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Wood treatment against bugs?

Cyric Mayweather


Joined: Jun 20, 2010
Posts: 78
Hello All
I was wondering if anyone new of or had tried any bug treatments for wood timbers that works well? Natural, would be Great/ Best, non-toxic/Harmful definitely need that, cheap would be very nice, easy to apply would be great as well :p
Any info you have would be a big help as i really know nothing in this area of expertise
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6491
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
Linseed oil  (flax oil) is a natural  treatment.  There are 2 basic types:  raw and boiled.
The boiled oil produces a finish that looks like a matte varnish.

What I have done in the past, is to mix raw linseed 50/50 with turpentine, and brush on several coats.  It is thin enough that it will penetrate well into the wood.  Then I coat with boiled oil, which provides a semi hard protective layer.

When searching for the "boiled" oil, just remember that some is naturally boiled, and some is chemically boiled.  You want the naturally boiled type.
Charlie Rendall


Joined: Oct 28, 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
    
    2
I've tried a lot of different stuff as we have 50-90% humidity where I live, so mould is a real problem, especially as I have to maintain a lot of old pine buildings that I didn't build, and one that I did   (pine sucks for long-term construction).

I use linseed but on its own it doesn't do anything against the white and black moulds that pine is susceptible to, so I make a mix with chemicals - more about that in a moment.

Don't actually boil the linseed oil, just warm it up to just when it starts to give off smoky vapors.

Letting wood rot as nature intended and then replacing it is truly green building!

Your best bet is to choose naturally long-lasting wood in the first place - cypress is great stuff, as it contains its own pesticides in the sap, so much so that carpenters break out in skin rashes after prolonged exposure  to its dust (I've developed sores after three days on one job site), plus of course it's already applied deep within the wood. Cedar I think is also good, although everyone here uses cypress when they can and pine when they can't. And if you can get hold of hardwoods they can be amazingly long lasting - greenheart, purpleheart and ironwood are three examples I know of from Guyana, and chichipate and palo volador in Guatemala, but of course then you're likely to be chopping down rainforests to get these and then maybe transporting them across the world. But if you happen to live in an unthreatened part of the Amazon, look into it.

I've had great success with my latest experiments with beeswax. I had fun making the beeswax, which is easlily extracted by boiling the discarded comb in a pot of water, straining it through a metal sieve, then cooling it. If you don't have your own comb then find a local beekeeper or jsut order it from a candlemakers supplier.

Mix 1 part beeswax with 5 parts hot linseed oil and 1 part furniture wax, then just smear it on with a rag - it looks and smells amazing. The more you reapply it the better it gets - seals and protects the surface beautifully too. I'd like to learn more about this method as I didn't like using the industrial wax to get the beeswax to penetrate. Maybe alcohol might work? Turpentine? Haven't done much googling on this, but the smell and finish of the beeswax is great. NB there are folk with much more knowledge on this one.

If your wood is going into cement then make sure you leave a drainage solution so it doesn't fill with water and rot even faster. Use asphalt and/or asphalt paper between wood and concrete to stop the humidity transfer that rots the wood faster too.

Paint of course works nicely! Oil-based or acrylics. Again, repeat when necessary...

My grandfather used shellac lacquer for a natural varnish-like polished finish, again - google that one as my memory is hazy except that it marks easily.

Now the XXX section!  Not for strict green builders!

I know you asked for non-toxic applications but I'm going to include them just to be thorough - I'm faced with watching a popular free arts centre for kids rot and become dangerous in five years, or using a little poison judiciously applied and seeing that same building last another 25 years. I think that controlled application of poison can sometimes be more ecological, especially in our area where deforestation is a big problem. I clean wood with a bleach and water solution (1:4) twice over to kill as much of the mould as possible before I apply the poison, so I don't have to use as much of it.

Comejenol (by Henkel) and Penta are the two poisons you can buy over the counter here. Penta is banned in the US because it was so heavily used some decades ago that it was leaching into the groundwater and contaminating reserves. So now it's only permitted on railway sleepers and utility posts (e.g. electricity poles). They both work well but Comejenol is definitely more effective against woodworm.

A cheap way to preserve outdoor wood is burnt motor oil - soak the business end of posts that are going in the ground overnight (or longer for dense wood) in a bucket of the black yuck.

