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Forum topic by DonBoston posted 06-22-2014 11:53 PM 963 views 1 time favorited 36 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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DonBoston

36 posts in 127 days


06-22-2014 11:53 PM

Ok, so I’m new to the furniture making business, and I thought I was doing good. I craigslisted an old glass top coffee table frame, used a piece of thin plywood as a base and then built a nice top on it.

It looked good for weeks, and I placed it in the non-ac’d shed for storage while I built some other things for sale. I went out there today to look at it, and it has several cracks in the finish now, isn’t smooth on the top, and corners are expanded. We’ve had a lot of storms come through Abilene lately, and of course it’s hot out here.

Yep, I got bit by wood expansion…

Construction details:
1. Reclaimed red oak from a cabinet shop
2. Plywood backer
3. 100% glue
4. Top is screwed to the metal frame from the underside at the corners

I understand that this table top is currently a loss… I know there is no fixing it. What I’m really looking for is a better understanding of where I went wrong, so that I don’t go wrong again. What should I have done differently?

Thanks in advance… (off to go cry in my dust piles)

-- Just beginning, but it's in my blood...


36 replies so far

View Jerry's profile

Jerry

2197 posts in 2212 days


#1 posted 06-23-2014 12:09 AM

We keep a climate controlled space for storing doors and other finished product. I never build cabinets until the site is ready for them so that we do not have to store cabinets. I think looking at storing product in climate contrlooed spaces such as a whed with window unit would help u. Try not to build things way ahead of schedule because storing product is not the best deal. Build the product and get it in the customers hands. Product will fair better in the customers home better than it will in a shed.

-- Jerry Nettrour, San Antonio, www.topqualitycabinets.net

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

823 posts in 982 days


#2 posted 06-23-2014 12:12 AM

Avoid trying to restrain wide panels. They need room to expand because across the grain, wood can move about 1/8”-1/4” for every 12” of width. If you want to do cross grain patterns like that again use veneer or floating panels.

Check out Bruce Hoadley’s book Understanding Wood if you really want to know what’s going on.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View woodman71's profile

woodman71

162 posts in 1989 days


#3 posted 06-23-2014 12:15 AM

Well just from reading I say a few thing first when you screw the top down if you didn’t do it . Is long gate the hole that you are screw the top too not the top it self. What this does is let the wood move if is just screwed down hold it from being able to move you will get split and crack. The second is the miter it self glue on end grain is not going to hold. Why end grain sucks up glue causing a poor join that can fail. If I was doing this table I would have use biscuit joints or pocket hole screws.

View DonBoston's profile

DonBoston

36 posts in 127 days


#4 posted 06-23-2014 12:18 AM

Would biscuits or pocket screws have held, since I had a cross grain pattern running?

My wife just bought me a biscuit joiner for fathers day (gotta love a good woman), so I guess I should start doing my corners like that then…

-- Just beginning, but it's in my blood...

View cutworm's profile

cutworm

1065 posts in 1458 days


#5 posted 06-23-2014 12:20 AM

Not sure if you should screw the base to the top in the corners. Especially a metal base. They expand and contract with temperature changes and the longer the metal is the more it moves. I do know some leave the screws a little loose to allow for movement. I feel your pain and have been in your shoes. The main thing is to have fun and learn from mistakes. I still make plenty and have been doing this about 5 years. You may want to replace the miters with a half lap joint Also maybe a tongue and groove joint for the band is stronger and helps with aligning edges.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View Mario's profile

Mario

105 posts in 2061 days


#6 posted 06-23-2014 12:28 AM

Actually the way you arranged your tabletop design is what caused the damage, you have wood expanding across the grain in two directions, your table edge frame should allow the surface to free float within or as stated above use veneered panels instead. You might have to cut it down and rebuild but I think it can still be saved.

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

823 posts in 982 days


#7 posted 06-23-2014 12:32 AM

Biscuits in the miters will help with minor movement but not a large amount. You still need to use construction techniques that avoid creating stress when everything is assembled. Also, don’t rely completely upon climate control because sooner or later, air handling systems will break down on the muggiest day of the year and expose the furniture to a major humidity spike.

