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    My Experience with Ron Kent's Experimental Wood Treatment    

    I've been trying Ron Kent's experimental wood treatment that involves the use of diluted dishwashing detergent.  If you aren't familiar with this technique, there's no point learning about it second-hand from me--click here and read about it from Ron himself.  If you are familiar with it, but haven't tried it, read on and I'll share my personal (although somewhat limited) experiences with you.

    A little background first.  I turn a lot of green wood: turn it, put it on the shelf, and wait for it to dry.  At any given time, I have 35 to 50 rough turned items drying, or already dry, in my studio.  Some of them are very dry, having been turned as much as three years ago (. . . OK, I'm a bit slow getting to some of these things--I always seem to be attracted to the latest piece of wood, not the earliest).  

    Some of the wood I turn and season gets very hard.  Hickory, for example, is a real dickens to re-turn after it dries completely.  Enter Ron's technique: Immersing the rough-turned piece in concentrated dishwashing detergent diluted with an equal amount of water.  I buy Ajax (lemon-scented) brand from Sam's ($6.87, before sales tax, for 165 fluid ounces).  So far, I've used Ron's recommended dilution ratio of 50/50, but I plan to dilute further to 40/60 of concentrate/water (which is the same dilution ratio Phil Brennion uses) to see if I can get better penetration on larger pieces.  I've been soaking my dried, rough-turned pieces for about three days, and then letting them re-dry for at least a week, longer if necessary.  

    Here's the bottom line: Kent's technique works.  It makes re-turning a piece a whole new experience.  The wood actually cuts better than it did when it was green.  I recently turned the outside of a Hickory bowl with a cut so smooth that it didn't need sanding (a first for me).  And as a bonus, there is virtually no airborne dust, either when cutting or sanding.  

    I've also used the immersion technique on one piece of freshly-turned green wood (a piece of Redbud).  Based on this one experience, it appeared that penetration was quicker since most of the wood's capillaries were still open and partially filled with water.  

    The technique does not seem to affect the finishing process, although I've only used oil finishes thus far (Waterlox Original over top of Minwax 209).  I haven't yet tried water-based poly-acrylic lacquer, another finish that I'm fond of. 

    A caveat before you try this on your own pieces: My experience is limited to the woods I work with.  This technique may not work with the woods you work with.  Since the material cost to try this technique is quite low, give it a shot -- just make sure you select an item that isn't destined for the del Mano Gallery the first time you try it!    

    If  you have used Ron's technique and have any experiences to share, please contact me via email.