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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-11-2013, 07:45 PM Thread Starter
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Default Finishing questions

Hi everyone,
I originally posted this in the wrong forum (wood species) and this is a repost.

Last week I scored some shorts from a woodworking shop whose owner is retiring, not to mention this was a freebee off of Craigslist. I'd try to post some pics yesterday to identify some of the wood, but, not realizing I didn't meet the minimum post requirement.

Among the 1/2 minivan full of wood I have (lots of wood gloat) what looks like Snakewood. Highly figuired, two pieces @ 1/2"x3 1/2"x24" each. From searching this forum and the internet in general there really wasn't too much info on any kind of finish requirements or schedule. I'm 99% sure this stock is Snakewood. I tap the boards and it sounds like tapping on a piece of slate. It's heavy and appears to be a dense material. I wish I could post some pics.

My question is what approach should I use to finish Snakewood. I'll be making a guitar effects pedalboard with the Snakewood (front and back) and some nice curly maple for the sides, top I haven't decided. What I would normally do with cherry, maple, etc. would be after sanding up to 220, one, maybe two coats of BLO, 1 lb. cut of dewaxed shellac and then what ever top coat I decide to use. Don't want to use poly as a top coat for this project, but would consider it. I generally hand wipe the BLO, shellac and top coat.

I do prefer shellac and would consider laquer. I don't have any spray equipment as of yet so laquer would have to be a rattle can.

Also, what type of saw blades (type, # of teeth, etc.) should I use for the few cuts I'll need to make this pedalboard. My table and miter saws both take 10" blades. I understand that Snakewood splits and cracks very easily thus asking the questions.

Everyones input would be appreciated.
Thanx, Jim
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-12-2013, 12:08 AM
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I had never heard of it so I looked it up. You should be okay using saw blades but I would feed slowly and teeth with little or no hook angle would be less likely to splinter it. Using router bits on it might be less successful and according to what I read would probably be hard on the bits. The article I read compared it to lignum vitae. I knew a guy when I was young who had a good sized chunk of that and he had better luck using metal cutting tools on it.

Someone I consider a master woodworker once told me that a master woodworker is not someone who never makes mistakes. He is someone who is able to cover them up so that no one can tell.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-12-2013, 02:48 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your reply.

There are two cuts I need to make.
1 - a beveled rip cut @9 degrees on the two boards on the table saw. The board design is a wedge shape with the front being taller than the back and the sides have a 9 degree slope downward from front to back.
2 - one of the two pieces I have is maybe a 1/16" shorter than the other, so this would be done on a miter saw (which is the cut I'm most concerned with).

Lignum vitae has a Janka hardness of 4500, while snakewood is rated at 3800 so lignum vitae I believe is the hardest wood on the planet.

Since the snakewood didn't cost me anything I only have one shot at this. If I make a mistake I won't be able to replace the boards. Snakewood is expensive so I have to make these cuts minimizing any potential mistakes.

As far as finishing goes, snakewood sands to a nice polish sanding to higher grits from what I understand. But, being a dense wood, I'm concerned about burnishing the wood which will inhibit absorbing BLO. It could be that using BLO is not a good idea. I wiped some denatured alcohol on one of the pieces and it looked simply amazing.

I've been researching this for over a week and it's hard to believe that nobody on the world wide web has ever written about, posted on forums or has any written information on how you would finish snakewood.

Sorry for being long winded, but it's getting frustrating trying to find any information on finishing snakewood... man, I need a beer!!

Thanx again for your input,
Jim

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-12-2013, 07:40 AM
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do a google search and read and also sign in to this form , i am a menber and i know that you will find your what you are look for their, http://www.woodbarter.com/


Google

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port st. lucie, florida

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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-12-2013, 08:41 AM Thread Starter
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Hi Del,
I'm familiar with the Woodbarter web site. I found it over the weekend and didn't have any luck so far, although I didn't sign in as you suggested.

Thanx for your suggestion,
Jim
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-12-2013, 12:28 PM
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T here is a store in Mexico, Maine called Rare Woods USA that handles a lot of snakewood and they may be able to help you on how to finish it. You can google their number.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-12-2013, 12:46 PM Thread Starter
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Hi routergieck,
Thank you for the info,
Jim
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-12-2013, 05:37 PM
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According to what I read it is rare and Very expensive so practice on scrap until you are sure that you have the right set up.

When the old timer handed me his piece of lignum vitae and asked me what it was I wasn't even sure if it was wood. It was so hard and heavy it didn't feel like wood. I noticed on snakewood that at about 4-5% moisture content it stops floating in water. It must feel pretty heavy too.

Someone I consider a master woodworker once told me that a master woodworker is not someone who never makes mistakes. He is someone who is able to cover them up so that no one can tell.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-12-2013, 06:46 PM Thread Starter
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Hi Chuck,
Yes, from everything I have read it is rare and very expensive. For such small boards they really are heavy. I tap on the boards it sounds like I'm tapping on slate.

This is from The Wood Database:
Common name: Snakewood, Letterwood
Scientific name: Brosimum guianensis (syn. Piratinera guianensis)
Distribution: Coastal regions of northeast South America
Tree size: 65-80 ft (20-25 m) tall, 6-12 in (15-30 cm) trunk diameter
Average dry weight: 73 lbs/ft3 (1,170 kg/m3)
Janka hardness: 3,800 lbf (16,900 N)

Workability: Being closely related to Bloodwood, Snakewood shares many of the same working properties; namely, the wood is extremely dense, and has a pronounced blunting effect on cutters. Snakewood also tends to be quite brittle and can splinter easily while being worked. Despite the difficulties of working it, Snakewood turns well and finishes to a high polish.

This from The Woodbox:
Uses: Given Snakewood lumber's extreme difficulty to acquire it is rarely used for anything other then small craft work, particularly for knife handles. snakewood has a very tight exotic figure that works wonderfully on the small surface area of a knife handle.

The Tree: Snakewood is a truly exotic species, and probably one of the most difficult species to find. It grows irratically in South America. Typically, it is a very small tree, and only show the wonderful figure in a small quantity of the wood, and then rarely evenly spread across the entire face of the board.

Finishing: The tight grain of the wood makes finishing relatively easy with traditional lacquers, although I have known some knife makers that have stabilized this wood in a small vacuum chamber to prevent minor absorption of body oils from constant usage... this tends to extend the life of the finish.

Machining: Cuts and turns like a hard maple, with a clean fine texture. Snakewood lumber needs industrial sandpaper, and a bit of patience to work up the grits if you wish to get that really silky finish.

This is about the best info on finishing snakewood that I've seen so far. Unfortunately, I don't have very much of this lumber so practice cuts really aren't an option. That's the reason I've been researching and asking questions.

Thanx for your input,
Jim
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-12-2013, 07:17 PM
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Whatever you do, do it first with a bit of scrap wood, no sense in possibly ruining a good piece of wood practicing.

"It ain't what you're told, it's what you know." - Granny Weatherwax
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