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Best wood types for high humidity environment

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Forum topic by abehil posted 05-04-2015 06:55 PM 1072 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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abehil

104 posts in 804 days


05-04-2015 06:55 PM

I’m new to woodworking and I’m having fun learning to make some useful items like cabinets for my garage shop and also some small tables. Some relatives have noticed and are asking me to make stuff for them which I may decide to do.
Anyway, I’m in a high humidity region and most of them are not. I’m concerned about wood movement.
The humidity here varies between 70% – 95% all year around.

What is the best types of wood to use if I build something here and then ship it to a location where i would expect the humidity to average about half as much?

Are there design techniques that minimize the effects of wood movement?


7 replies so far

View jdh122's profile

jdh122

879 posts in 2283 days


#1 posted 05-04-2015 07:06 PM

Softwoods are more dimensionanlly stable than hardwoods, and quartersawn more than plainsawn. So quartersawn pine or fir are pretty stable. That said, who wants to limit their woodworking to softwood?
I would say that as long as you follow best practice for accounting for movement (no wood glued in cross-grain orientation over more than a few inches) you should be OK. I live in a climate where the summer can be as humid as yours, but with 5 months of winter heating homes are extremely dry. This means that wood furniture here experiences every year the kind of differences you’re talking about, and I’ve never had a piece of furniture do anything too surprising yet.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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AandCstyle

2575 posts in 1722 days


#2 posted 05-05-2015 01:08 AM

Here is a tool for estimating the movement of various species if radial or tangentially sawn. HTH

-- Art

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timbertailor

1592 posts in 890 days


#3 posted 05-05-2015 01:32 AM


Softwoods are more dimensionanlly stable than hardwoods, and quartersawn more than plainsawn. So quartersawn pine or fir are pretty stable. That said, who wants to limit their woodworking to softwood?
I would say that as long as you follow best practice for accounting for movement (no wood glued in cross-grain orientation over more than a few inches) you should be OK. I live in a climate where the summer can be as humid as yours, but with 5 months of winter heating homes are extremely dry. This means that wood furniture here experiences every year the kind of differences you re talking about, and I ve never had a piece of furniture do anything too surprising yet.

- jdh122

+1

I live in a humid city, like yourself. Just be aware of the things Jeremy pointed out and you should be fine with just about any solid wood. I do recommend staying away from products like MDF that do not do well in humid\damp conditions over time. Just make sure that you allow the wood to acclimate to your shop for a couple weeks or more before starting work.

-- Brad, Texas, https://www.youtube.com/user/tonkatoytruck/feed

View pjones46's profile

pjones46

986 posts in 2108 days


#4 posted 05-05-2015 05:55 AM

You might look at Thermally Modified wood. It is expensive but has great properties in high moisture areas as well as being very stable. Saw it overseas but now starting to be available in the USA.

-- Respectfully, Paul

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rwe2156

2198 posts in 946 days


#5 posted 05-05-2015 10:28 AM

abe,

I, too, live in a very humid part of the country (FL) so I deal with the issues, too.

I am not hesitant to use solid wood once I figured out a system to handle it that works for me.
I do not have a climate controlled shop like may guys do, so its a big, big problem.

Understand, humidity doesn’t make wood move, its the change in humidity that’s the problem.

This can be caused not by just the weather change, but by milling wood and exposing fresh grain.
Understanding the balance required helps eliminate a lot (taking the same amount off each side) but, of course, when ripping a board down it is unavoidable. The outermost edge is going to be dryer, so this is where you get most of the warp. (That, plus relieving stresses results in warping, twisting sometimes.) It took me a while to learn to be patient and sticker the wood and give it a few days to acclimate. Using q/s wood helps with cupping, but doesn’t totally eliminate the wane/warp problem.

In addition to patience, I also learned to be careful when milling or storing cut pieces for a project. I have seen boards warp in a matter of an hour just being under a fan. Turn the board over and in an hour its straight again!

Keeping your wood parts stickered when storing overnight is huge. Also, keeping them covered is a good idea.
When I know a weather change is coming, I seal my parts in a plastic bag or I wrap them in saran wrap.

The whole idea is learning that wood is not “dead” in the sense that it is a moving, changing material we are working with.

If I was shipping a project, I would wrap it in plastic and give detailed instructions pertaining to acclimatization once it arrives.

Can’t comment on design techiques, other than slots for screws when attaching wide boards.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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BroncoBrian

435 posts in 1424 days


#6 posted 05-05-2015 04:20 PM

Sounds like Houston to me. Much better to be from Texas than to live there.

I would avoid MDF also. I had a lot of great cabinets in my garage in Houston, paint grade Birch ply. They were awesome and had very little warp only on the largest doors. I should have put trim or a drop panel in the doors, that would have prevented it.

Humidity can be ok. Consistency is more important. Build large items with more stable and smaller parts, large panels will move or twist.

Then, move to a better climate.

-- Bigfoot tries to take pictures of me

View abehil's profile

abehil

104 posts in 804 days


#7 posted 05-05-2015 10:49 PM

I’m am thankful to be getting such great advice. I don’t have a climate controlled shop or house even. The temperature here is so consistent it rarely drops down to freezing (not once this last winter) and also rarely exceeds 90 degrees in the summer. Most of the year ranges between 55 to 70. It can rain like heck in the winter but every year it’s getting a little dryer and warmer.

So I have to watch the temperatures for curing glues, paint and so on. Also, I’m 60 feet from the water which probably also helps regulate the temperature. We think 65 is warm and 80 is too hot.

I’ve taken some time to learn how to get satisfactory results with pocket screws. But I’m finding that at least one or two joints per project are not aligned perfectly and that contorts the whole thing a bit.

So now I want to try loose tenon and mortise. I’m making a mortise jig. I’m a bit confused regarding mortise and tenon sizes. I’m think I’ll ask this specific question in it’s own post.

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