What is seasoning, and can the process be sped up?

perktimusprime
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perktimusprime
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Joined: 5:33 PM - Oct 10, 2017

5:49 PM - Oct 17, 2017 #1

I have some arrow shafts I have cut recently and been processing to make arrows. I have heard that arrows from shoots are useless untill they have "seasoned" for several months to a year. What exactly is going on with seasoning? I know drying is part of it, but dry shafts don't always behave as if they have been lying around for year. Also, is there any way to season wood quickly without cracking it? Not just drying it, but helping it retain its straightness, become stiff, and all the other benefits of seasoning.
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Beadman
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11:53 PM - Feb 09, 2018 #2

Always cut your shoots longer than needed first off.A good 3' long.Any slight occasional checks on the ends are'nt very long but can be cut off then too with plenty of shaft left to make an arrow then yet.To cut plenty of them helps not only with drying time on ones that you don't need at the moment and to keep a regular supply at different stages of construction for the future.In other words keep bundles of shoots at different stages of construction.
Seasoning to me with shoot arrow shafts is basically training straight memory into the shaft.Putting them into a dry enviornment say by a wood stove or very low humidity does help.After drying a few weeks bark on then a few months after bark removal inside green straightened and bundled.I like to bundle mine 6 around 1 in 7 shaft bundles.Final heat straightening can be done above a lamp and spined to suit your bow and usually it will hold it's straightness then.Although I've found letting stay bundled longer up to a year does have it's merits.It's a process of straightening while green while drying to final straightening with heat.Heat straightening and tempering will help them to stay straight.These are dogwoods/plum/and multi flora rose.

Everyone can make their arrowshafts their own way.I sand mine to spine in a 1/4" drill chuck keeping the overall long thickness taper original.It's best before shooting to wrap just below the string nock to insure no splitting occuring.These are hunting broadhead & target arrows.Along with the lamp and straightening tool I use to straighten shafts prior to spining.
Last edited by Beadman on 10:18 PM - Feb 11, 2018, edited 6 times in total.
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Talzhemir
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Talzhemir
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11:57 AM - Feb 11, 2018 #3

Seasoning is leaching + drying.  Seasoned cane is easier to handle than fresh-cut when straightening it.  Specifically, unseasoned green arrow shafts stay hotter longer, and take longer to cool.  It slows the whole process a lot.

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For cane arrows:

* If you're working with bamboo, seasoning is a safety precaution.  Small short segments of green bamboo that fall into a fire will explode.  It's actually the original firecracker.

1. When harvesting, cut  it flat (don't leave Punji sticks).  But, chop the end of the stalk that you're taking with you, at an angle.

2. There's a little spray  of leaves at the highest point.  It's known as the Topknot.  :)  Cut off the Topknot.  This is much more important for arrows than for atlatl darts, which typically don't use the thinnest portion at the end.

Below the Topknot, water will accumulate and ooze out, to turn into something that can rot.  If the leaves are left on, you might get a gummy dark smudge.  If you're not sensitive to mildew, it's harmless, but if you are, it can give off a yucky spore dust.  The Arundo "tribe" includes Arundo donax ("giant cane") and Phragmites species ("common reed").  They have an interesting survival strategy: they can grow from cuttings.  When the bottom of a stalk is cut, it goes into a mode where it sends water to the Topknot.  The water at the thin end will be pinched off by the bottom of the Topknot sealing up and softening, in hopes of turning into the bottom of a new plant.

If you're harvesting Arundo donax and it's an "invasive" where you live, please take these home and dry them out, then compost them, don't just throw them on the ground.    Throwing down Topknots potentially propagates it.

To experiment with water transport, cut a finger-long slip of reed, and stick the end that was towards the ground into a glass of water.  Beads of water will come out the other end in a couple of seconds.  When musicians suck on a reed for playing clarinet, they're rehydrating it this way.

Don't be tempted to leave the long thin tapered tip in place, because seasoning time is speeded up by cutting off all of the Topknot.  The entire stalk is pushing water in that direction.

3. Shuck them.  That is, strip all the leaves, just like off a corncob.  It's fun.  Pull a Huck Finn by getting friends and relatives to help you, in order to get that certain sense of satisfaction.  If you do it when they're green, they come off more neatly.  It's no sin to hang them up with the leaves, but you'll potentially be cleaning the base of each joint of little bits that didn't pull off at once.

4. Leach them.  The first part of seasoning is leaching.  The sap contains sugar which, when cut, the stalk converts to starch.  Traditionally, cane would be placed under running water of a stream, with rocks to keep it all submerged.  The angled cut from step 1 is so that the big end sucks in water like the stem of a cut flower.  It oozes out the thin end, taking the sugar and starch with it.

