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Wicking Be Gone

'Wicking': To absorb or draw off (liquid) by capillary action. You find the term used in sportswear; modern materials 'wick moisture away from the skin'. However, the phenomenon also occurs in wood... 

Wood fibres are like tiny straws. If they are cut across (end grain) they'll have that capillary action and suck up stains, oils, paint - anything they can! The effect of wicking varies with the size of the wood fibres: less with tight-grained oily timbers, more with wood that has wider, open pores in the end grain, such as Oak, a wood that's commonly used for outdoor signs into which letters have been incised. 

Although wicking effects how stains look on wood (the difference between end and side grain) it's in these lettered and painted signs that I've had a problems in the past. You can see the unsightly effect in the picture above.

Here's one solution, which I only recommend for signs.

If you have other thoughts, do share them through the comment box below.



| 05 June 2018 18:23

Frank - Honestly, I'd be guessing; I've never tried it. The best thing is to make a few experiments. Let us know!

The method I'm trying here is for outdoor (signs). Sanding sealer (shellac) I believe is for inside work only.

| 03 June 2018 19:47

Will 'Sanding Sealer' have the same effect of sealing the end grain prior to painting?

Frank Greenwood.

| 30 May 2018 14:32

Michael - Thanks for that thought.
For those who haven't heard: under certain circumstances, oily rags (linseed, teak, danish, rather than the machine oil we use for sharpening) can spontaneously combust. Screwing them up or leaving them in a pile leads to the spontaneous generation of heat… Thus you should always take precautions when you've finished with such rags.
I'd only use a small amount of oil on any project and would perhaps have one or two rags to deal with at a time: I do as Michael suggests, but take them outside the workshop as well when I'm done. Wetting them first too is a good idea, as is dropping them into a closed metal can, again outside the workshop. In the winter they go in the wood-stove as a fire-starter.

| 30 May 2018 01:24

Just a note on the handling of oily rags ( from sources such as linseed):
While running water on them is a good idea you only have to spread them out and the heat will dissipate quicker than it can build up. But you probably knew that already.

| 21 May 2018 16:23

Jonathan - It's not so much that I only recommend it for signs as it's that signs are the only time I need it. If you look around the site you'll see that I do very little staining my woodcarvings, and the technique you mention is one that I really don't know about.
I think an important thing here must be to test whatever one wants to do on waste wood before committing to the carving itself. I've seen some disastrous result of unbridled staining!

| 21 May 2018 14:09

Hi Chris,
I've heard of this method for getting stain to be taken up evenly also. I learned it a "glue sizing"---a name which makes little sense to me. There's another agent I've heard about using---shellac. Have you tried this?
Also, why do you only recommend this for signs?

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