In addition to putting in several outlets and bashing holes in the drywall in my new shop I also spent some time microwaving a piece of wood. Really.
I’m late finishing a birthday present for my brother. I turned a pepper grinder for him almost two weeks ago, and realized the exotic wood blank I’d picked up at the local woodcraft store was soaking wet. I mean, it turned really nicely, but there was no way I could fill it with peppercorns and expect anything other than mold. Not cool.
I let it sit for a week, thinking it would dry pretty quickly, but I was deluding myself. So this weekend I googled “microwave wood drying” and found several articles claiming it worked pretty well. Shoot, if it’s on the internet, it has to be true.
I started by putting both parts of the pepper grinder (already turned to shape) in a large ziploc bag and zapped them for two minutes on high. At 1:30 the bag was puffing up with steam, so I stopped the timer. I took the parts out of the bag, dried them off and let them cool for 15 minutes. I checked them, no cracks or problems. So I repeated the process in the bag for 1:30, then let it cool outside of the bag for 15 minutes. After a few cycles I ditched the bag, it was a good crutch to get a sense of how much to cook the parts at a time, but I don’t think it helped after that.
I probably cycled the parts like this 20 times over the weekend. By the last cycle the part was noticeably lighter, and no visible steam was coming off. A scale and or moisture meter would help to know where you were in the process, but my only goal was to get the part dry so I could finish it.
Tonight after work I chucked it up in the lathe again and re-turned it. There was enough warping that the junction between the top and the body wasn’t smooth anymore. It was probably 1/16 out of round too from drying. And I got dust from turning instead of big wet curls.
I sanded from 150 to 600 on the lathe, then hand sanded with 1,000 off the lathe, with the grain. One coat of oil-wax finish and it’s set aside to dry. I expect I’ll put the hardware in tomorrow and then apply another couple of coats of finish. The wood was labeled “Orange Agate”, it has a nice color and I think it will take a nice finish.