Measure twice cut twice? Wood movement, and intermediate sizing

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Forum topic by CANDL posted 02-27-2011 03:50 PM 1414 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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44 posts in 2834 days

02-27-2011 03:50 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question pine milling


I am building the a shop table from Lockwatcher’s blog

Having built a workbench that now looks like a roller coasters, I am trying to learn from my errors.

Now being a equal oppurtunity consumer I ended up getting my 2×10s (as they call it white wood, who knows) from both HD and Lowes.

I cut the lumber to oversize dimensions (2×3.75×33) and have left it stickered with a fan over it ~24hrs. I don’t have a moisture meter, and I would like it all to be the same relative moisture …. how long would you wait before milling it to final dimensions? (Do I need to but a moisture meter long term?)

By the way I have already noticed some wood movement… bows, twist etc. So this approach of rough cut and wait seems to be an improvement.

Any other suggestions are welcome.


Learning on shop projects before starting a cherry pie safe.

12 replies so far

View Barbara Gill's profile

Barbara Gill

153 posts in 2687 days

#1 posted 02-27-2011 05:07 PM

In general if wood has been dried correctly there should not be so much movement. Of course now they make dimension lumber from very small trees which often makes for an unstable product. I think that the wood these big box stores buy is probably not dried or stored correctly.

-- Barbara

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2869 days

#2 posted 02-27-2011 06:35 PM

It would be nice to be able to always get properly dried lumber everytime we want to build something. For some of us though, this just isn’t possible. I understand that. I’m in the same boat. I have plenty of wood, but no 2x material at all. I have to get that when I need it from Home Depot or McCoy’s. yes they have crappy lumber.
I don’t have much problems with the lumber after I get it. I do get a lot of funny looks while I’m picking it out though. I sometimes have to unstack lumber at Home Depot for a long time to find one single usable board for my projects. I look for cracks, warping, or cupping. I have learned though that the most important thing I look for is weight.
Sometimes I will pick four or five boards that I’m happy with just so I can then take the one that weighs the least. The heavier boards are no dried properly. Even though they may look perfect when bought, they will crack, warp, and cup.
I learned this after making the mistake of buying a few too heavy boards.
I had one eight foot long 2×12 that I bought and left in the shop. I came in the next day to find one end laying on the table, the other end about six inches off the table.
I had a 2×6 that twisted so bad the with one end flat on the wide side, the other end would almost be sitting flat on it’s narrow side.
The worst one I ever got though really threw me for a loop. I bought a 2×6. Had to take about three days off from the shop. Upon my return the board just didn’t look right. I started doing some measuring. One end was 5 3/4” wide. That sound’s normal for nominal lumber. The other end was 6 7/8”!


View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2681 days

#3 posted 02-27-2011 11:49 PM

Regardless of what the manufacturer says they are drying it to, I’ve never purchased a 2×4 or 2×6 with less then 10% MC and many times as much as 18%-22% MC. These boards still have some significant drying to do.

At the big box store I pick the straightest and cleanest boards I can find. I don’t plan any intermediate stops between the store and the shop. As soon as I get to the shop I stack them in 3’s and wrap them in a clingy plastic wrap, sealing the faces and edges, until I’m ready to use them. I use the plastic wrap used to secure palettes of material (18” wide roll). I’ve had 2-by material last for several weeks and stay flat and straight when wrapped up like this. It forces the drying process to continue through the ends of the boards instead of the faces and edges, thus eliminating twisting and warping. Once you unwrap it, get it surfaced and sized and for your project as soon as possible (within a couple of hours at the most). Plan on joinery and fasteners that will keep it from twisting and warping, but don’t interfere with the wood shrinking a little more in width as it dries to the surrounding environmental relative humidity that it will live in. I’ve built many wall benches setups using dimensional lumber and this was the only way I could make it work right.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View Dandog's profile


250 posts in 2801 days

#4 posted 02-28-2011 12:02 AM


-- life an woodworking is one big experiment

View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 3951 days

#5 posted 02-28-2011 12:45 AM

Do you NEED to buy a moisture meter?

Do you NEED to buy a table saw?
Do you NEED to buy a plane?
etc, etc.

It has been said that 90% all problems with wood involve moisture.

Do you NEED to buy a moisture meter?

Of course not.

How much have you spent on ‘real’ woodworking tools?

