Are you making rustic decorations for a wedding or party? Making holiday keepsake ornaments from your very own Christmas tree? Wood “cookies” – or cross-cut sections of wood – are increasingly popular for home decor and special events. Achieving a simple, rustic look for wedding cake platters, table centerpieces, coasters, name place settings, and more.
The only problem: freshly cut, green wood looks great at first, but it can crack and split when it dries, ruining your coasters and platters. This is especially true for "wood cookies", as they are the most challenging type of cut to stabilize. Use Pentacryl and follow the steps below to keep your wood from cracking.
It works by displacing the high moisture content in green wood. It is highly successful in stabilizing all types of hard and soft wood cookies.
There are 3 key factors for achieving success when using Pentacryl:
- Treat the wood as soon as it is cut.
- Complete saturation.
- Controlled drying.
Here’s how to treat your wood cookies with Pentacryl to ensure your project looks great for years to come.
Pentacryl is for Freshly Cut “Green” Wood
Pentacryl is a green wood stabilizer and formulated to treat wood with a high moisture content — above 25-30%. A moisture meter can be used to check the moisture content of your wood. Then, to determine how much Pentacryl you'll need, see the Wood Calculator right here on our website.
This cross-cut section of lodge pole pine is 7″ diameter x 3″ thick with a moisture content above 40%.
Note: if you’re using a slice of wood that is semi-dry, with a lower moisture content, you should treat it with Wood Juice instead.
If you will not be treating the wood immediately, it is recommended to wet it down lightly with water and wrap it in plastic until it can be treated (not longer than 3-4 days to prevent mold growth). This will prevent it from drying too soon. Lysol can be sprayed to the surface of the wood to avoid mold growth. This is especially useful in high humid areas.
Two Methods of Applying Pentacryl: Soaking & Brushing/Rolling
Pentacryl can be applied by soaking or brushing/rolling on. For best penetration, the Pentacryl and the wood both need to be at room temperature.
Method 1: Soaking
When soaking the cookie, use a plastic, fiberglass, or rubber container only. Do not use metal containers as they will react with the Pentacryl and darken the wood.
For best absorption, place small wooden or plastic slats under the cookie to prevent it from sitting directly on the bottom of the container. Chopsticks work well for this, as shown in photos below.
When working with large cookies, using a large plastic kids swimming pool is ideal. For example, this 5-foot diameter by 10-inch thick maple cookie. Line the pool with heavy plastic to prevent leaking and be sure to leave enough to cover the top of the wood. A custom soak tank can also be built using 2x4 lumber lined with heavy plastic, as shown below.
The wood does not need to be completely submerged in Pentacryl as it will “wick up” from the bottom into the wood. After soaking the allotted time, turn the wood cookie over and soak the other side. Since this piece is too large to flip over to soak the other side, Pentacryl is being applied on the top as well. This will ensure complete saturation into the wood.
In the photos below, you can see Pentacryl being 'wicked-up' into the wood from the bottom of the soak.
The wood should soak for 24 hours per inch of thickness. However, for larger pieces we recommend soaking for 36 hours per inch of thickness. Note that the more water displaced prior to drying, the better results you will have.
While soaking, cover the exposed wood in the soak with plastic to prevent the top from drying too soon and to also keep the Pentacryl from evaporating.
Often times you will see a “white film” or residue on the wood, as shown in the photo below. This is the water being displaced (pushed out).
Method 2: Brushing or Rolling
When using the brushing or rolling method, lay down a sheet of heavy plastic large enough to wrap up over the top of the wood. Apply a heavy coat of Pentacryl and wrap the plastic over the wood to prevent it from starting to dry while the Pentacryl is soaking in. Once the Pentacryl soaks in, another application can be applied right away. Repeat the brushing process until the wood is completely saturated with Pentacryl.
Drying the Wood
Even though Pentacryl speeds up the drying process by about 30% since it displaces moisture, the wood still needs to dry slowly and naturally in a controlled area. This should be away from air movement, direct heat source, or sunlight. Ideal drying conditions are 55-65ºF with relative humidity at 25-50%.
Up to 90% of drying will occur through the end grain, and since wood cookies are 100% end grain on both sides, the surface drying of these pieces needs to be slowed down. The following are a few methods we recommend.
Wrap cookies in brown paper or trace and cut out cardboard circles and tape them snuggly to both sides. Stand the wood on edge so air can get to both sides and dry it evenly - as shown in the photos above.
Or, bury smaller treated wood cookies in dry wood shavings or sawdust as shown in the image to the left.
Apply End Grain Sealer to Large Pieces
For extra large pieces, we also recommend applying End Grain Sealer prior to applying the cardboard. This will slow down the surface drying even further.
Be sure not to apply it to the bark edge, especially if the bark is to be left on. Expect a longer drying time when you use End Grain Sealer.
Once the wood has dried, the sealer can be scraped off and then lightly sanded. For medium to small cookies, you can use either cardboard or End Grain Sealer as both is not needed.
These 13" diameter by 2" thick red oak cookies were both dried in cardboard for 6 months. The one on the right was treated with Pentacryl while the one on the left was untreated. In addition to preventing cracking, Pentacryl also keeps the wood looking clean and bright.
Once completely dry, your wood will have a natural look and feel to it. The surface can then be sanded, stained, wood burned, glued, painted, and/or finished. We recommend using oil or alcohol based products vs. using water-based products, as this adds moisture back into the wood and can leave the surface tacky.
Oftentimes, it is desirable to leave the bark edge intact. Pentacryl will help to keep the bark on as it prevents the wood from shrinking and pulling away from the bark. However, the best method to keep bark on is to cut the tree in the winter during the dormant period, when the sap stops running and the wood has hardened off. The above wood cookie is untreated and shows the shrinking wood pulling away from the bark.
Wood cookies that have come from a dead standing tree, where the moisture is much lower to almost dry, we recommend using our Wood Juice. This stabilizer is formulated to treat semi-dry wood to prevent future cracking.
Now that you know the best practices for using Pentacryl to treat your wood cookies, you’re ready to start your own DIY rustic projects! What will you make first? We love to see the beautiful projects our customers create with Pentacryl. Please share your work with us on social media or email us at email@example.com. And click here to shop for Pentacryl for your next DIY project.