Question: Board glue up - Wide or Narrow boards?

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Forum topic by Milo posted 07-03-2012 01:37 AM 8037 views 2 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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869 posts in 3517 days

07-03-2012 01:37 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Here’s a question… When you gluing up multiple wide boards (for say a table top or a box lid), does it matter if they are all the same width? Does it matter if they are wide or narrow? What are the pros and cons?

FYI, Good ol’ Norm made a practice of gluing up multiple narrow board to reach the desired width. Do you agree?



-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

21 replies so far

View bruc101's profile


1260 posts in 3739 days

#1 posted 07-03-2012 02:27 AM

I agree with using the narrower boards. We’ve been lucky over the years using wide boards, especially on wood countertops but, a lot of the stability is in the joinery and how they’re finished. I’m not a box builder, but an admirer of the ones I see on LJ,so I would think wide boards would be ok on them.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View bullhead1's profile


228 posts in 2446 days

#2 posted 07-03-2012 02:57 AM

Wide/narrow dosen’t make a difference to me. I put clean edges on the boards I want to use with a glue line rip blade. I then lay them out, switch them every way until they look good, apply tite bond, clamp them tight and go to bed!

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2386 days

#3 posted 07-03-2012 03:03 AM

Asthetically, most times the fewer joints you have the better as matching grain patterns is usually a challenge. Also, you want the boards to all plane the same way. Having some design feature in a piece that keeps wide surfaces from cupping means that you don’t have to do Norm’s method, which it seems to me is going to make the piece look like it came from IKEA.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

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8516 posts in 2774 days

#4 posted 07-03-2012 03:18 AM

alternate the end grain patterns like the one with the sharpie markings.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3678 days

#5 posted 07-03-2012 03:32 AM

I would use boards around 5 to 6 or 7 inches wide. They all dont have to be the same width, but the grain should match as close as possible. Also the alternate end grain is the best way to do it to prevent cupping.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10320 posts in 4250 days

#6 posted 07-03-2012 03:50 AM

I might add to all of the preceding GOOD suggestions…

You may have better success if you glue no more that TWO boards at a time…
... by doing so, the sliding around problem may be averted…
Lets say you have a top laid out to be 5 boards, 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5.
... glue 1 & 2 together making sure they are together good…
... glue 3 & 4 together…
... glue 5 onto the 3-4 group… and finally,
... glue the 1-2 group to the 3-4-5 group…
... you get the idea… It’s easier to control 2 boards at a time instead of 5 at the same time.

Sections can be thickness planed prior to the final glue up… if required… to touch it up.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View jacob34's profile


465 posts in 2461 days

#7 posted 07-03-2012 04:21 AM

I had never thought about this question but as I have not glued up a lot of boards I am interested in how this plays out. My vote would be for wider boards but I would assume the purpose or project would have something to affect the size of the boards glued up.

-- so a bear and a rabbit are sitting on a log

View Don W's profile

Don W

19007 posts in 2765 days

#8 posted 07-03-2012 10:18 AM

gluing narrower board is a bit more stable, but I think the wider boards look better. Either works if done properly.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Tootles's profile


808 posts in 2699 days

#9 posted 07-03-2012 10:21 AM

Who6o9 has provided a very good answer – it is in pictures!

The theory is that if any cupping occurs, narrow boards will cup less than wide boards, so narrow boards should be better. Wide or narrow though, you should alternating the grain as shown.

I’ve seen some cabinets done with pine that is nearly 5” wide and no problems (yet). So it comes down how much you expect cupping to be a problem against the asthetics and better grain patterns of wider planks.

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3517 days

#10 posted 07-03-2012 11:13 AM

Just FYI, the reason I ask if I got my hands on some nice poplar, and some of the boards are WIDE, some over 12 inches. The plan is to use to make a blanket chest.

Thank you all for the feedback!

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2446 days

#11 posted 07-03-2012 12:10 PM

I asked the same question here once after my father and grandfather scolded me for using wide boards. Apparently ripping and gluing is still the preferred method. I also REALLY like Joe’s suggestion. I have been doing that a lot lately and it makes glue ups so much easier. His last sentence is the reason I do it. I have enough clamps to glue all pairs at the same time. I then send them through the planer if need be to clean them up. I only have a 12.5” planer, so there is no way I could send a whole table top through. After they are all planed, I make the finial glue up


View Don W's profile

Don W

19007 posts in 2765 days

#12 posted 07-03-2012 12:39 PM

If poplar is dry, I wouldn’t cut it down for a blanket chest. poplar is pretty stable once dry and I’ve glued 14” poplar together without any issues.

To me, cutting and gluing narrow boards give the piece a box store look. If its going to be painted, it doesn’t matter, you’ll never see it.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2484 days

#13 posted 07-03-2012 12:46 PM

OK, here’s one for ya…
In the pictures shown, we’re looking at plain sawn boards with arcs of growth rings. What if you use quarter sawn where the growth rings are more perpendicular to the face? Would those be less prone to cupping? More stable? Less stable? How about expansion/contraction?

View Gerald Thompson's profile

Gerald Thompson

1117 posts in 2432 days

#14 posted 07-03-2012 01:12 PM

I too am building a “test” blanket chest from poplar. The boards are 10” wide down to 6”. I used clamping cauls and the all came out great. I had to take them into the house to prevent warping due to the high humidity in FL.
My garage is a steam bath at times.
I have worked out a WB dye using General Finishes that makes the test pieces look like cherry.

-- Jerry

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3517 days

#15 posted 07-04-2012 01:00 AM

Gerald, so your saying that you glued up 10” and 6” boards?

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

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