Haven't got a rushing mountain rill handy?  Me neither.  Stick the big ends in a pickle bucket in the bathtub, keep it filled with cool fresh water.  Rinse the stalks off with cold water two or three times a day to prevent the ring scars from "scabbing over".  ...This is easier with arrow length than atlatl dart.  How long does leaching take?  Personally, I've found that leaching only takes two days.

Leaching improves the capacity to be straightened; unleached cane gets more homely bends at the joints.  Leaching also makes the reed less palatable to small gnawing beetles with a taste for starch, which might not be a problem where you live.

Unleached cane is probably harmless except that it slows the drying.  If the starch isn't leached out, it contracts (becomes "resistant starch") and tends not to come out.  It clogs all the ring scars.  That's one of its jobs-- as an impromptu Band-aid should the plant be injured.

Or... Ideally, to avoid the need to leach, cut the cane after the surrounding deciduous trees have dropped their leaves.  Another name for Arundo donax is "Bagpipe Reed".  Traditionally, pipers harvested reed in the winter.  They used second-year growth, 23-25mm diameter at the base.  The best ones were found under the ice, having matured and fallen over naturally.

5. The other part of the seasoning is the drying.  If you hang them small-end-up, it takes longer, as gravity and the internal capillary structures are working against each other.  On the other hand... hanging them with the big end at the bottom can leave the thin end straighter.  If you're in a hurry (an event coming up, etc.), you can dry them by hanging thick-end-up and carefully tie a brick to the tip of each one.  It's a lot of hassle but they'll be ready in a week.

Technically, the tubes were ready-to-use the moment they were cut.  I imagine our ancestors dried them to make things like atlatl dart shafts and arrows lighter to carry.  Mine stopped losing weight around 2 weeks after leaching and hanging them.  If not shucked green, though, add up to another week-- they dry through the ring scars of the leaves, too.

So, yes, seasoning can be sped up.  Cut the bottom of the harvest portions at an angle.  Cut off the Topknot.  Shuck it thoroughly when green. Leach it. Hang it pointy-end-down with a weight.

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Make a reed whistle. To experiment with reeds for music, try making the mouthpiece to a Pibgorn.  Since it's a piece just a little thicker than the size of a thick arrow, you can probably use that piece you trimmed off.

(See http://www.pslc.ws/macrog/kidsmac/images/canereed.jpg for a picture)

(Look up YouTube videos showing how to cut a "tongue" into a thinner tube.) 


You can tape paper cones to them to make home-made party horns for New Year's.It's good silly fun with which to infect scouts and fellow knappers.  You might make a couple as inexpensive souvenirs sell.  Note that they're used by sucking them, not blowing.  Tease your kids by giving them these reed whistles but don't tell them how to use them.  Make them figure it out.  :)

Another way to use a Pibgorn reed is to put your whole mouth around it and blow.  Some musical instruments work by putting it inside a little chamber that does the same thing.  It's the bulgy part of that instrument used to charm cobras.  No, they're not really thrilled by the sound of it either.

The original reeds used in bagpipes are thin Arundo tubes housed inside larger ones.  Cane cut for use in instruments should be leached.

When the arrow shafts are fully seasoned, the tone of a whistle cut after the leaching will change slightly, from a beeep to a bleppp.  To restore its original sound, dip it in water for a few seconds.
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Talzhemir
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1:59 PM - Feb 11, 2018 #4

With wood, seasoning has to do with several things.

First, water is departing a porous structure.  Hanging is good because that keeps it straight.  (Just like, a slice of bread will probably warp unless held flat somehow.)  Leaving the bark on shoots lets the drying happens more evenly.  They'll go from feeling chilly, maybe even clammy, to more room temperature.

You can speed the drying part by putting them where there's good air circulation.  Maybe, under the eaves, rather than in the garage?  Indoors, maybe where the air conditioner or heater are blowing?

Even wood seasoned slowly can check (crack).  Just about all wood cracks.  A little bit of checking doesn't mean it's weak.  A cheap way to reduce the odds of this happening (if you harvested after a rainy week, say), you could dip both the ends in carpenter's glue and let them dry.

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The purpose of heating wood in a kiln, is not for the purpose of strengthening it.  It's primarily to reduce the weight.  About a fifth of pine is water.  If the lumber company can drive that out, they've saved 1/5 of the cost of fuel for transporting it.  Maple is only about 1/20th water, so, heating it up doesn't result in as much change.  Once wood has been heat-treated, it's also porous with airspaces.  Heat-treated wood insulates better (by at least a factor of 25%!).

