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Thread: Virtues of specific woods

  1. #11

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    Re: Virtues of specific woods

    ....just make sure that, in addition to being appropriately seasoned - it had been radially sawn from the original logs.

  2. #12
    LF/ULF Carbon Printer Jim Fitzgerald's Avatar
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    Re: Virtues of specific woods

    Some of you know or maybe not, that I've built six cameras for myself. Now weight is always a concern but for me the beauty of the wood is important. I love Walnut. One has to properly select the boards to use when building a camera. Then do the very best job you can based on your knowledge, skill and craftsmanship. I know Walnut very well and how it works and finishes. I've never had any problem with any of the cameras I've built. They still look good after years of use.

  3. #13

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    Re: Virtues of specific woods

    Let me put on my other work hat too, as I restore wood cameras and guitars, and have seen many examples of how different woods have held up over decades of living in hot/cold damp/dry environments...

    As mentioned, seasoned lumber prevents many birth defects of the final product, how well the material was sealed and maintained a comfortable moisture content is probably the most important of all, and how well supported the material is constructed in the design I think are the top considerations...

    As mentioned, quarter sawed wood is desirable.. Some species like oak have hard and softer layers due to winter/summer growth (soft, porous summer layer) and can be hard to drill, as there is a bias where the drill wants to follow the flow of the grain rather than going straight through, very hard woods like ebony can be brittle and break/crack while working, some beautifully figured woods can be tough to work as the figured area is like a loose or tight knot with tough strains, some woods will expand or warp after cutting probably due to internal tensions changing, some exotics are oily, and hard to bond with traditional adhesives, some hardwoods dull cutting/drilling tools much faster than others, some nice hardwoods dent much easier (even with a fingernail), some splinter a lot while cutting/drilling, and some finish much more evenly, while some need very heavy (unnatural looking) staining to even them out, etc...

    I'm not all on board with using very rare exotics, and they are being stripped at an alarming rate, but I also figure that they might end up being a pen set in a corner office on the 99th floor of some skyscraper, so the trees get cut anyway, but using those woods don't improve the pictures being taken, just provide "bling-bling" bragging rights at some country club etc...

    I strongly suggest doing extensive research about the species itself, and how it fabricates, before ordering or building your "dream camera" and find out how it holds up in the real world, before diving in headfirst, having that species in mind, damming it all, before the "blow your mind" syndrome takes deep roots...

    But properly bonded anywood is good as long as it is dimensionally stable, well sealed, laminated cross-grained, and the structure is well designed... I have used better grades of Baltic Birch + aircraft plywood, use basswood for many lensboards and parts that do not bear too much load (cross-grained), teak & mahogany if for something very nice (and stable for the future, and many old pieces have faired very well 100+ years), even laminated matboard can hold up very well and strong if well bonded and sealed... (At least it does not have a grain pattern that might pull it into different shape or forms slowly or quickly, even while constructing...) I don't mind well sealed/structurally supported MDF, it is heavy, but nice & flat...

    But these days, my pet peeve is different plastics that are a crapshoot as to how they will be in the future, or subject to extremes...

    Steve K

  4. #14

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    Re: Virtues of specific woods

    For mass-produced cameras a lot comes down to simple things like cost, ease of machining, strength, ability to hold a screw without stripping, how it takes stain and varnish. Mahogany scores well in several categories which is probably why it is a familiar "cabinet making" wood. Oak is more expensive, heavier stronger and harder but tougher to machine. Maple is light easy to machine but soft and not very strong.

    Here in the USA we are blessed with plenty of domestic hardwoods. Where I came from in Britain wood is all imported and very expensive compared to the USA, the variety and quality is inferior (Britain chopped down all the forests centuries ago to burn as fuel and build ships :-) )

  5. #15

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    Re: Virtues of specific woods

    Quote Originally Posted by Jac@stafford.net View Post
    Virtues of specific woods for LF cameras.

    By chance the last two LF (4x5) I built were of cherry wood thanks to a friend who had a great source for woods. The cameras are stable, and they are ageing, coloring pleasantly.

    I remain clueless of the qualities of various woods. I have some LF cameras from 1900 to maybe 1950 and the woodwork is functional, for which I am grateful, but they are ugly. Parts were mated from lots of parts with no concern for grain or color matching. I understand the economic utility of their approach. They were not furniture designers. It is all good.

