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Advice on a wide plank tabletop

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Forum topic by Justin posted 11-09-2016 04:26 PM 590 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Justin

22 posts in 763 days


11-09-2016 04:26 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question ash milling joining

Backstory:
2 summers ago my in-laws took down a bunch of trees on their property. A half dozen cherries and one enormous ash. The cherries were about 65 years old and the ash close to 80 years old based on counting the rings. We had all the trunks milled into lumber, and I got to take half of the total yield. My share was stacked and stickered in my garage for a little over a year, then I moved most of it to my basement. The basement is dry and I run a dehumidifier near the stack from spring through late fall. I’m in NH so the ambient humidity drops pretty low in the fall and winter. The cutting and milling happened in August, so while the wood was in my garage the initial drying probably went fairly quickly (late summertime temps) but once the weather turned cold in October/November I’m willing to bet the wood dried very slowly after that with the average temp being near or below freezing for the next 4 or 5 months.

The guy who did the milling was really good and knew what he was doing. He had a nice diesel powered Woodmizer. The ash trunk yielded quite a few boards. He squared up the trunk into a huge blank and the boards were flat-sawn from that. I ended up with 4 boards at 6/4 rough and another half dozen at 4/4 rough. They all are 21 inches wide and most with straight edges (almost no live edge). At the time I fully expected them to check down the middle as they dried despite using Anchorseal but none did. They stayed flat and did not split. Probably helped that they were near the bottom of the 4-foot high stack.

Enough backstory, here’s the question:

I’m planning to build a dining table with the ash. My “ideal” would be a wide plank top, using 2 of the thicker boards joined down the middle and book-matched. My fear is this will move/warp/split/crack and become a disaster after it’s all assembled.

I’ve heard that old growth air-dried material is more stable than lumber-yard boards. Any truth to that?

Plan B would be to rip the wide boards to a narrower dimension and alternate the grain direction in the typical fashion to mitigate these issues. I don’t know what would be a safe width in this case. Can I get away with just ripping out the middle couple inches to end up with mostly quarter-sawn material? Then maybe use 4 boards to make up the top. Really not sure.

Forgive me if this is one of those questions that gets asked over and over. This will be my biggest project to date and I don’t want to screw it up!

Thanks,
Justin


7 replies so far

View canadianchips's profile

canadianchips

2600 posts in 2831 days


#1 posted 11-09-2016 04:39 PM

As beautiful wide board is:
If I were doing it , I would rip it into 3 pieces, about 7” wide.
Any experience I have had with wide boards, “even older ones: they either cup or split. Yours are old growth ,BUT they are still relatively FRESHLY cut.
Possibly leave them wide and make some saw curfs on underside may work too !
Natural drying seems more stable.
Like I said before…..I AM NOT EXPERT on this, only my opinion. I am very curious to see what others with more experience have to say.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

5457 posts in 2647 days


#2 posted 11-09-2016 05:01 PM

Air drying lumber before kiln drying makes stock that is nicer to work, and less brittle.

However… air dried only + 21” width + flatsawn = disaster.
Your gut instinct is telling you this, and you are correct to worry about this.
The lumber needs to be at 6-8% core moisture content before you mill it. What is the moisture content now?
I would rip it into 7” boards at the bandsaw, and have the lumber kiln dried.
Then pick out the quartersawn planks, and make your table from those.
The fact that the stock is 6/4 works in your favor.

Next time, air dry the lumber outside first. It should be carefully stacked and stickered on level starter blocks, and exposed to the wind but protected from the rain. Leave it there until you reach equilibrium, usually 12-17% depending on your location. Then you can safely kiln dry to 6-8%.

Use a table design that allows the top to expand and contract seasonally.

Good Luck!

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

1172 posts in 1632 days


#3 posted 11-09-2016 06:44 PM

I see two very nice boards that I would choose for a table top.They both have just the right amount of flat grain that turns to rift then quarter sawn.So I would not disturb them by ripping for the reason of wood movement.
I do agree the Mc needs to be right.
Hopefully your thinking of a table with a apron, Then you can get the top fastened down around the perimeter and thru the middle.
I haven’t worked air dried ash.Only walnut cypress and oak.
Sound like a great build
Good luck
Aj

-- Aj

View Justin's profile

Justin

22 posts in 763 days


#4 posted 11-09-2016 07:09 PM

Thanks for all the replies so far.


Hopefully your thinking of a table with a apron, Then you can get the top fastened down around the perimeter and thru the middle.

Yes, I’ve had a classical farmhouse table in mind for years, even before they became “all the rage”. So it will be a typical rectangular table with aprons. I’m fine with cleats on the underside, etc to increase stability. Overall dimensions probably 30” wide by 65” or something in that neighborhood. So realistically we’re talking about two 15” planks rather than 20” planks. I should probably have specified that earlier. Definitely NOT planning on making a 40” wide tabletop. Sorry if that was unclear.

Fastening will certainly be such that seasonal movement is allowed.

I have no access to nor budget for kiln drying, so that’s not going to be an option for me.

I don’t have a moisture meter but my neighbor does. Not sure what type or how accurate it is, but I do have the MC numbers written down from that same meter when the wood was stacked initially 2 summers ago.

View jdmaher's profile

jdmaher

417 posts in 2413 days


#5 posted 11-09-2016 07:29 PM

Why not 40”? I always think a width is a terrible thing to waste .

So long as you’re already planning an “under-carriage” (e.g., cleats) to hold it flat and manage seasonal movement, why not use the most width you reasonably can?

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View Justin's profile

Justin

22 posts in 763 days


#6 posted 11-09-2016 08:02 PM



Why not 40”? I always think a width is a terrible thing to waste .

So long as you re already planning an “under-carriage” (e.g., cleats) to hold it flat and manage seasonal movement, why not use the most width you reasonably can?

- jdmaher

Mostly fit the space (small house) and fit the users (small family of 3) :) Nothing is set in stone, so we shall see. I do see your point and agree, these wide boards are pretty cool to look at.

View DirtyMike's profile

DirtyMike

637 posts in 736 days


#7 posted 11-09-2016 08:28 PM

A good moisture meter will save you so much trouble when working with stock that is not kiln dried. You can check you cabinets or an existing table to see if its accurate.

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