Working With Wenge

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Gordon Bellerose
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Working With Wenge

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

One of my next builds will be another neck thru. I am planning on using some wenge in this build, and as I have never used it before, I have a few questions.

1. Is Wenge a close pored wood? Or does it require a lot of filling?
2. Is the dust toxic?
3. Does it require any special care in cutting, or routing?
4. Is it an oily wood like rosewood? Are there any special steps needed in gluing?

Thanks for any advice you can give me.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

David King
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by David King »

1) Lots of filling. Wenge has some of the largest, deepest pores you will ever look down. Then again you don't have to fill them or put a finish on it.
2) The dust has a distinct odor that can be a little scratchy. The fibers are very hard and splintery so I'd avoid getting it into your lungs or under your fingernails.
3) It is extremely hard, abrasive wood with alternating layers of kryptonite and styrofoam. It's easy to splinter when routing and extremely hard on chisel edges.
4) Is'a a dry wood that glues up well but titebond and epoxies will migrate down the pores and can cause unsightly pores come finishing time. Not much you can do about that except wrap your gluing cauls with nonstick layer.

Wenge splinters rival bloodwood splinters so wear leather gloves when handling the rough lumber.

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Bryan Bear
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Bryan Bear »

I think David pretty well covered your questions. You can also check out this link:

http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-ide ... ods/wenge/

It probably doesn't have much more info than David offered with respect for your questions but it is a good site to keep in mind. . .
PMoMC

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Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

Thanks guys.
Yeah Bryan, I do have that link, but sometimes the guys who have actually worked with a certain wood, will know a trick or two not listed in the database. :)
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

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Dan Smith
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Dan Smith »

It can get mighty hot when power sanding.
If you are sanding near a glue joint, let it cool down occasionally or the glue will melt.
Ever-body was kung fu fight-in,
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Dave Weir
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Dave Weir »

I prefer not to grain fill. I like the way the necks feel with just a light oil varnish.
I've had more failures with Wenge than anything. A couple necks warped badly the day after they were shaped.
The other problems were router related. Usually going from the side to the end. This is why I started wrapping the templates in many layers of masking tape, and peal off one layer after each pass. By doing this and making sure to cut in the right direction, I can avoid tear out.
It's really beautiful wood, great feel and tone, but with the difficulty working it and the cost, I tend to stay away.

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

Dave Weir wrote:I prefer not to grain fill. I like the way the necks feel with just a light oil varnish.
I've had more failures with Wenge than anything. A couple necks warped badly the day after they were shaped.
The other problems were router related. Usually going from the side to the end. This is why I started wrapping the templates in many layers of masking tape, and peal off one layer after each pass. By doing this and making sure to cut in the right direction, I can avoid tear out.
It's really beautiful wood, great feel and tone, but with the difficulty working it and the cost, I tend to stay away.
Thanks Dave. That's the kind of info I'm looking for.
I have a beautiful, straight, fine grained piece for the multi-piece neck I have planned. Perhaps gluing it together with other woods will stop it from warping? If the wood has that kind of tendency, I will clamp it flat for a couple of weeks after glue-up.

After that, I have a gorgeous flat sawn piece for the top. The grain is black and gold and very obvious and the pattern is great.
It is definitely costly, so I want to take every precaution.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

David King
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by David King »

Gordon,

With some finishes the gold lines often become so dark that you can't really distinguish them. Test out that you plan on using. Oils tend to darken the most while some WBs will lock in the raw wood color. Often shellac is a good compromise as a primary coat.
Wenge is one of the most stable woods out there and I've rarely come across pieces that are sprung or that twisted when resawn.

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

David King wrote:Gordon,

With some finishes the gold lines often become so dark that you can't really distinguish them. Test out that you plan on using. Oils tend to darken the most while some WBs will lock in the raw wood color. Often shellac is a good compromise as a primary coat.
Wenge is one of the most stable woods out there and I've rarely come across pieces that are sprung or that twisted when resawn.
I am planning to use water-based lacquer for my top coats. I am now using Brite-Tone. It is made by the same company that makes Crystylac grain filler.
While I do not like the grain filler, the lacquer is very nice. It builds a bit quicker so a few less coats, and dries water clear. NO blue tinge that I can see.
I usually use epoxy as a pore filler, but I will definitely test everything on scrap to see what the epoxy and lacquer does to the grain.
I do not want to hide the grain for sure.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

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Dave Weir
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Dave Weir »

I don't mean to say it has a tendency to warp. Both the pieces that warped on me were from the same board.
It's hard to find the 5/4 boards I need for my necks, but the customer was adamant, so I bought 8/4 and resawed it. and I really didn't let it settle in after that. So it's probably more my procedure or the particular timber that was the issue. Like Mr. King said, I think it's generally considered one of the more stable species.
It just kind of turned me off to it, but hopefully your experience will be better.
This is an oil finish, and it did obscure the grain pattern quite a bit.
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David King
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by David King »

Epoxies will darken it as much as anything in my experience.

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

David King wrote:Epoxies will darken it as much as anything in my experience.
I am going to try the epoxy on some scrap first, but I really appreciate the heads up.
If the epoxy does darken it too much, I may just try shooting a few coats of thinned lacquer.
Or, try some blonde shellac.

Any other suggestions are welcome.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Todd Stock
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Todd Stock »

I just hate the slivers...good enough reason to work with something else.

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

Todd Stock wrote:I just hate the slivers...good enough reason to work with something else.
Wow. With all the warnings you guys are giving me, I had better take special care when handling this stuff.
Thanks for the heads up, and know I will be wearing gloves for most things while building.
The last thing I need is a blood infection from a sliver.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

It is the most splintery wood I've worked with and they will fester if left in the skin. The quartersawn stuff seems to darken the most under finish, in some cases turning jet black when oiled.

David King
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by David King »

I have a significant up charge for a wenge neck but I wouldn't worry too much about the slivers. They aren't like bamboo. I probably done a couple dozen over the years and I'm still alive.

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Working With Wenge

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

So far, so good working with wenge.

I have the multi-piece neck-through glued up, and mostly shaped now. No warps.
The body pieces are working well also. I am carving the top of this one.
I have not tried any of the grain fillers, or finishes yet, so wish me luck on that.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

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