    Today manufacturers have a much more limited market, therefore fewer clients than existed when LF cameras were just another commodity made with the most common materials. Are manufacturers today paying attention to wood traits, color or grain?

    When I read that a camera is mahogany my eyes roll up so far I see my brain. No help there.

    So perhaps eliminating mahogany, or being more specific about it, are there woods we might look for? I have some maple of undetermined type which is interesting, but not enough to make a camera. I do not even know how to find a reliable source for more. Call me stupid. I'm used to it.
    Well, my other avocation is woodworking, which I've been doing for a few years longer than my introduction to photography in the mid-50s. Both endeavors require a knowledge of the materials and experience with enough of them to gain some perspective. Both can be learned by most anyone. But as in photography, only a few people approach any degree of artistry after acquiring the skills needed to master the materials.

    There are many misunderstandings and myths about wood, how to use it, the properties of various woods that serve specific needs and the reason some woods seem to used in specific applications.

    Beyond very special situations, such as musical instruments where properties of strength versus weight or acoustic resonance have narrowed the selection to almost a single, unvaried species world-wide, the surprising truth is that the wood that seems to be "traditional" for certain projects is simply the wood that was plentiful where the object was first made. Then that same type of wood was used for all future versions.

    At the time the first cameras were being made in this country, cherry was a plentiful hardwood which also had the benefit of fine grain. Any other fine grain hardwood such as maple, birch or beech could have been used. Mahogany is excellent because it is fine grained and is (was) available in huge quantities of very straight grained lumber.

    Wood must be dried before it can be used. It is necessary to remove its internal moisture down to a "moisture content" of between 6-12%. There is nothing magical about that number except that then it will be in equilibrium with the ambient air of about 40-50% relative humidity. In other words, wood of that moisture content will lose or gain moisture in equal amounts to air of 40-50% relative humidity and will therefore not experience any change in size.

    But there is nothing special about wood dried to 6-12% moisture content. It is no more "stable" than any other wood. Wet wood is unstable because it has much more water than any ambient air could sustain, even at 100% relative humidity. So wet wood looses water to the air, no matter what, and therefore "moves" (is unstable). But while dried wood is stable at 40-50% relative humidity, if the ambient goes below or above that, the wood will move (gain or lose water to or from the air around it). I have lived in both Florida and the desert southwest. It takes skill to build furniture that can survive without self-destructing from shrinking, swelling and warping from being moved between those extremes.

    One-hundred and two-hundred years ago wood was "air dried." Since the early 1900s, the furniture industry has relied on kiln drying because it is faster and can be controlled more tightly. But it makes no difference how the drying was done once the end point is reached.

    Hardwoods were utilized for their particular characteristics. As were softwoods. Chair seats were best made of pine. Legs and rungs, best made of hard woods. Guitar tops - spruce. Guitar backs and sides - mahogany, rosewood. Just some examples.

    There is also great misunderstanding of the reason or virtue of flat sawn wood, radial sawn, quarter sawn. There is no truth to the myth that quarter sawn or radial sawn wood is "best" for certain applications because it does not twist or warp or otherwise show instabilities. Wood has three dimensions: 1. the direction up and down the trunk of the tree felled for the lumber- its length dimension; 2. the direction parallel to the growth rings - its tangential direction; 3. and the direction from the center of the tree to the bark - its radial dimension.

    Wood moves not at all along its length. All wood moves in tangential and radial directions. Depending on the species, most wood moves the most in its tangential dimension. Some woods move equally in both.

    With knowledge of these movements, its possible to design to accommodate all possible movements. Or its possible to ignore these needs and build failures.

    As in Photography, there are highly respected practitioners and teachers in Woodworking. Here are two very different books that cover an enormous amount of ground:

    The first is Understanding Wood, A Craftsman's Guide to Wood Technology, R. Bruce Hoadley, The Taunton Press. This scholarly guide is the authoritative work on the subject. Bruce Hoadley was a craftsman, but first he was a scientist and a major contributor to the industry's knowledge. He was a wonderfully warm individual who regularly shared his knowledge on on-line forums before his death.

