Boiling Madrone

A recent post shows the Woodwhirled Crew boiling Madrone…and why do we do this?

Madrone is a tree that only grows in a narrow zone in the Northwest, bordering on the Pacific coast from Oregon up into a small region of British Columbia.  The tree is a bit odd in that it sheds its bark and not its leaves.  The wood is reddish gold, and can have a living moisture content of over 90%….when cut, the water literally runs out of the wood.  For those who have access to the wood, it is a pure joy to turn it when it is wet and fresh….you can send shavings flying in a long continuous stream for 30-feet!!

The wood, does however have a strong tendency to warp and crack radically when going through the drying  process.  Boiling the wood when “rough turned” seems to reduce the tendency to crack and distort by a large margin.

Opinions vary quite a bit on the length of time to boil….the consensus appears to be that the interior temp of the wood needs to come up to the boiling point (which actually drives moisture OUT of the wood) and to hold at this temp for a period of time.  Personally, I like to boil it for 4-hours.  I use an aluminum 40-gallon cooking pot, heated by a propane fired Turkey Deep Fryer.  Let the water cool naturally, remove the wood and then store in an area free of sunlight and drafts for air drying….or you can put it on the lathe and turn while it is still wet.

This technique gives a 90% + survival rate….unboiled and it is a 5-10% survival rate. 

To get maximum yield from this incredible wood, I will take a 24-inch by 8-10 in round of wood, face plate it and rough turn the outside leaving a tenon of about 6-inches in diameter.  The I remount it on a chuck and use my coring system to remove 3-6 cores, each about 1 1/2 to 2” thick and boil them.

The wood when dry turns and sands well , accepts any finish, and commands top dollars in the galleries!!!



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