table top design and wood movement

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Forum topic by NewPickeringWdWrkr posted 04-01-2010 05:23 PM 5188 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View NewPickeringWdWrkr's profile


338 posts in 3219 days

04-01-2010 05:23 PM

Topic tags/keywords: ash walnut shaker table

Hi LJs

been working on a shaker table where the body is made of Ash, but have been thinking about a walnut top, but came to the conclusion that it may have been to big a contrast. Now thinking about an ash top with a walnut border as per this pic:

I have yet to experience wood movement as it’s going to be the first project out of my shop, but I’ve heard and I don’t think I’d care for the border to start separating from the main panel. I don’t know that I want to stain the main assembly to reduce the contrast.

Thoughts and comments/advice?

-- Mike - Antero's Urban Wood Designs

8 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4424 days

#1 posted 04-01-2010 06:14 PM

First, I would avoid staining if possible. Find the color woods you like and stick with that. If you stain, then you can’t really sand everything flush after assembly.

Second, don’t worry about too much contrast. A lot of contrast is good. Either use a single wood, or use woods that contrast quite a bit. Using woods that are only slightly different in color tends to look funky, IMO.

Third, conventional wisdom says not to trap those boards within a frame like your model shows. However, I have done it on a few pieces of similar size and not had any problems with wood movement. A lot depends on how much seasonal variation in humidity the piece will be exposed to.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3280 days

#2 posted 04-01-2010 06:42 PM

For what it is worth – - The April 2010 edition of Fine Woodworking has an article on contrasting woods. If you can locate a copy I suggest you read it.

Contrary to Charlie (sorry Charlie) they advocate contrast that are not too severe. They even listed some good and bad pairings. For bad pairings they listed purpleheart/maple, walnut/maple and cherry/white ash. (I know I have done several maple/walnuts and at least one purpleheart/maple.)

They also listed 12 good pairings. Only one included ash. It was red oak/white ash.

I’m not saying they are correct. This is very subjective. However, these are self proclaimed experts on the subject.

Regarding movement – If you have any concerns, I would suggest breadboard ends.

I agree with Charlie regarding stains. I just don’t like to use them and I don’t use them unless a customer insist on a particular color. You really are limited on how much sanding you can do. Besides, I want to see the woods natural color.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4424 days

#3 posted 04-01-2010 07:52 PM

Rich, don’t worry… I won’t take it personally. :-)

I find it almost funny, though, that they would include walnut/maple in their list of bad pairings. That has to be one of the most common combinations, and one that most everyone I know finds pleasing to the eye.

Oh well… it is very subjective, as you said.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View NewPickeringWdWrkr's profile


338 posts in 3219 days

#4 posted 04-01-2010 08:16 PM

I like contrasting tones as well, but was thinking to use it more as a highlight than a feature.

Rich, I have the FWW issue you speak of. I think that was the article that made me question my sanity. Especially their comment about cherry/ash being a no-no because of the grain difference. Walnut has a more pronounced grain though, doesn’t it? I’ve never worked with walnut before, but have a small stack of it in my garage/shop.

-- Mike - Antero's Urban Wood Designs

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3873 days

#5 posted 04-01-2010 08:32 PM

I have not seen that particular issue if FWW, but find it odd they would even approach the subject and even more so that they would list do’s and dont’s. That is like telling someone which colors they should like. Some of the nicest furniture I have ever seen was a cherry and white oak combination. Do what you like and don’t take the opinions of any WWing rag as gospel. The word Fine, in the title of that particular mag, is up for debate if you ask me.
As far as construction, unless you make the center panel “float” in the frame, it will eventually work itself apart sooner ot later.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3280 days

#6 posted 04-01-2010 10:23 PM

Charlie – Regarding maple and walnut I agree completely. I am sure I have used that combination more than any other combination of domestic woods and I always get rave reviews for work that utilizes these two woods.

As an FYI – I often use exotics but I almost always use them for little accent pieces (since they are so expensive). To me working with 2 woods for a contrast effect and incorporating accents are two different things.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Ger21's profile


1075 posts in 3337 days

#7 posted 04-02-2010 01:25 AM

Use a veneered MDF panel and solid wood border.

-- Gerry,

View Aaron Taylor's profile

Aaron Taylor

37 posts in 3355 days

#8 posted 04-02-2010 05:18 PM

I too have to agree that this contrast issue is a matter of taste and personal opinion. I personally like the thought of Walnut and Ash. Of course we all want to see pics when you are done, or in between for that matter.

On another matter. Where did you get your different wood textures in Sketch-up? I have found some on the internet, but they aren’t as nice as yours. If you wouldn’t mind sharing I would be really appreciative.



-- "Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops."--Cary Grant from the movie Arsenic and Old Lace

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