Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sticky situation

Not everything is about sharpening stones.

 Rice glue. Made some? Used any? Me either,but it has been in my mind to try it out for, ohhh, maybe 3 decades now. No time like the present, right ;-)?

This is NOT glue!
This is more of the recycled pine/larch material that I have been trying to use up before the winter rains hit and get everything in my under-deck lumber storage soaking wet. I am turning it into closet lining material, as I wrote about earlier. I am also turning it into...

Wood shavings!
I have been generating huge amounts of shavings lately. It gets mentioned by pretty much anyone who does a lot of woodwork using hand tools, but like so many things, it just never really sunk in. Working with hand tools generates VERY little dust! Instead, you just get progressively smaller units of wood shavings. I don't have a wood stove in the shop (Whaaaaatt?), so if i don't conduct the occasional hygienic conflagration, I am swiftly overwhelmed by these wooden ribbons.

Hmmm, these look familiar. POCedar, walnut, white pine, african mahogany and pine/hemlock....I think. Blades are getting dull, too.

 By themselves, these are really quite beautiful and it seems a shame to burn/chuck them, but what are they good for? Depending on what I am working on, they range in width from 3/4" to 2-1/4". They are of differing thicknesses, gossamer thin and translucent, almost transparent, to as thick as a sheet of paper. Color, texture, shimmering surfaces, smooth and flat or undulate waves, each is different according to the species of wood and the tune of the plane itself. Surely (DON'T call me SHIRLEY!) there are people doing beautiful things with wood shavings. Google to the rescue!

Or not. Undoubtedly this is due to a lack of search sophistication on my part, but when I search for images of wood shavings, I get images of.....wood shavings. The thick, woody kind that work best as tinder for starting a campfire sort of shavings. So.....find me some images of wood shaving art. We'll open a gallery, serve wine, all of the important people will be there. The event of the year....

My thought is that these shavings are a perfect fit for paper (wood!) mache and it would be even cooler if we could use a glue that we make ourselves. Rice or wheat paste glues are about as simple as adhesives get.

That's good because here is where things get a bit vague, both in the reference material and in the photo documentation. This is intended to be a starting point for me and I just wanted to get it out there before I forget everything. So, this is going to suck, I know. Imagine that you are reading about something equally as simple, like, oh, making oatmeal. Except substitute the rolled oats with rice flour, and there you go. Rice glue! Yep, it is pretty much the same thing. There are a few points to be improved upon, but this actually works well. Just think oatmeal or, better yet, gravy!

So I look for recipes and I guess that this is one of those things that is sooo simple, it is just assumed that you have been making this stuff all of your life. Just like mom's! I, of course, want to find the ,most difficult and obscure recipe, deciphered from ages old scrolls.....but no love. I checked out...

If anyone will have a sophisticated and obscure recipe or procedure, these folks will. I just LOVE stuff like this. It really is helpful to see what is possible with skill and commitment. There is a rice paste recipe, but again, it is essentially a refinement of....

Take day old cooked rice.
Smash into paste.

Anyone who has had to scrub out a pan that wasn't adequately rinsed the night before will know how effective this simple recipe can be. There are a few improvements to be made, almost none of which I implemented.

Use sticky/sweet rice variety.
Simmer juuuuust until the paste transitions from opaque to translucent.
Add salt as a preservative.
Actually I did do MOST of this. Here is what I did do...

  1. Heat 1 shy cup water to simmer
  2. Put 1 T. regular rice flour in a jar with a lid, add a splash of water and shake.
  3. Add rice slurry to simmering water and stir. It will only take a minute or so to thicken.
  4. Keep stirring till the paste turns from opaque to aaaalmost translucent. This is tricky till you have done it a few times! 
  5. Add salt (I used about 1 T.).
  6. Will store at room temperature for 3-7 days, then stinks. Make more. Actually, it smells kinda strong right away when you make it. Weird, huh? I mean, it's just rice and water.
This took longer to write than it took to make. This WORKS! Want to make the best rice paste that the world has ever seen? Me too! Tell me when you figure it out...

The oldest recipes that I found say that the paste is strongest when the rice that is used is either cooked and allowed to sit overnight, or placed dry in water, and soaked for 3 days, THEN cooked. The paste should be removed from heat when it is about 60-70% translucent. Use sweet rice. Something to do with lower protein/gluten content...I am working on a Magnum Opus. Check back later.

How important is it to get it right?


CONCENTRATION: 1 T. --Or-- 2 T. Rice flour

SALT: yes --or-- no

COOKING TIME: cooked --or-- not.
Barely translucent --or-- cooked for 5 minutes.

The point of translucency is hard to judge, so I first made a batch and just cooked and this yourself, if you are fussy and/or care. Think of it as acquiring a new skill. The sauce, I mean paste, will thicken within a minute. The transition point for translucency takes maybe 2 more minutes on med/low heat electric stove.  Once it goes translucent, that's it. No other perceptible changes aside from reduction/evaporation. I am easily bored and even I can sit and watch this one.

TYPE OF RICE: rice flour--or-- real rice........I used regular sushi rice, I didn't have sweet rice. That's for another day. I did make a batch the other day using old, pre-cooked rice. It WAS stickier!

SPECIES: rice --or-- wheat

So, time to answer the question "How important?"

For me and my quick-and-dirty testing.......not very. They ALL worked to stick paper samples together. Very well, I might add.

1 or2?

This is 2. I'm going with 1.

Cream of wheat or rice? Wheat was more full bodied, possibly more flexible and applied and dried thicker and slightly visible. Got too thick quickly , as it sat and the water evaporated, just like porridge. Good for paper mache.

Rice had better thin film characteristics, was very sticky and dried transparent but shiny. Worked well thin, but thick and gloppy was....awkward. Maintained its working characteristics pretty well. Rice paste is mixed with pigment and used like a tempura paint. Good glue for tight fitting joints.

Salt. Salt is said to increase the life of the glue by retarding bacterial growth. I felt that the salt had a positive effect on the workability and body of the glue. It seemed to make it easier to spread thinly and made it more "liquid". The "salt added" glues stayed fluid better than the "unsalted". I wonder how the salt affects the glue over time. Does it attract moisture, promoting degradation? Help maintain flexibility by absorbing atmospheric moisture....? Hmmmmm.

Real rice, a few days old, cooked and puree'd in the blender, 1 T. to 1 c. water, cooked for about 3 minutes, with 1 T. salt added at the end was my favorite. Just like mom's. You can whip some up in about 5 minutes, start to finish if you use flour. Flour works fine.

Why so few pictures? I had one picture showing the table covered with about 100 cups, with shreds of paper everywhere, and the cats running for their lives....yeah, they don't need to see that.

 PVA glue works well, is cheap and convenient. It is also hard to repair when it does break (all glue joints break), makes finishing difficult if you're sloppy and is plastic. There is soooo much plastic in our lives....This rice paste WILL NOT replace all of the other glues that I use, but it is fun and does work well.  You can eat it, so it's great for kids and projects, heck, it IS project.

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Like all of us, I am figuring this out as I go, so when you see something that is incorrect or flat out wrong (and you will!), let me know. This is a learning process. Real people and names, please. Constructive comments and questions are very welcome, but hate speak/politics are not! Life (get one!) is too short.

Thanks, Jason