How to attach wide quarter-sawn white oak boards allowing for expansion?

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Forum topic by JeffIsTooCommon posted 08-17-2011 03:38 AM 2763 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2442 days

08-17-2011 03:38 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question oak joining

I’m completing a set of book shelves that I made with quarter-sawn white oak but I don’t know how to attach two of the pieces. The one is the bottom shelf which sits on the two stretchers and rails. The board is 36” by 10.5” by 1”. If I wasn’t concerned with expansion, I would glue it to the stretchers and rails and have it provide extra support at the bottom. But I have read that a board that wide should be allowed to expand in width by an eighth to a quarter inch and so it cannot be glued. But this is quarter-sawn and I have read that it doesn’t expand in width but in thickness. Is expansion of the thickness inconsequential when the board is only an inch thick?

I have a related question for the backboard on the top: Can I just glue it to the top rails and the top? The top will be attached with Desk Top Fasteners (button blocks are listed in the plans but I don’t know what they are).

I have put a lot of effort into this project and am afraid of ruining it in the last couple of steps.
Thank you very much in advance!

8 replies so far

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3861 days

#1 posted 08-17-2011 03:56 AM

wood expands/shrinks approx., 1/4” per foot of width, quarter sawn white oak, even less

it will follow (shelf) the grain of the panels in the gable ends………… real need to worry.

cut them an 1/8” + shy…………your good to go

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3018 days

#2 posted 08-17-2011 09:10 AM

Moron is no moron. Don’t worry about it. If you’re in a climate-controlled house (central heat and ac), you have even less to worry about.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View bluepaulsky's profile


34 posts in 2444 days

#3 posted 08-17-2011 09:32 AM

i have done this with ash i biscuit joint them but you have to make sure the end grain is opposite of one another in other words one circle up and one down,it stays flatter this way,i use sash clamps for this making sure they are dead flat on clamps don`t forget to put scraps off wood in-between the clamps hope this helps,second question i would dowel the backboard to top, cheers all the best

-- pgray

View ShaneA's profile (online now)


6910 posts in 2565 days

#4 posted 08-17-2011 04:43 PM

Good looking project. The desk top fasteners or figure 8 type can be found at rockler, woodcraft or any other hardware supplier, they are relatively inexpensive. And easy to use.

View Barbara Gill's profile

Barbara Gill

153 posts in 2627 days

#5 posted 08-17-2011 11:06 PM

Quarter sawn wood will shrink and swell in thickness more than width.

-- Barbara

View twiceisnice's profile


95 posts in 2794 days

#6 posted 08-18-2011 08:05 AM

just clamp it into place and craig jig it .fashizle manizzle . expand , contract, expand ,contract . just cut to fit and craig jig it.

View JeffIsTooCommon's profile


2 posts in 2442 days

#7 posted 08-18-2011 04:02 PM

Thank all of you for replying. I should have mentioned that this is my first project, so I had to Google some of the terms you used. Still, what are gable ends?

Here’s what I have deduced from you answers. Please correct me where I have misunderstood. Since the wood will expand in thickness, I should be OK to glue the bottom shelf down to the rails and stretchers but not to the legs. I should leave about an eighth of an inch in the width. I can use dowels, biscuits or just glue to attach the backstop to the top and then attach the top to the frame.

Thank you again and I’ll post pictures when it is complete.

View Loren's profile (online now)


10273 posts in 3615 days

#8 posted 08-18-2011 06:18 PM

I would probably glue it to the front rail, or screw it. In older pieces
it would not be uncommon to see the bottom rail with countersunk
holes for screws. Pocket holed is another way to go about it, and seen
in vintage pieces too. Glue is okay, but I’d probably screw it on second
thought and avoid messing with squeeze-out.

Underneath, you can add a block on each side with a slot for a screw,
attaching the block to the sides of the cabinet. Then the screw goes
through the slot into the shelf from the bottom and the slot allows
the shelf to move a bit while still holding it flat.

The back I would leave free, but if you want you could probably nail
it in a couple of spots through the back of the cabinet into the edge
of the shelf.

Look here for another notion on how to handle the expansion:,43715,43726&ap=1

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