Grain directions vs look in panels?

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Forum topic by KnickKnack posted 09-09-2008 09:00 PM 1208 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1088 posts in 3564 days

09-09-2008 09:00 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Serious novice here – confused, as usual – first question of many over the next few months.
I’ve been doing a lot of smallish stuff recently using some tongue and groove that was left over from laying a floor.
Once the T&G is removed I’ve finally sussed how to get decent edges for gluing up panels (Pine, 2cm = 3/4” thick, 3 strips of 11cm = 4.5” wide, 45cm = 18” long) using my router (I don’t have a lot of tools) – all goes well – I’m even getting confident enough to skip the biscuits.
But I’ve also read a lot everywhere (I try to learn from other people’s mistakes, since we don’t have a wood burning stove yet), and all that “wood movement” stuff talks about not having everything running the same way – that the boards should alternate, grain up, grain down – I’m not describing this well – that the end-grain curves should go “curve up”, “curve down”, “curve up”, so the movement doesn’t create one big cup. Hopefully you know what I mean.
The problem is that when I saw up a single plank into my 3 strips, the “back” and the “front” look very different, and no matter how I arrange them, unless they’re all arranged with the same face up, it really doesn’t look right – this is seriously patterned wood, which is why we didn’t use it for the other floor we need to do.
Have I misunderstood something?
How do I reconcile the final look with the wood movement?
At this sort of size is this a big issue – does size matter in this regard?
I have other designs in mind in oak, beech and ash – do I need to be more careful, less careful, equally careful with those woods?
I realise nothing I’ve read is a “dictat”, but I don’t want to find that as soon as the weather changes everything starts creaking, bending and breaking.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

8 replies so far

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3726 days

#1 posted 09-09-2008 09:22 PM

Maybe the material has sapwood on one side and heartwood on another?

Depending on what you are building, I’d be surprised if thre 4” boards would cup that much. but it may also dpend on how close to quarter sawn the material is. If the grain is close to quartersawn, no need to worry either way.

I’m not that experienced with this stuff, so I’m sure you’ll get better advice, but I figured I’d throw mine out there.

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 4111 days

#2 posted 09-09-2008 09:26 PM

You hit the nail on the head, on why not to alternate boards. There a lot of woodworkers out there that say you must alternate your boards, and just as many that say you don’t need to. If a board is going to move it’s going to move. I myself go for looks over alternating boards.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3726 days

#3 posted 09-09-2008 09:55 PM

I would think this could makea big difference on a table top or something, but smaller projects may not have the room to have a pronounced effect.

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3646 days

#4 posted 09-09-2008 10:09 PM

there is actually a good point as to why NOT to alternate boards – think about it – if you don’t alternate the boards – all the boards will theoretically want to cup in the same direction – so if you fasten them in the opposite direction – you’re contradicting that cupping ability (to a certain degree) AND you get a pleasing-to-the-eye glued-up board.

on the opposite – if you alternate boards – you’ll have half of the boards trying to cup in one direction while the other half is cupping in the other direction – and you have no way to force them all to straighten up.

this is all in theory, and sometimes depending on the wood- the boards might not even cup to begin with – most definitely with smaller projects.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4324 days

#5 posted 09-09-2008 10:51 PM

just as many sources say you don’t have to alternate as ones that do… sometimes you need to go for stability (tabletops) , sometimes you keep shuffling around the boards until you get a panel you like the look of. (which is why we have breadboard ends, or floating panels inside cabinet door fronts – to hold everything flat.

perhaps one side of the boards was exposed to light more so than the other – in time the different faces should even out… maybe sand both sides to see how they look all nice and clean?

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View gusthehonky's profile


130 posts in 3739 days

#6 posted 09-10-2008 12:53 PM

Hey KnickKnack,

Welcome, to the forum, it full of amongst the coolest and talented people I’ve ever run across.

I’m a bit confused by the question. I kinda understand the jist of it, but still am confused. I’ve laid many a floor and most of my stuff is done with excess from job materials also. The T and G has been removed, everything square, so far so good. This is where I am confused. When you say panels so you mean a solid sheet of material that are made of three sections joined together? If that is the case the run on the face on one board of the grain should be not be flipped, but cartwheeled. Same side L-R, R-L. When you said creaking, concerning movement, hopefully this material is not planned for a floor install and is planned to be used for stuff like furniture or a box. The T&g flooring in my area usually has a rough and “corrugation” along its length. I doubt this has been much help, but I can’t “see” your situation. Could you post a pic., could be a big help.

-- Ciao, gth.

View KnickKnack's profile


1088 posts in 3564 days

#7 posted 09-10-2008 02:54 PM

Guess it was a bit incomprehensible.
So, I’ve signed up to photobucket, and here’s the pic (I hope)...

1000 words

Fig 1 – the bit of wood that I’m going to chop into 3 and glue into a single panel.
So, I guess the questions are…
1) If there were NO grain pattern at all (virtual wood), what would be the ideal format for gluing the 3 bits into a single panel?
2) The grain actually is like fig 2 (face up) and fig 3 (face down), so it won’t look right to have face up, and face down pieces on the same side of, say, the table top, so what’s the ideal configuration there? Personal taste excluded, keeping all pieces face up, which is best/strongest of…
a) A to B2, B1 to C1, C1 to D (slide)
b) A to C1, B1 to B2, B1 to C2 (rotate)

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3646 days

#8 posted 09-10-2008 03:26 PM

think about it this way – if the wood is going to cup – it will cup! there’s no way around that in this situation. the question that you need to answer for yourself is this: would you prefer the wood pieces to cup and form 3 “facing up” C’s but have the grain look RIGHT, or would you rather it cup and form an “S” and have the grain all mismatched…?

I’d go with option 1. and especially if you have shorter pieces – cupping will be so minimal (if any at all) that it would be practically invisible in most cases.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

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