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HELP! struggling with moving/warping wood

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Forum topic by bues0022 posted 02-09-2011 03:56 PM 1622 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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bues0022

216 posts in 1915 days


02-09-2011 03:56 PM

In early November I went to a local sawmill and bought some ash, soft spalted maple, and walnut. It’s been stored flat, indoors, and dry since that time. I pulled it down this weekend to start making a rocking chair. I noticed immediately that most of the boards had cupped and/or twisted quite a bit. The wood was supposed to be kiln dried – but after kiln drying was stored outside. Up here in Minnesota/Wisconsin, that means it was exposed to the snow in early winter.

With the cupped/twisted wood I managed to get some good pieces out, and sanded/planed them down perfectly flat. Two pieces in particular are very frustrating. I have two pieces each are about 9.5”x22”x1” spalted soft maple. After being perfectly flat on Sunday, this morning I looked at them and one had cupped a little (~1/32), and the other more than 1/16”! What is going on? Why is it moving so much? I had similar mass removal on both sides of the wood. It should have been plenty dry by now. I just don’t understand it.

Thinking back a few months, the Ash I used to make some coffee tables, and had similar problems – a few days after planing flat it cupped on me. Is the wood the sawmill is selling me just not very dry? Am I doing something wrong?

Now, for the biggest question – can I salvage the pieces of spalted soft maple? They are supposed to be part of the seat pan. The intent was to laminate walnut/spalted soft maple/walnut in that order from bottom to top. The bottom walnut will be just over 3/4” thick, then about 0.9” maple, then o.2” walnut on top. Can I steam the maple, clamp it flat, and hope it dries flat? I don’t know if it’ll pull completely flat just with clamping it to walnut. This board that is now cupped was the highlight board of the entire wood purchase and chair. I’m really worried I can’t find another with the qualities I need.

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN


20 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3590 posts in 2715 days


#1 posted 02-09-2011 06:33 PM

Most suggest that wood be acclimated to the workshop. Then after initial planing, it should be allowed to readjust since new surfaces are exposed. All that said, if the wood is “reaction” wood iot may never stop moving. I never take wood to final dimension unless it has been given the time to come to balance in a new environment.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2169 posts in 1605 days


#2 posted 02-09-2011 06:39 PM

Hi Bues—

I think you’re looking for a miracle here, and while they happen all the time, I think you could lay a little smooth road in front if you bought a moisture meter. The history of the wood is based largely on rumor and you need a little science.

My counsel is to step back from your plan for the chair seat in two ways. First of all, consider the structure of the object. Everything sprouts from the seat. If it gets unflat, all, and I mean all, of the joints are in stress. Not a good place for a chair to be.

Second of all, if I’m understanding your plan correctly, my feeling is the seat will not be attractive. When you stack contrasting colors horizontally you get a bevel of the glue line when you sculpt, and the line between the species is fuzzy. Were I you, I’d save the spalt for the headrest—much more attractive and inviting in my view.

It’s not easy to write this—I sense you’re really wanting to get onto this project. My heart tells me there will be little joy and lots of gnashed teeth if you proceed right now.

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Nomad62's profile

Nomad62

726 posts in 1713 days


#3 posted 02-09-2011 06:51 PM

Wood moves due to moisture changes; the more figured it is, the more it will move. If it was kiln dried, it should have been taken down to 6%; Was it? If not, then it had a poor starting point; if it was, then the wood being exposed to outdoor environments would “re-wet” it and you would need to reacclimate it to the environment it will end up being in. And as Bill stated, if it is reaction wood it will never stop moving unless stabilized. If you steam it, who knows what it will do; it may end up perfect, it may not. I wouldn’t suggest trying to bend a board that is an inch thick; better to replane it and glue it up with a non-water based glue and consider your specs “altered”. But let it all dry completely out first, you may want to check with your supplier to see if you can get it back in the kiln again. Best of luck.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View Eric_S's profile

Eric_S

1521 posts in 1950 days


#4 posted 02-09-2011 06:52 PM

Make sure to let the wood acclimate to your shop. It may be kiln dried, but the moisture level of your shop may be different than the wood. It still needs time to adjust to yours. Stack the wood with stickers so air can get above and below each board and give it a few weeks at least. If you need to plane a lot of material off, take most off, let it acclimate, and then come back a few weeks later to remove the rest of material.

-- - Eric Indianapolis, IN

View bues0022's profile

bues0022

216 posts in 1915 days


#5 posted 02-09-2011 07:09 PM

I have a little update before I’ll adress the comments above. I have a coworker who’s also a woodworker, and he suggested steaming it to “rewet” the wood, clamping flat, then putting in an oven to dry flat. He has a side business with carbon fiber/kevlar laminates, and has a huge room-sized oven he cures things at 140 F – essentially a kiln – to dry it back out flat. IF I go this route, will the wood stay stable later on?

That question goes back to what Bill called this – reaction wood. I guess I’m unfamiliar with this. Does this mean the wood will continue to move a lot during its lifetime?

Even IF I go the steam – re-kiln route, I know I’ll have to replane/resand the piece. That’s ok. I’m trying to see about still using this piece at nearly these dimensions. Replaning this board will end up with a board that is half of what I was hoping for.

