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Thread: Ash for steam bending

  1. #1
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    Default Ash for steam bending

    Let's say I can't find any decent white oak for steaming without driving to the ends of the earth. I've got a local mill that is now sawing up some ash. I've heard it's good for steam bending, but is it the kind of wood I'd want for coamings and trim? I've never worked with it nor know it's properties. What is your sage advice? I imagine if it was really good for this, I'd be seeing a lot of it used instead of oak.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    Very popular for trim and fittings in canoes.
    Someday, I'm going to settle down and be a grumpy old man.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    I used to make snowshoes from it in New Hampshire. It's wonderful for steam bending, it's tough and pretty hard and durable (often used for axe and other tool handles and baseball bats).

    Besides being readily available where you are it tends to grow long and clear and straight, so long clear lengths with little or no grain runout are much easier to come by.

    Someone will be telling you that it turns dark grey if it gets wet. Well, what doesn't? I was going to suggest you use ash a couple of days ago but didn't want to stir things up.

    Red oak would work fine too, and it also tends to grow straighter than white oak. I know where there is (was?) a red oak in Acworth, New Hamp. that is at least 3' in diameter at the butt with very little taper and not one single branch for the first 60 feet. It's in a sugar bush I used to tap. Freshly sawn you may be able to use VG, which will be more stable and just might show some medullary rays.

    That's guaranteed to stir things up.
    Last edited by Gib Etheridge; 02-21-2017 at 07:20 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    My own Wee Barkie is planked using Crows Ash also good for Steaming.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    I sent you a white oak source number (email, your private massage folder is full) in northern MA not far off 91. Maybe you fall off the earth when you pass Vernon. OTOH many a canoe is framed in ash.;

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    Quote Originally Posted by Thad View Post
    I sent you a white oak source number (email, your private massage folder is full) in northern MA not far off 91. Maybe you fall off the earth when you pass Vernon. OTOH many a canoe is framed in ash.;
    Thanks. I got your email and will call that guy tomorrow. If I'm going all the way down to southern Vermont and that doesn't pan out, northern Mass. isn't that far away. Can't find it on the map, but it must be there...
    I've since cleaned out some space in my PM box.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    Ash steams and rots readily.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    For some reason I have the idea that ash is not as durable as white oak but even if true that is probably not a big issue for your coaming. I think the right piece of ash would be dandy. Very handsome wood. Often used for canoe ribs as someone mentioned.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    Pat beat me to it.
    Come to think a little longer - I have seen it turn to mulch in a couple of instances.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    Call before 9AM for best results, or after dark.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    Ash takes epoxy nicely.
    R
    Sleep with one eye open.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    It's not going to rot if it stays dry, so it depends on your storage and maintenance I guess.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    Don't hold your breath waiting for it to rot, especially in a use like a combing. If poorly maintained it can get a black fungus that gets down deep into the grain and is nearly impossible to get out. Then it will eventually weather grey - but the cure for that is decent finishing in the first place and decent maintenance as needed....duh.......

    Top photo: The originally varnished white ash center thwart of a fiberglass canoe I got for my dad about 1978 when I was a dealer for that brand. It has sat out on the beach at our cabin 24/7 ever since - sometimes upside down, sometimes not. As you can see, it's badly weathered (never maintained) but shows no signs of rot.

    Bottom photo: A Motor side mount for that canoe which I made from white ash and finished with Deks Olje #1. I found it last year under the porch, where somebody left it on the ground two or three years ago after using it. Is it ugly? Yes, Can it be cleaned up like new? Probably not. Is it rotten though? Not at all.



    Ash is certainly not rot proof by any means, but in your case if you do plan on maintaining it, I would go ahead and use it while enjoying both its bending characteristics and the fact that it's very nice looking wood.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    And keep it in mind that white oak rots too.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    So, just for the heck of it, I drive over to my local sawmill where I've done business before. I bought all the logs for my log home there and lots of other softwoods. Never thought he'd have hardwoods but then remembered he has a pallet making plant there also, which does use some hardwood. Turns out he had red oak but no white oak. However, he had just finished sawing up a white ash log the other day. He offered it for $1/bd ft. I was undecided on whether to buy it, then he drops the price to $.50/bd ft. How could I resist? I drove away with more then twice the wood I need for $35. Stopped on the way home to someone I know with a big joiner and planer and he planed it down to the 3/4" I need. The wood does have some color streaks, but I believe I can cover most of that with dark stain (it would match the color of the raised panels in the cockpit. If nothing else, it'll give me practice steaming wood without losing a small fortune.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    You'll love ash. If it is recently cut, ash steams like a dream.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    Quote Originally Posted by CundysHarbor View Post
    You'll love ash. If it is recently cut, ash steams like a dream.
    Cut not too long ago. My moisture meter tops out at 22% and that's what it reads when I stick it in a fresh cut end grain. Unless something else comes up, I'll be firing up the steambox today.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    Looking forward to a full report on Saturday.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Jones View Post
    Cut not too long ago. My moisture meter tops out at 22% and that's what it reads when I stick it in a fresh cut end grain. Unless something else comes up, I'll be firing up the steambox today.
    For the stuff you're not using right away, stack it with stickers between layers to dry out of the sun and out of the wind. Cover it. Be sure to paint the end grain with Anchor Seal or the like to keep the ends from drawing too much moisture, checking and warping.
    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Ash for steam bending

    Did some steaming today. So I'm not repeating myself, go to my building thread: 14th Star, 18' Palmer fantail launch. Long story, short: Kiln dried red oak, 1/2", can be steam bent.
    Last edited by Rich Jones; 02-23-2017 at 04:47 PM.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

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