    The second is A Cabinetmaker's Notebook, James Krenov, Van Norstrand Reinhold Company. James Krenov was a self-taught master craftsman whose design esthetic has influenced several generations of artists. His influence is growing despite his death in 2009. He is the father of modern woodworking design. His work literally resulted in a rebirth of cabinetmaking in this country, if not world-wide. His hand-made, one of a kind creations are quiet, esthetic treasures that few will ever see in person. But his influence will be seen for a long time. He was a quiet, passionate artist and a wonderful teacher and writer.

    Rich

  6. #16

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    Re: Virtues of specific woods

    Thanks for the great post Rich, but I'm still scratching my head about why when I worked in a woodshop, we had to cut many pieces of a particular batch of hardwood supports the same size for a project, and we carefully checked the length of all of the pieces (over 20) after cutting, but a couple of days later, all the pieces all expanded around +/- 1/16"... The RH was constant, and pieces were stored OK, but expanded along their length, so maybe someone can explain why this happened, so it seems it can happen, but why, I don't know... I have seen wood curl and bend due to storage, heat/cold etc, but I figure it might be due to internal stresses, as it happened very soon after cutting, not storage, temp, RH, but still a mystery to me...

    Thanks again for posting that!!!

    Steve K

  7. #17

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    Re: Virtues of specific woods

    How about very old piano wood pieces? Where I live we find people getting rid of old pianos. Some old pianos with actual ivory keys at times.
    Would taking wood from them to make a camera work well? The large top pieces, sides and such give plenty of wood big enough for most camera projects, even for many ULF building projects.
    I tend to procrastinate on stuff. One of these days I'll do something about it.

  8. #18
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: Virtues of specific woods

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post
    How about very old piano wood pieces? Where I live we find people getting rid of old pianos. Some old pianos with actual ivory keys at times. Would taking wood from them to make a camera work well? The large top pieces, sides and such give plenty of wood big enough for most camera projects, even for many ULF building projects.
    Well, I wouldn't use the wood from my piano because it's a cheap model.

    I don't know if it is true but I read that during prohibition Deardorff bought up abandoned bar tops for wood.

  9. #19

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    Re: Virtues of specific woods

    Quote Originally Posted by LabRat View Post
    Thanks for the great post Rich, but I'm still scratching my head about why when I worked in a woodshop, we had to cut many pieces of a particular batch of hardwood supports the same size for a project, and we carefully checked the length of all of the pieces (over 20) after cutting, but a couple of days later, all the pieces all expanded around +/- 1/16"... The RH was constant, and pieces were stored OK, but expanded along their length, so maybe someone can explain why this happened, so it seems it can happen, but why, I don't know... I have seen wood curl and bend due to storage, heat/cold etc, but I figure it might be due to internal stresses, as it happened very soon after cutting, not storage, temp, RH, but still a mystery to me...

    Thanks again for posting that!!!

    Steve K
    How were they measured for cutting? "Tight" tolerance in woodworking is working to +- 1/32". Typically, measurements are made with a rule, the pieces are marked carefully and cut to the line. That's not even close to accurate. There is so much chance for error. There will be significant variation with even the most careful worker. When repetitive pieces are lined up, the eye can easily see differences of 1/256", to say nothing of 1/32" or 1/16" and differences of .004" (the thickness of a piece of copier paper) can easily be felt when none can be seen. (Place a piece of paper on a desktop and run your finger back and forth over the edge. Even the edge of a piece of onion skin paper, which is .001" can be felt without fail.)

    The only way to achieve accuracy with multiple cuts is to bring the work against a stop block and firmly clamp each piece during the cut - a practice seldom used in wood (but necessary) and always used in metal working.

    I don't know what happened in the case you describe, but since all the pieces were subjected to the same environmental conditions, they all could only move in the same direction. The fact that pieces were longer and shorter in the group indicates inaccurate measurement or cutting or change in length due to significant warping.

    The amount of change in length of wood with even large swings of relative humidity in the environment is so small as to be negligible even if measuring to +- a few thou.

    Rich

  10. #20

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    Re: Virtues of specific woods

    Quote Originally Posted by Jac@stafford.net View Post
    Well, I wouldn't use the wood from my piano because it's a cheap model.

    I don't know if it is true but I read that during prohibition Deardorff bought up abandoned bar tops for wood.
    I wooden use the wood from my piano cuz then I wooden have a piano.

    The guys from Deardorff heard that the bartender.

    (ducking and running for cover)

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