Indian Laurel meels
Indian Laurel (Litsea Glutinosa) is an invasive alien. It grows extremely well in the area I live in. I found a vacant lot where a lot of trees had been felled, Indian laurel among them.
The wood has a straight grain and is easy to work. So I decided to make some Persian meels out of Indian laurel. I cut two pieces with my trusty bow saw, and brought them home.
The piece of laurel on the left weighed 18 kg. The meel weighed 6 kg. So I have to convert 12 kg of wood into shavings and sawdust to make another meel.
I weighed a number of shavings on my jeweler's scale. The average weight was 0.3 grams. Each stroke of the plane requires about a second. In one hour I can do 3600 strokes, assuming I plane non-stop. That is just over one kg of shavings in an hour. So to convert 12 kg of wood into shavings needs about 10 hours of uninterrupted planing! Fortunately, I like planing, whether on a windsurfer, on my kiteboard, or, in this case, a No. 3 Jack plane.
Done! The meels are quite pretty in a Baroque kind of way. They weigh just over 6 kg each. After drying completely, I expect them to weigh about 4 kg.
The top of the meel reminds me of the cupola on some Baroque churches. Final shaping will take place once the meels have dried out.
I discovered that Indian laurel cracks badly as it dries. On the right hand piece, the cracks are propagating along tracks left by fungi, which weakens the wood. (Fungi produce cellulolytic enzymes, which convert strong and water-insoluble cellulose into weak and water-soluble sugars). So now I have to find a way of retarding the drying process, to minimize splitting. We are at the beginning of winter, which in Durban means cool and dry weather, and low relative humidity. This makes the problem worse. I am going to try wrapping the meels in a few layers of newspaper. This is permeable to water vapour. I can adjust the drying rate by adding or removing layers of paper. I will treat the meels with a fungicide before covering them with paper.
In spite of my efforts, the clubs cracked. The clubs have small cracks on the one side, and big cracks on the other side. When the clubs have dried out completely, I will fill the cracks with polyurethane foam.
Update 10 August 2014. The Indian Laurel meels have become my favorite meels. There are a few reasons for this.
- They have exactly the right weight. Their weight suits the duration and intensity of exercises I like doing with meels. My other meels are either too light, or too heavy.
- I never varnished these meels. The unvarnished handles provide a very comfortable and secure grip. The "varnish" I used on my other meels is actually a resin that cures hard and glossy like glass. I noticed that I have to grip the varnished meels harder, to maintain my grip. My forearms burn after swinging my varnished meels. No forearm burn on these here!
- I have stopped agonizing over the cracks a long time ago. If the meels get damaged further during use, it would not bother me. So I swing these meels with great enthusiasm and lots of energy!