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Thread: Handle grain direction

  1. #1
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    Handle grain direction

    While many of you were enjoying Christmas, I was busy messing with handles. After glueing two blocks and raw sanding them I discovered that ferrule wood grain is messed on one of them. On left blank ferrule grain is vertical and on the right — horizontal.

    Do you think it's ok to keep horizontal oriented grain ferrule? It's ebony and grain direction isn't very pronounced, so I think I can safely get away with this one. Or it would look weird after finishing?

    From your woodworking experience are there any types of wood that you can safely mix in terms of wood grain direction? Or it's always necessary to match wood grain for all different wooden parts?

  2. #2
    Weird Wood Pusher Burl Source's Avatar
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    It is more difficult getting a good finish on the end grain that will show on the horizontal piece but it can be done.
    Mark Farley / It's a Burl
    Phone 541-592-5071, Email burlsource@gmail.com
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  3. #3
    Das HandleMeister apicius9's Avatar
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    I don't see the problems in finishing, the main long-term problem could be that woods move in different directions over time which would make cracks more likely. And I really don't want to be the negative guy here, but ebony already has a tendency to crack more than most other woods. Not sure what to recommend. I guess, if it were for myself, I would finish them as they are because I can always make a new one. If I wanted to sell it, I would redo the one so that all woods go in the same direction.

    Just my 2cts,

    Stefan

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by apicius9 View Post
    the main long-term problem could be that woods move in different directions over time which would make cracks more likely. And I really don't want to be the negative guy here, but ebony already has a tendency to crack more than most other woods.
    +1.

    Cross grain to end grain can make for a cool look. It can be more difficult to sand the end grain, and it will soak up a finish more aggressively but those are minor issues.

    The big challenge with this is movement over time. Heat and moisture will cause different movement depending on the grain orientation. Two pieces with endgrain aligned will move more similarly compared to cross grain joined to end grain. You also have an issue of glue absorption/penetration at the joint. The end grain will act like a straw and suck up glue via capillary action. The cross grain will not absorb glue the same way. That difference, mixed with a different movement pattern contributes to the these types of joints being weaker.

    That said - in furniture and cabinet work, this is done often and turns out fine. The key is planning for it from the start ( You can do things like pregluing end grain, or reinforcing with a mechanical joint (here, eg... a dowel in the middle) instead of just glue.

    Here -- too late for that....but one thing you can do is be extra careful in your finishing to make sure you are as waterproof as possible. That will help.

    Ebony, as mentioned, is prone to cracking/checking at the end grain. But in my experience that's mostly an issue in drying. It's a slow, fickle wood to dry properly. Because of its density and very fine pores, as a secondary issue, it also sensitive to overheating when being worked.

    As long as the wood was fully dry and worked patiently, I think you'll be fine so long as you prevent the wood from absorbing much ambient moisture in use.

    Time will tell but I'd gamble on it being ok

  5. #5
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    Thanks for your solid answers guys!

    I'll try to be more careful shaping and finishing it and probably reserve this piece for some of my tools.
    With my amount of mistakes while making handles, I could end up with a fancy collection of rehandled files and rasps

    Recently got a package with a big piece of water buffalo horn (just one big raw unshaped horn)… man was it stinky! While I was sawing it, the smell felt like the owner of that horn had somewhere near me at least a month ago. If only I knew it would smell like this, I would order black micarta instead

  6. #6
    +1 to all previous comments. I especially agree with Marks comments about finishing end grain, though the difficulty varies greatly depending on the species and whether it's straight grain or burl. At the end of the day though, I just don't like cross grain on wa handles. Cross grain scales on western handles can be very impressive, but I just think they look wrong on wa handles. This is based purely on ascetics, I don't think there are any mechanical difficulties that can't be overcome.

    Be well,
    Mikey
    Available handles- http://s64.photobucket.com/user/mkri...able%20handles

    Rule #1- Don't sweat the small s%&t, rule #2- It's ALL small s%&t
    Mikey

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