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How was wood dried long ago?

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Forum topic by derosa posted 12-28-2011 08:46 AM 1137 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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derosa

1568 posts in 2302 days


12-28-2011 08:46 AM

I bring this up from looking at a table at my mother-in-law’s house. It is about 110-120 year old piece of rustic furniture from the blue ridge mountains. It is about 24” wide and is made up of 5 jointed boards. All of the boards are glued together and all of them have two dowels at each end to keep the boards attached to the frame. Everything I’ve read says to not do exactly what this table has done because the wood will either buckle due to high humidity or split due to low humidity unless the top is able to move seasonally. But I’ve checked this over and it really has 10 dowels at each end attaching it and no evidence of the boards having ever split and all of them are sitting flat on the frame. How did they dry this to prevent movement or is it a really good sealing wax job as it doesn’t have any kind of varnish or urethane?

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse


8 replies so far

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fussy

980 posts in 2517 days


#1 posted 12-28-2011 08:55 AM

Rus,

Probably air dried the same way we do. Can’t be new teknology, can it?

Steve
ps, I saw a thing Roy Underhill did on sawing lumber the old fashioned way wit pit saws. They move petty good, but they WORK at it. Big, wide, thick saws, and the poor schlep on the ground gets all the saw dust he can eat.

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

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile

TCCcabinetmaker

930 posts in 1821 days


#2 posted 12-28-2011 09:12 AM

Honestly the way things are written can lead you to the wrong conclusions about wood movement.

It is important to understand wood movement, but sometimes, the things that should be wrong aren’t. There are questions you should really ask yourself when studying a piece when it confuses one as to how it has survived.

1. What kind of wood is this?
2. What kind of conditions has this piece seen?
3. How does the direction of the wood grain inter-relate to each piece?
4 Where is the wood grain running perpendicular and how did they handle that?
5. Did their fastening technique allow for wood movement?

I bet if you looked at these things, you might pick up more of an understanding of what is going on.

If you oppose the grain direction from boards when jointing them, then the boards will exert force in opposite direction, reducing the likelihood of warping and cupping.
Most pieces are made up of 3/4 stock that can flex more easily than say, 16 quarter material. In which case, you probalby shouldn’t concern yourself with bowing, cupping or warping.

There really are alot of factors in what causes things to survive and what causes them to shatter into splinters.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

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jack1

2057 posts in 3494 days


#3 posted 12-28-2011 07:50 PM

I’ll have to agree with TCC. A little luck probably helps too!
Jack

-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

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DLCW

530 posts in 2121 days


#4 posted 12-28-2011 09:38 PM

Also, quarter or rift sawn wood will expand and contract less then flat sawn wood. It is much more stable.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - http://www.dlwoodworks.com - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

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fussy

980 posts in 2517 days


#5 posted 12-28-2011 10:39 PM

Rus,

I checked old note by Bob Flexner, and he says that grain orientation doesn’t matter. Put the boards together in any way they look good. ALTERNATING RING ORIENTATION DOES NOT PREVENT CUPPING. (All caps were accidental-not shouting.)

Wood cups towards the moisture with which it is in contact. Old tables cupped up because they were washed down after use. To prove this, look at any deck. The ring orientation is completely random as builders are in a hurry and don’t give a fig which way the rings lie. Yet, the decks ALLWAYS (deliberate for emphasis-not shouting) cup up; towards the moisture. Ring orientation doesn’t matter.

Attaching the table top with dowels is actually a pretty good idea. I have seen shaker tables with the tops nailed on. The dowels provide a good attachment, but like nails, give a bit as the wood moves. The proof of this, is a 110 year-old table is still in great shape.

What you have is a 110 year-old table, built with skill in the best wood-working tradition, of good wood, that has been lovingly cared for and gently used. You have, Rus, a genuine treasure. Mazel Tov.

Steve

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

View Nomad62's profile

Nomad62

726 posts in 2425 days


#6 posted 12-29-2011 12:19 AM

If I read it right, I see the question refering to a typical problem of breadboard ends as they tend to hold the long boards too well and then the long boards split lengthwise. Generally a person will oval out the dowel holes in the long boards, so that the long board can grow and shrink without splitting. The dowel will be tight in the end boards, as they are supporting the long boards in a slot. If the long boards have the slot and the end boards slide into it, then the holes in the end boards would be ovaled.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View derosa's profile

derosa

1568 posts in 2302 days


#7 posted 12-29-2011 09:03 AM

You guys have answered some

TCC

1. What kind of wood is this?

It appeared to be walnut.

2. What kind of conditions has this piece seen?

Don’t know about its early life but it sat in a semi-climate controlled house for about 20 years prior to my seeing it. Heating and cooling was used in summer and winter to keep the house at a rough average.

3. How does the direction of the wood grain inter-relate to each piece?

All grain ran length-wise, all the wood was roughly flat sawn with no discernible attempt at alternating grain pattern. All boards glued together.

4 Where is the wood grain running perpendicular and how did they handle that?

The only perpendicular grain was in the cross piece between the legs and it is what they pegged the top to.

5. Did their fastening technique allow for wood movement?

None that was discernible. They simply drilled 2 half in ch holes in each board and pegged the top to the cross rails.

I bet if you looked at these things, you might pick up more of an understanding of what is going on.
I really spent some time looking at this thing trying to figure out how the top wasn’t self destructing. First because it intrigued me a lot and second cause there isn’t much else for me to do at my mother-in-law’s house while waiting for her to get out of the shower so we can start the day. Gave me a good hour every morning for a week to pick up the table and really look it over.

Fussy, some give in the dowels may explain some of it. Wish I’d spent more time staring at shaker work when I lived in Albany.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

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TCCcabinetmaker

930 posts in 1821 days


#8 posted 12-29-2011 09:44 AM

Fussy,

They call Seatle the rainy city. Well it’s not, Mobile Alabama recieves the most rain per anum of any city in the U.S. My time spent there gave me alot of time to notice that the direction of the grain does in fact affect the way that a board will, or will not cup. Decks built correctly will show no signs of cupping after years, however a poorly built deck will cup in about 6-9 months. We have alot of humidity and moisture around these parts. So knowing my wood movement is really important, or my pieces and work will fail in a very short frame of time, and so, as an effect, so will I.

The original poster wanted to understand why this table held up. Rather than saying a wild guess answer, I gave him a question check list that he could go over and see for himself. There may be some other factors, but for the most part, you’ll find that in any furniture design book you look at. That and alot of use of the word proportion with little or no guide lines as to what proportions should be…

Dowels probably really would work better than nails, which to be honest I’ve seen pictures of nails folded into z patterns from wood movement. In some of the same magazines that Bob Flexner appears in I might add. A dowel is soft, unless they use something like holly, which is for a different purpose, but it will move more with the wood than a nail will for sure.

6. What were the dowels made out of lol.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

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