I've been pruning apple trees recently and put aside some suitable pieces to make a bridge or two. At home I further cut these into short 6" lengths. Diameter is about 2".
My question is how long should I leave this apple wood to dry out? Does the small size of these pieces affect how long they'll need to season?
I know a woodworker from the seventies who worked with small pieces of burl. He would put them in a microwave to dry. Alternately you could place pieces in a conventional oven or near a heat source like a wood stove or radiator to hasten drying.
If you are not that daring, I recall that the general rule of thumb is one year per inch of thickness for boards. You might wax or somehow seal the ends so they don't dry too quickly and crack. Since the pieces are small you could track drying by weighing the wood.
The first thing is to mill the wood to rough size. If you try to dry them with the bark on it will take a lot longer.
I made a bridge with spalted apple, capped with wenge. I have several short planks. Made my wood box door next to my woodstove from the same apple. Done a few other small projects with it as well. Very pretty when oiled.
All helpful posts, thank you.
I'll rough cut to size and lose the bark later today.
Two things sparked my interest in apple. Firstly it's hardness and therefore probable suitability for the uncapped bridge I intend to make. Secondly it's locally sourced (I cut it myself) and I kind've like that. I also have a nice piece of local cherry. I've read that apple and cherry wood are not dissimilar. Previous bridges I've made out of pre-seasoned walnut that I had to buy in. And the occasional replica tailpiece for early 7-string banjos again from bought in pre-seasoned ebony.
If I ever pluck up the nerve to make something more than a bridge or a tailpiece I know that I'd like to make a fretless apple neck. It would be great to mentor with an experienced builder to learn how to do this. Maybe one day...
Edited by - m06 on 11/28/2020 06:19:51
Note dont ever put your wood in an oven of any type. It creates whats called case hardening, the surface moisture drys out sealing the pores and the internal moisture is trapped forever, vut it open and it warps instantly
I've had some success recently with drying small pieces of wood using the microwave. My first attempts were not successful. I tried to dry it too fast and the wood cracked. The trick is to not be greedy. I've dried a piece of Holly over the course of a couple of months. I microwaved it at 50% power for two minutes then let it sit to cool. I think it's probably most important that it be completely cool before microwaving again. There's no way to know if the center is cool, so I let it sit all day before microwaving a second time. I never microwaved it more than twice in a day.
I weighed the wood before each trip to the oven and noted the weight change. When it stopped losing weight, I stopped microwaving and just monitor the weight for changes.
As I mentioned, it took a couple of months, but that still seems better than a few years.
I don't own a microwave oven so can't be tempted to try that solution. I'm happier with the idea of natural drying and with the bark removed as advised by Glen above.
As these are small pieces is there any advantage to bringing them in the heated house over winter to dry?
Originally posted by m06
Does the small size of these pieces affect how long they'll need to season?
When drying logs they check from the pith outward, meaning they'll crack from the inside out. Considering your "logs" are only 2" in diameter, they'll be useless in 3~4 weeks if you just leave them to dry as-is.
You need to cut them into actual bridge blanks NOW and store those in a paper bag, definitely not a plastic bag else you'll end up with a mouldy black fuzz ball. The paper bag (up to about 20 blanks per bag) sees to it that the drying doesn't go too fast and will keep the checking in check.
At room temperature, your blanks should be ready to be worked on in about 6 months.
Edited by - Bart Veerman on 11/28/2020 09:51:04
Thank you for your advice and guidance Bart.
I play steel strings and intend to make these bridges uncapped.
One of my all-time favourite banjo players uses an applewood bridge that one of his relatives carved for him from an apple tree in their backyard - his music sounds awfully sweet so do look forward to positive results of your experiment.
Keep in mind, applewood is not all that hard so do expect the strings to dig in over time so you may need to redo the string slots every now and then. Welding tip cleaners will do wonders here, check my website to see what they look like: https://banjobridge.com/br-06b.htm Either that or consider topping them bridges with ebony or whatever super-hard wood to prevent string slicing.
Feel free to PM me,
Spent this afternoon pruning more apple trees and put these two pieces of branch wood to one side. Is this suitable for making bridges if it can be carefully dried? Or is branch wood too problematic?
The previous pieces of apple branch wood that I debarked and cut to lengths approximately 1"x1"x6" and was drying indoors have already developed splits. How do I avoid this on the two pieces I cut this afternoon? Should I paint the ends and dry under cover outdoors?
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