for my first try at boiling Madrone wood.
Chuck Q used to use a galvanized water trough. He cooked outside, with a wood fire under the trough. Until he tried to burn the hillside while he went to lunch one time. CalFire put the fire out. I would worry about galvanized as if the coating gets too hot, it gives off Zinc fumes, which are not good to breathe.
I have used a galvanized garbage can for a bit also. Outside. Usually, the garbage cans are a bit thin and will burn out on the bottom.
Never had a problem with the iron in the pot coloring the wood.
I finally got my stainless steel pot. Before you go purchase something.....make a trip to Maselli's on Lakeville Highway in Petaluma. Go for a walk in the yard. See what they have available.
I paid a bit under $300 for my nice SS pot. A lid would be nice, but a piece of plywood works for that. Just helps keep the heat in.
Save the colored water for your weavers in the area. Nice dye for wool.
Are the steel crab pots stainless?
I have heard of people using a 55 gallon drum for boiling also. But that would be made of steel. Not sure of the effect on the wood.
 
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Kalia,
I have used a enameled pot for my first try at boiling Madrone wood.
Chuck Q used to use a galvanized water trough. He cooked outside, with a wood fire under the trough. Until he tried to burn the hillside while he went to lunch one time. CalFire put the fire out. I would worry about galvanized as if the coating gets too hot, it gives off Zinc fumes, which are not good to breathe.
I have used a galvanized garbage can for a bit also. Outside. Usually, the garbage cans are a bit thin and will burn out on the bottom.
Never had a problem with the iron in the pot coloring the wood.
I finally got my stainless steel pot. Before you go purchase something.....make a trip to Maselli's on Lakeville Highway in Petaluma. Go for a walk in the yard. See what they have available.
I paid a bit under $300 for my nice SS pot. A lid would be nice, but a piece of plywood works for that. Just helps keep the heat in.
Save the colored water for your weavers in the area. Nice dye for wool.
Are the steel crab pots stainless?
I have heard of people using a 55 gallon drum for boiling also. But that would be made of steel. Not sure of the effect on the wood.
I forgot about your recommendation for Maselli's. I'll check them out. Seems like there's enough madrone crossing my path that I should have my own cooking rig for it. Do you think that's something Bataeff Salvage might have? It's been ages since the last time I went out there.
 
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Nobody seems to be responding about aluminum for this purpose. Would it be a problem for tannic woods? I've never noticed the aluminum parts on my lathe reacting or discoloring, and aluminum pots are a lot cheaper and lighter than steel. A local restaurant supply place has heavy-duty 80-quarts stock pots for $110.
 
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I don't know enough about how aluminum might react with wood , but I am quite familiar with aluminum and what happens to it in various conditions (30 plus years in small engine repairs) -- So.. I'd think, unless you regularly clean out and rinse the pot after each use, you might find aluminum very quickly corroding - if you see white powder on your aluminum, it's corroding.. Acidic water (which I imagine might happen from boiling some woods) can also eat aluminum (muriatic acid makes quick work of it, matter of minutes it can eat a hole right through a typical pot) so I'd want to know more about what the water becomes during and after boiling the wood in question before going for a $100 aluminum pot..
 
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I don’t think aluminum affects tannin. Correction I just saw an article in Canadian woodworker talking about boiling madrone and it said you should look for a large aluminum or stainless steel pot.
 
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I don't know enough about how aluminum might react with wood , but I am quite familiar with aluminum and what happens to it in various conditions (30 plus years in small engine repairs) -- So.. I'd think, unless you regularly clean out and rinse the pot after each use, you might find aluminum very quickly corroding - if you see white powder on your aluminum, it's corroding.. Acidic water (which I imagine might happen from boiling some woods) can also eat aluminum (muriatic acid makes quick work of it, matter of minutes it can eat a hole right through a typical pot) so I'd want to know more about what the water becomes during and after boiling the wood in question before going for a $100 aluminum pot..
This is very helpful, thank you!
 
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I forgot about your recommendation for Maselli's. I'll check them out. Seems like there's enough madrone crossing my path that I should have my own cooking rig for it. Do you think that's something Bataeff Salvage might have? It's been ages since the last time I went out there.
When I went to Bataeff Salvage, they did not have the stainless steel selection that Maselli's had. But, that was many years ago. The stainless steel pot will last forever basically. Is 80 qt. large enough? If you get a nice truck load of Madrone, how many times will you have to run the boiling process? How much propane will you burn with each boiling? My large pot is about 40+ gallons or so. 22" diameter. I understand the weight problem as mine weighs in at 77 pounds.
Think of the terrific day of visiting both salvage places.......what fun. Take a lunch. As far as I am concerned.....Maselli's is a dangerous place.....so much to look at.

Question: Have you purchased a burner yet? Did you get a pot with it? Maybe a turkey fryer pot? Is it aluminum? Maybe try it?
 