To address Lee’s concerns about asthetics, here’s the full idea of my seat: thin walnut top, bulk of the seat maple, walnut bottom. The contoured seat pan will not dig completely through the maple into the walnut. The edges of the seat (when viewed from the side) will also be walnut, so the only place you see the maple is just on the seat pan. The only glue-joint you would see is on the front where your legs hang down. I can see where this countour may look a little “off” with a glue joint, and an option would be to not use walnut for the bottom laminate only for about an inch on the front, but use a maple. Then, the only glue joint on the seat between walnut and maple would be from the bottom of the chair – which you won’t see unless you crawl on your back. I’ll try drawing up my thoughts to help get a better visual. Also, here’s a sketch of what I want the final chair to look like – for reference sake: http://lumberjocks.com/bues0022/blog/19651

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

View GaryK's profile

GaryK

10262 posts in 2743 days


#6 posted 02-09-2011 07:23 PM

Reaction wood is wood that has built in stress. For example, a tree branch growing horizontal from the trunk. The bottom side will be under compression while the top side will be under tension. When cut the stresses will be relieved and the wood will curve. No matter how you cut it it will bend.

About the only way to use it will be to glue two pieces of equal thickness together with the bends opposite of each other to balance them out. If you plane them, them make sure to take an equal amount off of each side to keep them in balance.

A tree that was leaning to one side will produce reaction wood.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View bues0022's profile

bues0022

216 posts in 1915 days


#7 posted 02-10-2011 01:49 AM

Here’s what my idea is for the seat. I just realized that in my rendering, the front fillet didn’t seem to come through, and the grain is running the wrong direction – but you get the point. The wood I am asking about in this thread would be the maple in the center.

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2169 posts in 1605 days


#8 posted 02-10-2011 01:57 AM

By jimbo, I think it would work. The glueline is much more to the vertical than I had imagined. Nice job of transmitting your idea through a picture.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Kindly,

Lee

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View bues0022's profile

bues0022

216 posts in 1915 days


#9 posted 02-10-2011 02:03 AM

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, the glue-line of my two boards of spalted maple will go right down the center of the chair – essentially splitting the butt and legs.

Another idea I played around with is making the bottom walnut board not come all the way to the front of the seat, and adding a small maple filler strip on the bottom. That way, the front of the seat would only show maple, and no walnut (along the front contoured edge). This would lessen the risk of a “funny” line when the chamfer between the seat and the front of the board is produced.

Thoughts on which one would look nicer? I’ll try to make a new rendering.

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

View bues0022's profile

bues0022

216 posts in 1915 days


#10 posted 02-10-2011 02:14 AM

Here it is:

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2169 posts in 1605 days


#11 posted 02-10-2011 05:13 AM

paste:

Another idea I played around with is making the bottom walnut board not come all the way to the front of the seat, and adding a small maple filler strip on the bottom. That way, the front of the seat would only show maple, and no walnut (along the front contoured edge). This would lessen the risk of a “funny” line when the chamfer between the seat and the front of the board is produced. end paste.

You’re overthinking this. You’ll never be dead solid directly in front of the seat. As you’ve drawn it looks just like it oughta.

Kindly,

Lee

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View bues0022's profile

bues0022

216 posts in 1915 days


#12 posted 02-14-2011 04:08 AM

Update:

I steamed the wood for 2 days, then clamped it flat over the weekend. It’ll be going into my coworkers oven tomorrow. BUT, I was gon for the weekend and when I got back I saw that the wood checked – really bad! I’m not even sure if it’s useable anymore. I’ll still have him put it in his oven for the week, but now I’m looking for more wood. I’m really bummed right now. I got all my wood from this sawmill – and now I feel like I’ve wasted so much money (that’s tight to begin with) on insufficiently dried wood. My attempt to save money by buying cheaper at a sawmill is going to end up costing me more than if I’d have just bought lumber at a local store….lesson learned – unfortunately the hard way.

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

View traupmann's profile

traupmann

124 posts in 1542 days


#13 posted 02-15-2011 07:27 PM

Ryan, This is a lesson for many of us reading this. I have learned much from you discussing your travails, and those trying to assist you. I am terribly sorry for your financial loss, but there has been a great knowledge gain for many I am sure. Please post your chair when it is complete!

-- chas -- looking for Serta sponsorship to go Pro...

View Kirk's profile

Kirk

110 posts in 2809 days


#14 posted 06-06-2012 02:47 PM

Bues,

Question, what did you used to hold the boards flat in the oven? And other than the checking, did it work?

-- W. Kirk Crawford - Tularosa, New Mexico

View bues0022's profile

bues0022

216 posts in 1915 days


#15 posted 06-06-2012 04:09 PM

I clamped the pieces of spalted maple in-between two double-thick pieces of 3/4” plywood. I had several strips of 1/8” plywood between the 3/4” plywood and the maple. After coming out of the oven the wood was definitely flat, but cracked so bad I could see through it.

Despite all this, I still used the wood as intended. During glue-up of my laminate seat pan, I put glue in the cracks, and put horizontal clamps as well to push everything back together. After shaping the seat pan, some minor cracks re-appeared which I filled with epoxy and sanded down. They just basically look like more spalting.

Overall, even though I love the look, I wouldn’t ever attempt this again. It would have been far simpler and less stress to use ambrosia maple, birdseye, or flame for a different “textured” look. Some would say “I told you so” to me, but I learned a heck of a lot during the process and don’t regret it – just wouldn’t attempt it again.

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

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