View CANDL's profile


44 posts in 2834 days

#6 posted 02-28-2011 01:04 AM

I am afraid spending is all to easy in this endeavour …. in the last year I have bought:

3Hp Sawstop 52” TS
6” Jet longbed jointer
12” Shopsmith planer ( used, but I like the variable speed feed )
Frued 3000 router for a router table … which is what the base is for

So talking to my wife I HAVE spent plenty. Trying to invest in the 25 yr range on tools buy once that is, but not act as if I have more money then brains. And I think I am putting together a good foundation.

So it really is about gaining the wisdom to set the right priorites. Where does a moisture meter fit in?

I have plenty to learn….

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3814 days

#7 posted 02-28-2011 03:42 AM

“White wood” at the big box stores is lumber that will not meet construction grade requirements, either because of defects, lack of drying procedure, etc. Cheap, but plan on about 50% – 70% scrap (which is why its so cheap).

Construction grade will be stamped SPF (Spruce, pine, fir) that is of a species that has been approved for construction, has a regulated amount of defects, and/or has been kiln dried to meet construction specifications. SYP (southern yellow pine) that is construction grade is usually marked KD 19 (kiln dried to below 19% MC).

All that has been done at the mill. It often travels uncovered on boats or trucks, where it is drenched with rain or sea water, so when it arrives at the store or retailer, it is often soaked with moisture. After the pallet bands are cut off, it dries uncontrolled at mercy of how much is uncovered, etc, which is why so much of it is warped. You may get a board well over 35% mc, or down to 12%. Depends on where/how the pallet was moved, sheltered and unpacked.

When I buy mine, I stick it in the garage for a week minimum (longer if possible) stickered (3/4” spacers between boards) to let it dry and normalize. I then rough mill to within 1/4” dimension and let further dry. I go to final dimension as close to assembly time as possible. Even sitting in the yard stickered and under a plastic tarp will help if there is no room in your shop. If it is really wet, I strap it with small cargo straps while it dries.

Plan on about 30% scrap and you will probably do okay.

Just my experiences.


As for moisture meters, unless you buy a good one, and if a pin type unless you use it in a fresh cut, your readings are still a guesstimate. Designing for wood movement, using appropriate joinery, and the judicious use of clamps will allow you to make a good product even from wood that has a higher than desired mc. Fine wood products were made centuries before moisture meters and climate controlled environments (albeit some of the old artisans stored their wood for years and had the experience to determine its properties way beyond the normal person’s ken; Stradivarius, for example).

-- Go

View itsmic's profile


1419 posts in 3145 days

#8 posted 02-28-2011 06:25 PM

I have experienced some problems also, each solution above has it’s merit. I would lean towards the strategy of picking out the best boards to begin with, paying particular attention to all the basic indicators that there may be trouble later. Then, if time allows, stabilize the boards to the preferred mc appropriate for the species and application. Unfortunately there may be some boards that you just can’t use, good luck with your work, thanks for sharing

-- It's Mic Keep working and sharing

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3675 days

#9 posted 02-28-2011 08:07 PM

Press the soft part of your forearm against the face of the wood. If it
feels cool, it is not dry enough for furniture.

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4032 days

#10 posted 02-28-2011 08:29 PM

It’s really unreasonable to think construction grade framing lumber will not move and twist on you down the road in a situation like a table . The odds say it will. But hey it’s a shop cart done inexpensively and if things turn out too bad you can always knock out another!

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View CANDL's profile


44 posts in 2834 days

#11 posted 02-28-2011 11:05 PM

Well it sounds as if my approach is not to far off.

I double checked and what I bought was ”#1 SYP SX4s” ... which I take as #1 Southern Yellow Pine surfaced four sides. I did pick over the lumber pretty well, in fact the opened a new bundle. Kinda hard to get all quater sawn grain out of plain sawn wood, but buying oversized I was abble to toss the centers of the board. So as Gofor said who knows what will happen as it dries ….agreed.

So I let it set 2~3 days then milled it to oversize rough shape … it has been stickered, with a fan blowing over it for 2 days, I will let it set another 2-3 days then sort through the pile to see what is usable.

As I mill to final dimensions I will mate boards with complementary grains as well as I can and hope for the best.

This process will be the same one I use on the stack of Cherry… just easier to burn the pine mistakes.

Thanks for all of you inputs

View a1Jim's profile


117126 posts in 3604 days

#12 posted 03-01-2011 01:10 AM

I would say most of what you did was correct other than not buying kiln dried wood and having a fan blow over it. By using a fan you are drying one side of the wood faster than the other this will cause cupping and twisting.
If your going to try and use wood that is not kiln dried wood than you need to let the wood dry longer than 2-3 days,depending more like 2-3 weeks or more. You also need to store it up off of any concrete floors and sticker it so you have equal drying on both sides.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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