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This is very helpful, thank you!
I don't know enough about how aluminum might react with wood , but I am quite familiar with aluminum and what happens to it in various conditions (30 plus years in small engine repairs) -- So.. I'd think, unless you regularly clean out and rinse the pot after each use, you might find aluminum very quickly corroding - if you see white powder on your aluminum, it's corroding.. Acidic water (which I imagine might happen from boiling some woods) can also eat aluminum (muriatic acid makes quick work of it, matter of minutes it can eat a hole right through a typical pot) so I'd want to know more about what the water becomes during and after boiling the wood in question before going for a $100 aluminum pot..
Nobody seems to be responding about aluminum for this purpose. Would it be a problem for tannic woods? I've never noticed the aluminum parts on my lathe reacting or discoloring, and aluminum pots are a lot cheaper and lighter than steel. A local restaurant supply place has heavy-duty 80-quarts stock pots for $110.
I've been boiling madrone, maple, and, once in a while, oak for almost 15 years in a very large, heavy aluminum stock pot - about 24" dia x 24" high. It has never been a problem. There's absolutely no sign of corrosion and the only sign its been used for wood is a light coat of the red extractives that are common with madrone and maple both. I use a propane jet burner to heat it and, when roughing and coring I get it going first thing in the morning and go as long as possible roughing and chucking the blanks into the pot until I'm either done or can't keep going (then start again the next morning). It has had a lot of use.

There's also been no sign of discoloring of the wood I can attribute to the aluminum pot. I do make certain to keep the boil up continuously, ensure that all blanks get at least a couple hours in the pot, and pull them when the pot is still hot. Some people prefer to let the pot cool with the blanks in the water, I do not. I pull them hot, stack them on the shop floor with their rims verticle so they can cool and surface dry (a day or so). When surface dry I restack rims down, stickered to sit for a couple of days before finally stacking on wire shelves to fully dry. I've found that if I leave them in the pot to cool before pulling they are more prone to mold while drying. I do spray with a boric acid solution before final stacking to keep mold and critters at bay...
 
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Tom, how about sharing that article for the rest of us?


After more posts it seems Kalia had more specific questions than this covers but here it is. I just finished turning my first chunk of madrone today. Ridiculous how nice of a finish I got with shear scraping. Is a timely thread for me as I was wondering if I should use only stainless or aluminum.
 

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  • Working and turning Pacific Madrone.pdf
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Dennis J Gooding

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I have used aluminum successfully. I expect that enameled steel would be fine if there are no cracks or pits in the enamel. However, I had a failure a couple of months ago with an old enamel pot. As for stainless steel, it comes in many flavors, some which may not be suitable. Do a test run with scrap wood if there is any doublt
 
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Well, not being from your area, I have no sources. Up here, If I wanted a big aluminum pot, I would go to a place that sells used restaurant equipment. If nothing else, put a couple of small pieces in the pot and see what happens.

As for mold, When I tried to wrap some maple, it looked like it had a bad case of measles except the spots were dark grey. Most of the maple is pretty stable.

robo hippy
 
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Well, not being from your area, I have no sources. Up here, If I wanted a big aluminum pot, I would go to a place that sells used restaurant equipment. If nothing else, put a couple of small pieces in the pot and see what happens.

As for mold, When I tried to wrap some maple, it looked like it had a bad case of measles except the spots were dark grey. Most of the maple is pretty stable.

robo hippy
Found mine in the scratch and dent section of a restaurant supply store in Seattle pretty cheap. Its about 1/4" thick - they offered a lid but. it was new and not dented, but they wanted more than the pot was marked...I passed
 
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Here in northern CA we're lucky to have regular access to madrone. While it's glorious to turn, it's difficult to dry intact since the wood warps and wiggles a lot along the way. Boiling, steaming or pressure-cooking the wood seems to stabilize it. I've heard folks mention that one should use a "non-reactive" pot for this, but it's unclear what reaction I'm trying to avoid. For example, I've successfully used steel, stainless steel and aluminum pots for this. Are there any woods for which aluminum would _not_ be appropriate? And are there other woods for which this process would be useful? I'll certainly experiment with olive next time I get some fresh.
Hei, Kalia,

I believe Dale's boiler is a salvaged stainless steel water tank our of a sailboat, at least that's what I remember him saying when I asked him. I boiled a round in his boiler once and have boiled quite a few in 21"ø aluminum kettle fired by a propane burner. I have never had reactive problems, but I know regular steel kettles (canning kettle with cracks in the enamel will turn your madrone a pretty yucko grey color. I am roughing and boiling tomorrow as it turns out.

Be safe, stay healthy.
 
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Stainless steel, or galvanized pots/horse troughs would be best. Dale Larson up in Portland boils all of his madrone. He did a demo for the club in Salem and I told him it looked really weird because it was actually round... I turn a lot of madrone, and like mine to warp. I prefer spring harvested trees, turn to 1/4 inch thick, round over rims, wrap the rim in stretch film, then start drying on the concrete shop floor. Up on wire racks after a couple of days. Dry in a week to 10 days max. Some times I will go to 5/16 thick. Summer and fall harvested trees tend to crack more. Other than that, what I didn't like about the boiled bowls was that it tends to muddle the colors together. I like the colors in the unboiled bowls better. I guess I could add that it was, to me, a lot of extra work and cost when making bowls...

robo hippy
THIS makes a lot more sense to me than the creation of an entire other hobby:)...That of tending a boiling pot over a fire outdoors....I am guessing ( but would like your confirmation...)that the place you are storing them is cooler, and your humidity norms are lower than the rain forest I live in. And, being as they are directly on the concrete, there may be some drawing out moisture from the wood into the concrete?
 
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We do have a very mild climate. Even in summer time, it can get up to 90 to an occasional 100, but it cools off to mid 50s to 60 at least during the night. You have high humidity in the summer where you are. Drying is as much of an art as the turning, and selling, if you do that...

I do think the concrete floor is a good start, and away from any wind and sun light. There is always some water in concrete unless they put a vapor barrier under the slab...

robo hippy
 
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