Is 'figured' wood like a box of chocolates? i.e. You never know what you'll get?

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Forum topic by TroutGuy posted 04-13-2008 11:20 PM 1311 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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224 posts in 3707 days

04-13-2008 11:20 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question maple

Sorry, but a bit of history is needed to ‘frame’ my question, so here goes…

This project started as a simple “Could you make a new frame for the medicine cabinet mirror, dear?”, from my beloved spouse. “No problem!”, I replied, without thinking. So, I decided to challenge my workshop a bit by making a really nice frame for it. My second mistake was making my first-ever visit to a nearby sawmill to look for something ‘interesting’ to make it out of. Talk about a candy store!!! But that’s another story entirely…

After spending an hour, totally entranced by the wide variety of choices, I selected this nice two-tone slab of silver maple – 11” – 13” wide x 7’ long x 15/16” thick (pic below). This slab came from near the center of the tree (no pith), so it’s essentially quartersawn. It’s straight enough that it should easily yield 3/4” x 9”+ stock, with prudent jointing/planing and ripping.

The thing that drew me to this particular slab, was that it appeared to be showing some ‘curly’ figure (pic below). Sure enough, I got it home, sanded a small area and it IS curly! Not ‘highly figured’, but enough to make it interesting.

Here’s where it gets ugly. I am now leaning towards making a whole new cabinet, since I have enough wood to do so. I’ll use the bottom section for the case and mirror frame, as it’s a bit more straight-grained. Then, I’m going to take the top of the slab (pic below), and resaw and bookmatch it for the back panel.

My question (finally)??? I have no experience working with figured stock. Is the ‘figure’ going to disappear, as I joint/plane it to thickness? Especially when I make the moulding for the mirror frame, which will be beveled (i.e. even more material will be removed from the face)?

The moral of the story: When you’re up to your a$$ in alligators, it’s hard to remember that the original plan was to drain the swamp.

Film at eleven…

-- There is nothing in the world more dangerous, than a woodworker who knows how to read a micrometer...

4 replies so far

View TroutGuy's profile


224 posts in 3707 days

#1 posted 04-13-2008 11:30 PM

I should add that it wouldn’t be the end of the world, if the figure ended up in the shop vac. I only paid $22 for the slab!

-- There is nothing in the world more dangerous, than a woodworker who knows how to read a micrometer...

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3764 days

#2 posted 04-13-2008 11:53 PM

wow thats a pretty good deal for a slab like that. I don’t think that you would lose the figure. it is curly wood and just using logic (I’ve never used figured wood before). that if this slab is taken from the middle of the tree and it is figured it is a good signal that is is figured all the way through. hope that helps.

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3984 days

#3 posted 04-14-2008 01:24 AM

If you see the same figure on both sides it’s there.

If you only see it on one side then just make sure that you cut your pieces to keep that face showing.

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

View SM's profile


77 posts in 3691 days

#4 posted 04-14-2008 05:58 PM

Oh Ya, that will do nicely. I see a large continuous-grain box-thing (some king of chest) or the top of an open mortise and tenon table, or, or, . . . etc. (I’m shaking with “wood envy” now.) I hope you post pictures often as it will be interesting to watch the wood go through the process.

-- SM

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