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Another reason wood is heat-treated is to pasteurize it.  Insects drill holes you can't see without a magnifying glass or microscope, and the eggs are often dormant.  The same temperature for sterilizing water renders wood free of borer larvae, etc.  If you had a big enough oven, you can set it to 130F for half an hour.  For most folks, this isn't convenient for a lot of reasons. 

An alternative is to mix boric acid and water, and sponge this down the shaft.  Boric acid is relatively safe for humans (we put it in things like eye-wash), but it's toxic to insects.  Boric acid will also treat ants and cockroaches.  It's sold for about $5 for a one-pound bottle.  I also sprinkle the area where I keep my wood with the powder.  One Native American approach was to subject wood for various projects to a nice smoking.

How do you know the wood has been fully seasoned?  When it isn't losing any more water.  There's no universal way to know, but weighing it can give you a sense of what's going on in there.  (If you were working with ash, you might cut a big chunk from a trunk around the same time.  When the large piece has radial checks, small cracks in the direction of bike spokes,  it's seasoned.)

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The second part of seasoning is a contracting of the cellulose.  It only has to do with "drying" indirectly, because the process gives off water molecules that form at this time, and weight therefore changes.  They sort of get pinched out as the shape changes.  Depending on the wood, this could happen within a week of the initial drying-- or it could happen over years.  When you first cut Osage, it can be carved with a jack-knife, but two years later, that same piece is like maple, requiring a chisel and a hammer to alter it.   (so, dead osage tree + chainsaw removal = broken chainsaw blades).  Same thing with Jujube tree wood.  Unless you're making a war-club or a paleo set of replacement teeth, this level of seasoning isn't needed.

It's technically a form of "staling".  Going stale is not the same as drying.  That's why you can't keep bread from staling by adding water, and it's why bread is sold in paper bags in Europe.  It isn't the water loss that makes it tough.

With the bread, you can restore it to edibility by heating it (in a 330F oven).  That's how Frozen Pizza, Hot Pockets and French Toast work.  This can only be done once.  If stale bread is reheated a second time, it won't get soft again.

With the arrows, when you heat-straighten them, it does something very similar.  And,  like the bread, you only get one chance at it.  (It isn't like milk jug plastic, which you can melt and re-form and it stays flexible and just as strong every time.)  Heat treatment "relaxes" the arrow fibers, and when they cool, they optimize for the cured shape.

There is a way to speed up the cellulose tightening, and that's cold.  (If you keep bread in the fridge, it will go stale six times faster, for the same reason.) 

Depending on where you live, if you harvest arrows late winter, before the spring thaw, this has already occurred.  (I have to watch the weather forecast eagerly, to take advantage of those rare Texas freezes.)

I said earlier that bark can be left on to make drying even.  It's not a rule.  If the shaft blank harvested was a bit thicker, the bark and much of the softer sapwood can be trimmed away, leaving a fairly stable core.  Different kinds of wood react differently, and it also depends on how wet the previous growth years were, how much light the leaves got, how much fertilizer from natural mulching, etc.  Some kinds of wood, it totally doesn't matter whether they cure with or without bark.

Even if arrow blanks are straight, a heat treatment can improve its temper.  As a fine point, if the arrow needs more flexibility (less "spine"), this is one way to do it.

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Seasoning affects one more thing, and that's, how the paint or varnish stays on.  If it's slowly oozing water, a lacquer might flake right off.  Sufficiently dried, the wood surface will sand more nicely, giving tiny tiny micro-fibers for the surface stain or shellac or polish to stay on.  If you are going to be happy with, say, rubbing on some molten beeswax with a cloth, your arrow shafts might be ready for the next steps sooner.  (Speaking very very generally, it was more common for Native American woodworking to be done on green wood.)
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Archeryrob
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3:46 PM - Mar 22, 2018 #5

certain woods respond better to quick seasoning than others. I lots more shafts in dogwood and southern arrowwood than saved trying to quick dry them. The would split near the ends with slow drying with the bark on, but many split the length trying to debark them and ruined the shafts. patience and months seemed to be the better route with these woods.

Now Multiflora rose, I have cut it in summer, stripped the bark and thorns and let it sit in the black bed of my truck in the sun and green hand straightened it. In two days it was about ready to make an arrow.
My ranting and ramblings on stuff I do. https://archeryrob.wordpress.com/
Primitive archery information I have written https://boweyrsden.wordpress.com/
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