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wenge care

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jari Kurri, Apr 9, 2009.

  1. Jari Kurri

    Jari Kurri

    Jul 24, 2000
    denver, co
    this is kind of an oddball question, but maybe someone out there can help me out.

    i live in africa - i'm in mali right now, but just moved here from the democratic republic of congo. in the drc, there's lots of wenge wood around and it's used to make furniture, picture frames, carvings, etc. i bought a few things made from wenge as souvenirs. the problem is that now i've moved to mali where the climate is incredibly dry (it is a desert after all) and the wenge is drying out, like, really drying out. there's nowhere near the same amount of moisture in the air as there was in the drc.

    so, knowing that wenge is used by luthiers in some basses, do you have any tips for caring for it? the only hitch is that it's hard to find things like furniture polish around here. is there some kind of homebrew i can use to care for the wood? kerosene, peanut oil, etc? baby oil?

    any ideas?
  2. My thoughts would be as to whether the wood is finished or unfinished. If used on a fretboard, it is quite easy to apply oils, waxes, etc. that would help maintain the moisture. If storing raw wood, it would be more difficult to keep it in a humidity controled storage area. Finished wood, like a guitar body would be less likely to dry out rapidly, but it still should be kept in a more humid environment. Without any products available in you area, I would think you could order them over the internet from guitar parts and supply companies. In the worst case, wrap the wood in a damp cloth or towel.
  3. Jari Kurri

    Jari Kurri

    Jul 24, 2000
    denver, co
    sorry, i should add that the wood is unfinished and it's very very hard (and expensive) for me to get packages sent here.
  4. Dirk Diggler

    Dirk Diggler Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Anytown USA
    Actually if it's raw wood, let it dry out naturally. People pay big money to have wood kiln dried. You have mother natures kiln (the desert) so let it dry. You can't over dry it, it will just hit a point where it will stay at a relatively stable humidity. Once you make something out of it a good orange oil beeswax combo should be great.
    I use Howard Feed -N- Wax on my wenge instruments and it works wonderfully. The only other thing in that is a petroleum distillate of some sort. I would think you could just use the beeswax and orange oil.
    Good luck,
  5. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    if you are purchasing the wenge wood from a location w/higher humidity compared to where you live you can "season" it by initially storing it in a cool, dark, dry/slightly humid place like a closet, basement, even underneath a porch. You can also wrap the wenge in a plastic bag and once a week open it up, then reseal it. The goal is to slowly allow the wood to get settled into your dryer climate. After a few weeks to months of this procedure you can move the wood to a warmer spot like your work shop. You need to watch the wood and see how it reacts - if it starts to check and split then it is drying too fast. You may have issues as you work the wood as well - as you cut into the wood you are exposing new wood which will dry out quicker than the center of the board. Store the boards flat so they don't twist. I have used this method working in the Northeast USA where summers are humid and winters are extremely dry and work shops can be hot as well. The denser woods like wenge release moisture more slowly. A moisture meter can tell you exactly how much moisture the wood is storing which is helpful
  6. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    you might want to look at woods that are used in your vicinity (Mali). Are there any tree cutters or furniture makers there that could help you w/local wood? When buildings are torn down or renovated the wood usually thrown away can be recycled for instruments. I made a very nice bass from a piece of American Walnut wood I found in the trash. Recycling wood is a good choice because it is usually cheap/free and since it has been essentially drying for a long time it will be perfectly dried and stable.
  7. fishtx

    fishtx Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Genzler Amplification/Spector Basses/Mojo Hand FX
    Can I ask a stupid question here? How do you pronounce wenge? Is it "Wenge" like "fringe", or is it like "win-gee"...? I'm sorry to derail...
  8. ClaytonH


    Mar 10, 2009
    Hudson, OH
    can you send me some?
  9. RCCollins

    RCCollins Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    San Diego, California
    with a hard g

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