Here are a couple informational pages I created on the topic. They’re a brief summary of what Hoadley discussed in his book but minus the details and science. I still recommend reading the book.

Water and Wood
Designing for humidity and dimensional change

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View DonBoston's profile

DonBoston

36 posts in 127 days


#8 posted 06-23-2014 12:40 AM

“Actually the way you arranged your tabletop design is what caused the damage, you have wood expanding across the grain in two directions, your table edge frame should allow the surface to free float within or as stated above use veneered panels instead. You might have to cut it down and rebuild but I think it can still be saved. ”
- MarioF

What do you mean “free float”? I can’t use veneer, everything I do is reclaimed… I’d like to be able to build tables with this type of look to them, but obviously I want them to last.

I just read the stuff that JAAune posted, and it made me think of another little table I did which used pocket screws in the apron to hold down the top. It doesn’t appear to be damaged, but that second page he posted with the construction tip of using a sliding block, that’s some handy info.

I understand I added stress (or really prevented relief), so I’m looking at how to prevent that in the future. Not all of the pieces of wood I pick up are long, so creative designs is a must. If I can learn how to build stuff similar to what I did, yet prevent the stress, that would be ideal.

-- Just beginning, but it's in my blood...

View Bob Current 's profile

Bob Current

316 posts in 282 days


#9 posted 06-23-2014 12:50 AM

Very interesting topic and replies,

-- When you are wrong admit it, when you are right forget it.

View WDHLT15's profile

WDHLT15

1140 posts in 1141 days


#10 posted 06-23-2014 01:00 AM

Wood shrinks and swells across the grain. It does not shrink or swell longitudinally (with the grain) very much at all. Putting cross grain to long grain sets up a powerful conflict in how the wood will behave with changes in environmental conditions, particularly humidity. When one piece is moving in relation to changes in humidity and the other piece it is attached to (as in glued or screwed with no allowance for movement), something has to give. That is what happened to you.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT15 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln

View DonBoston's profile

DonBoston

36 posts in 127 days


#11 posted 06-23-2014 01:03 AM

I understand that part Danny, but what changes, other than wood orientation, could I have made to prevent this? I’ve seen tables like this in the past and I’ve never seen the problem before. Unless I was simply fooled, and it was a veneer.

-- Just beginning, but it's in my blood...

View Whiskers's profile

Whiskers

389 posts in 692 days


#12 posted 06-23-2014 01:27 AM

Much of what was said went right over my head as i am still learning about these things, but i see Abilene, Shed, Store and it late June. Why didn’t you just put it in a big oven and cook it?

View The Box Whisperer's profile

The Box Whisperer

638 posts in 735 days


#13 posted 06-23-2014 01:31 AM

You could save the corners if you cut kerfs and put contrasting visible splines. It, ll help with strength and look like you did it on purpose. Sand out and fill the other gaps with epoxy. Refinishing, done.

-- "despite you best efforts and your confidence that your smarter and faster than a saw blade at 10k rpm…. your not …." - Charles Neil

View Mario's profile

Mario

105 posts in 2061 days


#14 posted 06-23-2014 02:22 AM

You could free float by cutting a kerf on the frame and slot on your panel, you need to leave an expansion gap around the frame of around 0.125in so make it shallow and use it as a design feature, no way around this one. Adding splines to the frame would still open gaps at the corners. Building this design with flush joints all around with solid wood will leave gaps no matter what. if you sell it and ship it through changing humidity conditions it will happen, try shipping it to Florida or NC, this design works with veneered panels. Bruce Hoadley’s Understanding Wood is an excellent resource for understanding this situation, good luck.

View DonBoston's profile

DonBoston

36 posts in 127 days


#15 posted 06-23-2014 02:54 AM

Having trouble visioning what you’re saying Mario. Don’t happen to have an example do you?

I appreciate all the help thus far.

-- Just beginning, but it's in my blood...

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