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Low Humidity and Workability of Wood

I live in Las Vegas and wondering if anyone has the same problem.  During the summer the humidity in my shop is 1-6% and it seems the wood becomes very brittle.  I use mostly Basswood for picture frames so there's not a lot of space for carving.  I've heard of "spritzing" the wood with denatured alcohol and water -- does that help carving dried wood?  I know people who have driven to coastal areas of California to purchase wood and can hear it cracking in the back of their van on the trip back to the desert!!  Any suggestions appreciated -- John

Hi John,

Wow - that is definitely not an issue I have had to deal with here in South Carolina. It may be the specific piece of wood itself, as occasionally basswood is brittle. I would be interested in knowing if it is actually the moisture content in the wood, or the source of the wood itself. I have heard of people soaking oak to make it easier to carve, but if you soak basswood my first concern would be it warping. Try just spritzing it with water and let me know. I'm curious now!

I have the similar problem, only year around 🙂 I tried to spray on the wood the mix of water and isopropyl alcohol, it has little effect on the carving - the mix wets only surface, carving goes deeper.  I put the piece of wood what I am going to carve for the several days in the metal box (from cookies 🙂 ) with a couple small glasses of water and store this piece of wood there between carving. I found it is easier to carve now. In several weeks some mold can grow there 🙂 I had it once, but I was using a terrarium with plants 🙂

Someone suggested to put under the wood a wet sponge for several hours or putting it on the morning grass (when there is some dew) - did not try it.