Sunday, March 12, 2017

Thank You, Sixty Grit!

[this post continues in part from here]

From an email exchange with Sixty Grit yesterday:

Sixty: You may email me pictures of the railing wood and I might be able to see them better.
A close up of the end grain would be good, as will pictures of the long grain.

Me: [sends two photos]


Sixty: The piece that has been sanded looks like Douglas fir - straight grain, close growth rings - don't let a tree hugger see that - that is beautiful wood.

If you could sand whatever coating is on the end grain I would better be able to see what is going on there - just as there are standards for baluster spacing there are requirements for the type and quality of wood used in handrails - that looks like very high quality wood right there.

Me:

I think you're right about the bottom being Doug fir-I've worked with it before. The rail is more fine grained. Both woods are soft and can be scratched with a finger nail

Sixty: That looks like old growth vertical grain Doug fir. That is beautiful stuff, unavailable these days. The true tell is the aroma - since I can't see color too well - are you familiar with the distinctive smell of Douglas fir? I would say fill and envelope with sawdust and mail it to me, but we would both end up in jail if you did that. Perhaps a trip to the local big box wood store might be in order - they might have some Douglas fir in stock and you could compare and contrast.

As I say, that is high quality stuff right there - well worth refurbishing and keeping.

Me: The growth rings are much tighter in the railing wood.

Sixty: Indeed they are - I guestimate at least 30 rings per inch. Check the smell of both of them - if they smell the same then the railing was made out of old growth stock.

Me: They do smell the same.

Sixty: Well there you go - high grade vertical grain stock used for the railing itself, as required by code, lower grade used for the non-crucial application. I like it - sounds as if the mystery is solved. Well done!

22 comments:

Sixty Grit said...

Teamwork!

chickelit said...

What do you suggest using to sand the finger groove? I won't be sanding to today as I have to finish removing some old tile work.

Sixty Grit said...

There are reciprocating contour sanders available, but those are usually found in shops that produce miles of millwork - that is to say, they are not practical for homeowners. Maybe one could be rented, but I have never done that.

I would probably just sand it by hand - bite the bullet, know that there is a finite amount of lineal footage to be sanded, and get to it. Also, if you could convince any family member(s) to help, then they would gain practical woodworking experience, not to mention wearing off their fingerprints. Sweat equity, baby!

AllenS said...

In other words, the Armstrong method.

AprilApple said...

That the handrail and the shoe-rail smell the same - bonus.

chickelit said...

I've been outed as a wood sniffer!

AprilApple said...

Wood sniffing is OK, but, be warned it's the gateway drug to glue sniffing.

chickelit said...

I could write a mini-thesis on aromatic compounds in Douglas fir.

Alas, it's been done.

Sixty Grit said...

The compounds found in wood are a very entertaining subject, at least to me. White oak, black walnut, true cedars, junipers, and so on, all different, all fascinating.

And don't get me started on quarter sawing - my goodness - I might just get carried away!

chickelit said...

Wood (and plants in general) used to be the raw material for the organic chemical industry. A great many chemical compounds trace their names back to various species of wood. Then came coal in the 19th century. And then oil in the 20th century. There isn't much to make from gas. Now there is trend to source raw materials again from plants.

Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

I have seen old growth doug fir used for flooring at times. The old grow is harder and actually holds up comparable to oak. And I think it is quarter sawed.

Chick, I have a liquor infused with Douglas fir. I never opened it, but perhaps a Fir Martini might be in order.

AllenS said...

I agree with 60 on the smells. Give me birch to smell, and then burn, and I'll be happy warm sniffer.

AprilApple said...

I hope we get updates &/ore before and after pictures.

How does the wood smell now?

AprilApple said...

ore= or

rhhardin said...

Roget Bannister was the first to break the 4 minute mile, or maybe close to it, or maybe close to first, I don't remember.

Sixty Grit said...

He was indeed the first. And once he accomplished that I was freed from ever striving to run at that speed. Thank you, Dr. Bannister.

chickelit said...

How about a nice pithy mini-lecture on quarter sawing, Sixty?

What does it do for wood?

chickelit said...

AprilApple said...
I hope we get updates &/ore before and after pictures.

This is a whole house makeover. Still in destructive phase. Meeting with a contractor on the 24 to plan reconstruction.

ndspinelli said...

Reconstruction is HUGE in SoCal. I see it on the beaches all the time.

deborah said...

Color me impressed, Sixty. Congrats on the excellent wood quality, chick, I know you must get a kick out of that.

Sixty Grit said...

CL - I could write endlessly, at ridiculous lengths, plodding along, boring all and sundry, as is my way, about quarter sawing. I won't but I will say that it relates closely to riving, which is how boards were made three or four hundred years ago, and white oak lends itself marvelously to riving, and quarter sawn white oak is beautiful and I am going to guess that most people are familiar with what it looks like, even if they don't know it.

Then I would go on about the book "Oak: The Frame of Civilization" by William Bryant Logan and how oaks shaped Western Civilization.

But I must leave some mystery for others to read about.

Instead I will write about today's experience - I was out building fences, as I had come to my senses, and while sawing the uneven tops off the posts about 7 feet up, and my thoughts wandered to the phrase "Box the heart", which is a method of sawing wood, especially Southern Yellow Pine which is then pressure treated for outdoor use. Every 4x4 I used on this project had the pith of the log contained within the piece. The same is true for 6x6s and other large dimensional timbers. Pith, then concentric growth rings, one after another.

Why I mention this is because these pieces of wood, raised on vast SYP plantations, genetically selected for a variety of reasons including rapid growth, have as few as two or three growth rings per inch. Seriously, it is not unusual to see the tree gain an inch in diameter per year. Unreal, quite the opposite of that beautiful old growth Douglas fir.

The more things change, the less similar they are, or something...

chickelit said...

I give you three German words to ponder, Sixty:

Eich,
Eichel,
Eichhörnchen.