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John E

Can plugs in storage actually shrink?

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I have five plugs that seem to have shrunk after being stored for the winter. Some are mine and some are from other builders so I know it"™s not just my stuff. When I look at the plugs, the paint is wrinkled under the epoxy topcoat but the epoxy and paint does not appear to be separated from the layer below. It"™s still firm and does not give on all but one of the plugs. The plugs were stored in a room that also houses my boiler so it does get warm but not anymore than I think a garage or shed would get during the summer. Here"™s a rundown of the plugs:

 

One of my Needlefish

Topcoat: System 3 Mirrorcoat

Paint: Createx

Sealer: Val-oil/mineral spirits combo

Wood: rock maple

 

One of my Pencil Poppers

Topcoat: System 3 Mirrorcoat

Paint: Spray Cans

Sealer: Minwax Wood Hardener

Wood: Red Cedar

 

2 Needlefish by Another Builders

Topcoat: Unknown Epoxy

Paint: Assume Createx

Sealer: Unknown

Wood: Assume Maple or Birch

 

Darter by Another Builder

Topcoat: Unknown Epoxy

Paint: Assume Createx

Sealer: Unknown

Wood: Believe it"™s AYC

 

My first guess is that the plugs are "drying out" and the wood is shrinking due to a lack of humidity in the room. What do you guys think?

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Very unscientific, but yes, I think wood "breathes" and expands/contracts with temp/humidity changes. Slipknot amoungst others would know, since he works with it professionally. I know I've had epoxy crack on plugs that have never been in the water, so something's going on.

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I don't know how well it show up in photos on my plugs since it's only on one or two small areas. One of the needles from the anonymous builders has it all over but I don't want to post it.

 

It has happened in the past but not every year and it was isolated. At most one plug. So far, it's only happened on the home made ones. No issues with other wood plugs such as Gibbs, Habs Tattoo, Beachmaster, etc.

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I have had it happen, but more often than not because I didn't let either the wood or the sealed plug dry enough. However, it wasn't just on small areas, usually LOTS of places...end up as re-sand and re-paint or to hell with it and keep fishin' it!biggrin.gif

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With the variation to the processes that you've outlined I'd have to agree with you about shrinking/drying. Do you have a humid area to store them for a while to see if things stretch back?...even a little?

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Yes, wood expands and contracts with the seasons,what will happen is that a plug that is round will turn to an oblong shape.that is wood expands across the grain,i think the term is the tangent, is does the same with the grain, radially, but not as muck. there are tables that will give the amount each wood moves. a 12 in board can vary as much as 1/4 inch.not sure if that is the problem that is occuring with the plugs you mentioned, but quite a few plugs i have recieved in trades that are epoxied have done the same thing.

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In my furniture making career, wood movement was a daily reality. I had to plan differently if I was building in Jan, than if I was in Aug. It can srew you 6 months later after the check was long past spent.

This situation is wierd in that I'm sure you have other of your plugs near them done the same way yours w/ the problems were.

 

-How old are the plugs? have they been through a few season cycles?

 

-Was your wood air or kiln dried? Air dried wood can do funny things.

Moisture content before they were made + fishing + winter could do it.

- If the top coat can't flex too much (epoxy), and that particular blank wants to move just enough,......then crack.

-Those blanks could be from different parts of the tree (sap/heart/or tension wood).

-They could have experienced the greatest moisture extremes, were they closer or farther from any heat/moist source than the other plugs?

 

Sounds like seasonal wood movement, but if the rest of your plugs are in the same place and OK, they could just be "occurances"

 

This another reason I'm for sealing plugs,(which I know you did) especially certain species.

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With the variation to the processes that you've outlined I'd have to agree with you about shrinking/drying. Do you have a humid area to store them for a while to see if things stretch back?...even a little?

 

 

That experiment is in the works.

 

 

I have had it happen, but more often than not because I didn't let either the wood or the sealed plug dry enough. However, it wasn't just on small areas, usually LOTS of places...end up as re-sand and re-paint or to hell with it and keep fishin' it!biggrin.gif

 

 

The needles were made in the spring/early summer and some of them were fished. I assume that any issues with sealing or wood moisture would of revealed themself when they hit the water.

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I have had that happen to a substantial number of plugs I've accumulated over the years. My plugs are hung at the ceiling of my shop - which is also where all the warm air accumulates. It tends to happen most to plugs that have a very hard non flexible clearcoat. In other words the wood moves but the clear doesn't.

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Yes all wood will expand and contract. Paints fail all the time, even with sealer. Plugs are not made to last they are made to fish. As for the shrinkage and looks? Fish and beat them up.

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My guess is that The Fishing Freak may have the answer. Several years ago I had some of mine do the same thing & my guess is that I applied the epoxy before the paint was TOTALLY cured. Depending on temperatures I wait 7 to 10 days before applying the final finish coat of epoxy. Mike

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I made ukuleles of all sizes as well as guitars for nearly 20 years. Radial expansion and contraction of wood (movement across the grain) is a persistent issue with instrument makers. Most of the better makers work in a humidity controlled environment of about 45-50 % relative humidity. In most places on the Mainland where there are large annual temperature swings, the relativel humidity is higher in the summer and MUCH lower in the winter, especially in heated indoor situations. I have a small discussion the effects of humidity changes on wood on my website:

 

http://www.ukuleles.com/Technology/humidmath.html

 

So plugs made in the summer will shrink in the winter but because of the relatively high humidity during the summer building cycle won't be that affected by going into the water. Plugs made in the winter in low humidity environments will swell during the summer and surely swell in the water. Depending on the finish, the paint job may or may not survive because of this movement.

 

Take home message: try to build in an intermediate to high humidity if possible. Failing that, just use the plugs and enjoy...smile.gif

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I call it worming....the wood at the time it was turned feels dry..then sealed/painted then epoxyed. Given time the sealer/wood dries shrinks..the epoxy stands firm and loses it's foot hold on the paint..at the weakest part first...looking like a clear worm under the epoxy working it's way around the plug.Some get a S shape look,some straight...plugs are best left where some moisture is present.Also at times you see a hair line crack on either side of the gromet. wood shrinks..metal doesn't..up pops a crack.

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