Diesel is popular here too, but that stinks, which I'm told is part of how it works - the bugs hate its stench. It does seem to work but don't use it for indoor furniture as it'll turn it into outdoor furniture for the six months or so it takes for the smell to become less offensive. Diesel's a carcinogen so use gloves if you do have to use it.

I've tried a good mix which worked well, based on an old recipe from when penta was still available in the US. It had a name I can't remember now, but it's 1 part penta, 1 part mineral spirits and 1 part "boiled" linseed oil.

There's another mix which works for the first coat if you're in a real hurry: just add 1 more part of marine varnish and it seals it as well (useful for sun-baked/rain-drenched areas that you want to last a little longer, although you'll need to reapply over the years.)

None of these toxic applications is remotely ecologically friendly of course, except inasmuch as they preserve the life of the lumber, so maybe you can justify it in heavily deforested areas or if labour for maintenance is at a premium.

If you have bugs already in the wood, get a syringe, inject the holes with the poison, paint on a final coat around the affected areas and then wrap it in plastic overnight or longer if it's thick wood. Stay away and use a mask and gloves when nearby or working with any of this toxic stuff, it's nasty.

My apologies to all militant greens for the XXX section - but maybe it'll help save a few trees from premature felling!


Charlie Rendall - http://www.returntotheforest.org

Bamboo Builder & Director of "Return to the Forest" courses, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala.

Living in the land of eternal spring: 1600m altitude; tropical highlands with warm rainy summers & warm dry winters; lots of corn, beans, sweet potatoes, avocado, coffee, hog plums, citrus, bananas and bamboo.
Cyric Mayweather


Joined: Jun 20, 2010
Posts: 78
Hello
Thank you both for your reply's, Ive heard of linseed oil being used, but not sure how well it works.? do any of you know anything about treating with Borax solutions and if that is a decent option?
also Charlie, im using both red and white rough cut oak for what im doing, and it will only be in contact with concrete when it sites on piers and a minimum of 12" off the ground, and while i dont remotely consider my self a rabid ecologist, this is something i do plan on living in so i definitely want to be careful with what i use
Charlie Rendall


Joined: Oct 28, 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
    
    2
Linseed oil looks great and prevents woodworm but not carpenter bees, but there's not much that seems to repel them except a good whack when they're trying to drill into your precious wood. It's no use against the white mold we have so much of here.

I've only used borax/boric acid solution in bamboo, but I imagine it's not so great for wood because it relies on water as a solvent for penetration, so it would soak in best into dry wood but you wouldn't want to do that - keep it as dry as possible! It's not so great for mold resistance either (but then not much is...)

I definitely agree on avoiding it indoors, or anywhere that humans or animals will be in frequent contact with. Even though the Comejenol instructions say it's only dangerous for a day, I don't believe them one jot!

Try to have some kind of vapor barrier between the post and the concrete - even a piece of tough plastic will do.

Try to use white oak over red for structural members, here's a good post on using them for fenceposts: http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/Good_species_for_fence_posts.html

Definitely paint the ends of the wood with linseed oil - it also helps prevent splitting by slowing the drying out that's greater at the ends of the wood.

Good luck
Cyric Mayweather


Joined: Jun 20, 2010
Posts: 78
Would a good coat of paint do much good.? eventually this timber wount be exposed to any water at all as i hope to porch the whole thing in so im not sure what would work best...
Charlie Rendall


Joined: Oct 28, 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
    
    2
Paint protects the wood against UV and water and it sounds like you'd be best off with just good ol' linseed oil - best if you can really soak the ends that'll be on the concrete. Adding mineral spirits or turpentine helps it to penetrate deeper, but it's thinned like that, and so a good idea to then paint some of it on neat/undiluted as a second coat. Some carpenters I know then let that dry and put on a couple of coats of quick drying, well-thinned nitrocellulose sealant - especially where it's in contact with or nearby cement, or the elements for that matter (ends of roof beams for example)
Cyric Mayweather


Joined: Jun 20, 2010
Posts: 78
Charlie
Thank you for the information, i believe i'll go this direction, the lumber has been drying for about a year so it should absorb stuff well, a question though, what amount should the linseed oil be diluted with turpentine or mineral spirits.?
Charlie Rendall


Joined: Oct 28, 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
    
    2
The more you thin it, the deeper it goes, but I usually do something like 1 part spirits/turps to 2 parts linseed oil, or 1:1 is good too.

You can paint it on several times if you have time - it should keep soaking in.
 
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