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Wooden Return Vents for Air Conditioning #1: Choosing a wood and making a plan

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Blog entry by Bertha posted 06-15-2011 08:19 PM 3753 reads 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Wooden Return Vents for Air Conditioning series Part 2: making a jig for the slat support »

I need help with a project.

A little background; I promise the end will involve me cutting wood:
I had right at 4000 square feet of 3/4” figured hard maple installed in my house about six months ago. It took about two months to be delivered, a month to acclimate, and about 2 months for them to install. I also had the stairs and bannister re-done at the same time. At the start of the job, I had enough flush-mount figured maple floor vents made, as well as a number of 3 foot wide or so return vents.

The problem:
The floor vents came in on time and I was very happy with them. They screwed up the order on the returns and they wouldn’t arrive well after the workers put the last buffing on the floors. I canceled the order.

But now, I have a shop ;)

1) Has anyone ever done this with any success? They’ll have to at least match the fit and finish of the professional ones (quite high, in my opinion).

2) I have a mixture of woods in my log home: walls cedar, floors maple, stairs oak, cabinets hickory, some butcher block, some pine, some cherry…you name it…lot’s of wood. I have available to me hickory and hard maple (most appropriate of the woods I have). What wood should I choose? Of note, I had 2” cherry blinds installed throughout the house and saved all the trimmings (a 2 foot tall stack of 2” x 1/8” x 48”). I’d like to use these for the slats, to avoid milling.

3) I’ve got your standard power and hand line-up. What methods should I choose? Like I said above, I’d like to use the thin cherry slats out of convenience. Correct me if this is incorrect.

Im shooting for something like this, real simple:

I’m thinking an inside frame mounted with parallelogram slat supports and a decorative face frame. Any other thoughts?

Thanks for reading this long post. I promise to blog about the construction and results!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog



10 comments so far

View Sarit's profile

Sarit

514 posts in 2602 days


#1 posted 06-15-2011 10:21 PM

I think your plan is right on, but I’ve never built one before.
Are you able to take out one of the floor vents to see their construction?

View chrisstef's profile

chrisstef

15664 posts in 2469 days


#2 posted 06-15-2011 10:23 PM

Al … heres a thought … considerin that your vents will be blowing both hot and cold air you may want to choose a wood that wont move around on you a lot. The air probably wont be very humid because its coming dorectly from the air handler but im thinking that the hot to cold cold to hot may want to move your wood … erm lumber, erm wooden vents.

-- rock, chalk, jayhawk

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13003 posts in 2156 days


#3 posted 06-15-2011 10:39 PM

Excellent point, both, gentlemen. I’ll have the luxury with my suggestion that if the slats fall out due to shrinkage, it’ll only take a few quick rips to resize them. YES, I already have the unit off. It’s pressed metal of some kind, flimsy, and a clear eyesore.

I’m leaning toward hickory, does that sound reasonable? The floor is very contrasted with all kind of crazy stuff going on from plain white, to spalted, to highly beetled dark figure, to bizaree burl. I think I could get away with any of the medium hue woods, in terms of match. I’ve got two 5 ton American Standard units with an inline hum/dehum system. Vented crawlspace; no basement. Of course the timber contruction shows gaping cracks and scary twist, that’s all part of it. The home was built in 2007 and is still figuring its way out. If I have to remake my first attempt, that won’t offend me. I’m a woodworker, you know;)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Sodabowski's profile

Sodabowski

2308 posts in 2295 days


#4 posted 06-15-2011 11:11 PM

Al, if you settle with the wooden slats, maybe it could be a nice idea to leave one of the sides unglued so they can move, with a deep mortise and enough material so that it doesn’t fall out with shrinkage. Maybe you could first measure the possible movement of your slats by drowning one in hot water for a while, and compare its length to the original dry measurement, and pop one in the freezer to also measure the cold retractation ratio. This way you could quite easily figure out the exact maximum movement of your wood, the formula is quite simple to figure out (and I can help with it if need be).

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13003 posts in 2156 days


#5 posted 06-15-2011 11:33 PM

Genius Sodabowski! I could build a littl tote with my plans slits on either side. Perform your features, and make the relevant marks. This should be easy to size to my final project. I might even get that completed tonight. Many thanks! I do beileve I may be able to avoid the tambor bit kit, building a this rip guage or buying a tiny cove bit (In real life, I’d make a new molding plane for the rounding of the shutter face, but I’m already in the doghouse over these vents). They must be spectacular; so whatever it takes!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View drewnahant's profile

drewnahant

222 posts in 2551 days


#6 posted 06-15-2011 11:44 PM

Sounds like you have some good advice on how to build it, so I have nothing to add, but I’m curious about this. These are floor vents, right? and they have 1/8, slats? what happens when someone steps on one, or drops something on one? I must be missing something here, because if the picture in my head is right, you would put your foot right through it. Even if it is right at the edge of the room, somebody is bound to eventually trip or stumble, or drop something on it.

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13003 posts in 2156 days


#7 posted 06-16-2011 01:47 AM

Drewenheart, no, returns…let me explain (sorry about the dirty floor; This is kind of an un-used area, and I am lazy:
My custom “vent” :

This the horror I’m obviously needing to dress up.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13003 posts in 2156 days


#8 posted 06-17-2011 06:57 PM

Wood chosen and thicknessed. Hickory it shall be.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12642 posts in 3560 days


#9 posted 06-17-2011 07:00 PM

Looks like it will match pretty well.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13003 posts in 2156 days


#10 posted 06-19-2011 02:29 PM

Thank you, GaryP, for such a nice comment. My home is like yours, home;)

I think she’s going to be a good fit.
Live edge for LJ points;)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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