Madrone can be a challenging wood to work with, Madrone burl even more so. But with a little knowledge this can be the funniest wood you will every work with. It is one of the most tool able woods there is. So with this little tutorial I hope to show how to work with Madrone and have the time of your life with it.
Over the years I have heard people express their fear of Madrone. It cracks, it distorts! Understandable! But what if I can show you how to succeed with this wood? How to stabilize it or if it cracks on you what then? Is all lost? I say a resounding NO!
The need to understand Madrone is paramount and other woods like it. You see Madrone has incredible internal pressure. It shrinks around 18% when dry. So there is lots of movement when drying. There is a lot of water in Madrone and it has to get out. The reason is the bound water (water inside the cells) is under great pressure. So the goal is to relieve that pressure so you can work with it if you like to stay true to the form you create. The flip side of staying true to form is using the movement of the wood to create art also.
The objection is the cost of the wood. Then for it to crack on you can be very disappointing. You see most of the wood workers I know like to purchase their wood, wax it and set it on the shelf for it to dry. This does not work with Madrone burl. If you set Madrone burl on the shelf it will crack 100% of the time and straight grain Madrone may not crack but will distort and twist on you. If you like that kind of thing that is great. I know many artist that like cracks and twists, they say it adds to the character of the art piece.
Here are step by step instructions for the wood turner and the flat work artist. When you get your Madrone burl or straight grain in the mail there are some steps you need to follow.
Unpack your Madrone as soon as you get it. If you will not get to it ASAP submerge the Madrone in water. This will assure it will not crack. Don’t assume it will sit on the shelf for a couple of days. Madrone cannot crack under water. Note: you may put some bleach in the water to slow down the bacteria if you do not like mineral stains but it will not stop it forever. You have about 2 months if you keep fresh bleach in the water. This time frame can change depending on how hot you are storing the Madrone in.
When you are ready to work with it. There are 2 steps you need to consider.