76 – Examining Past Projects for Wood Movement

76 – Examining Past Projects for Wood Movement


Marc:Today I’m going
to serve myself a big, heaping spoonful of humble pie, as I bring some of my
favorite projects back into the shop and see how
they faired over time. (groovy brass music) I remember when I first
started woodworking how disappointed I was when
I noticed that joints that were nice and smooth and flush, and felt perfect when I first
finished them, a couple weeks, couple months later you could
start to feel little ridges, and it just didn’t feel
as perfect as it used to. I was really disappointed to find out that my projects were doing
this, and I actually thought it was something
that I was doing wrong. Then there was a point where
I was at David Marks’ shop and we got to see a lot of his
things that were in his home, and the projects that
I’ve seen on the show, stuff that I’ve really admired. I would go up and touch them
and all of a sudden I was like, “Wait a minute, I can
actually feel ridges here,” and it brought it to
light that this is normal, this is the way things happen with wood. Wood never stays still, it’s
by nature going to expand and contract, and swell
and come back down. There are going to be times
when joints that normally might feel smooth decide to lift,
so that they actually are expanding at different rates
and you can feel those ridges. I have a ton of examples of that here. Part of my goal here today
is to make sure that you understand that a lot of these
things are normal, and you have to expect them to happen,
and anticipate them happening. We’ll also go over some things
that are not normal, and what we could have done to prevent
those things from happening. First up is a mahogany barstool, it’s actually David Marks’ design. Really great design, I
think it looks great, it’s very sturdy and its held
up really well over time. The two areas that I’ll
point out that could be potential issues, and where
you should expect issues, are first of all the joints
of the little footrests here. They’re not really jointed to the legs with any sort of wood joinery. We used these brass
dowels that connect them with just glue, otherwise
it’s a butt joint, so you can’t expect it
to be perfect forever, you’re going to see some
separation here over time. That’s exactly what we have. It’s hairline, it’s very,
very tiny, but it’s there. You have to be aware that that may occur with this type of joint. The other thing is, since it’s brass and this material is wood, they’re going to expand and contract at
very different rates. There’s a lot of times, and it may change over the course of a
year, depending on the season but you should probably be
able to feel that metal, either an indentation or it
will sit proud of the surface, you’ll just feel it with your finger. And again, perfectly normal. Looking at the top, here’s another area where you might expect to see something. Where these legs punch all the
way through, unlike some of the furniture that I’ve seen
at Bed, Bath & Beyond where it looks like they stamp on the
tenons, which is real classy, here these actually protrude
all the way through, and since the grain is
running vertical and the rest of the grain of the
seat is running horizontal, you’ve got to expect those
to expand at different rates, so you should be able
to feel those ridges, maybe even just a few
weeks don’t the line you’ll start to feel them
differentiating from each other. But again, it’s all
normal, this is something that happens with any piece of furniture. Next up is my zebra wood
contemplation bench. This is a fun little
design, kind of different. The joinery itself was
a little bit strange. It’s sort of giant, open
mortise and tenon where the mortise itself is formed by
the top, which is made of, well was originally made of
three separate pieces that we glued back together to
create this open mortise. The tenon, which is
built in to the leg here, is actually screwed into
the body of the top piece, and then capped off with some wenge caps. It has really held up pretty well. I drove some three inch screws in there, so it’s certainly strong enough. The place where you might expect
to feel some abnormalities, of course, just like with the bar stool, is this place where
the end grain pushes up through the face grain of the zebra wood. Perfectly normal and I do
feel a slight ridge there. Fortunately this material
hasn’t really moved very much over time, so
it’s in pretty good shape. The other thing is we’ve got
three pieces joined together, so you might expect, if
you run your finger across, to feel those joints
over the course of time. Fortunately, because this
zebra wood has kind of an open pore structure,
you don’t even know what is a joint line and what is
just the way the grain runs. That’s actually really
good, and it turns out to be a great wood for
this type of project. Same thing goes with the legs. These legs, although
they may look like one single piece of wood, it’s
actually made up of two, because I didn’t have boards
that were wide enough. I was just able to match the grain in such a way that it looked
like one piece of wood. Really not a whole lot to say about this piece because it’s very basic joinery, but what we do feel on
here is perfectly normal. What we have here is what I
like to call a gadget station. It’s a prototype, so I
bent some of the rules, I did a few things the way
I normally wouldn’t do them, and it turned out to be okay
but it let me know what I want to do when I do my second round
of the real gadget station. It’s primarily made with
jatoba, and in a case like this with a cabinet that’s
going to have a lot of gadgets inside of it,
and chargers and things, there’s a good amount of
heat build up in there. If you make this out of
solid wood you may have a problem in the future
as the heat builds up, things expand and contract,
it may cause issues. I opted to make the entire
thing out of plywood and I just made own my
veneer for the jatoba, so it gives it a really
nice solid wood look. If you open it up I could
show you where I did wind up going wrong,
and things I’m going to fix in the future
generations of this piece. First of all, all this is
ply, it’s all very stable, the shelves have held up
really, really nicely. The top is in really good shape. This piece here, this was
just a design concept. I thought when this is
hanging on the wall that it might be cool if you
put a laptop on there, and you could stand there and
type away, but who does that? You have your laptop in your office or it’s sitting in your lap on the couch. It really turned out to
be an interesting concept but not really, in reality, a great idea. One of the main issues
here are these chains. Since this sheet here is
actually a piece of plywood, driving a screw in there
and having all this weight on there over the course
of a couple years really puts a lot of strain
on those layers of ply. If you look really closely you
could see that it’s pulling up, and I really think some day
those screws may just pop out. That’s definitely something to consider, and thankfully this
didn’t go to a customer, this is just in my house
and I can monitor this, and it teaches me a lot about what to, well in this case what
not to do in the future. This piece is what I like
to call an ottoman tray. We had a big ottoman in the living room and no coffee table, so you need something for serving guests and things like that. This worked really well. It’s just a very simple sheet of maple ply surrounded by a carved padauk frame. This is one of those cases
where you have to realize that any time you encase wood in a
frame, it’s going to expand, and it’s going to blow out
the joints at the corners, and that’s why you need to use
plywood, because it’s stable. Had I used solid wood it
would have been a nightmare, but since it was ply it’s nice and stable. The joints are all really
tight, I actually used splines inside the joint
to keep them together. These ridges, this is really good. Even if you, in most cases,
you do everything right, you still will probably
over the course of time feel a ridge where these miter joints are, and I don’t, so we lucked
out a little bit there, but you stack the cards
in your favor if you do something like a
spline or maybe even just biscuits across that joint,
really, really helps. The inlay here, this little sun design. Inlays are always interesting
because they are dead flat. They feel perfect when you
first make them, but then eventually you really start to
feel some texture differences, maybe even some low
points and high points. I’ve got a few of them here,
the outside of this is in really good shape, but there’s
one spot right there would I could start to feel that
the ply is a little bit higher and this part of the sun must
have sunk down a little bit. But hey, that’s life,
what are you going to do. I don’t even know exactly
what I may have done to cause that, so can’t help
you there, but the bottom line is a little bit of
that is perfectly normal. This is one of my favorite
pieces that I’ve ever made. It’s my Asian-inspired inlaid hall table. The inlay on the top,
much like the inlay on the serving tray, you
can feel a little bit of texture here and
there, perfectly normal. The top here is a piece of ply with a veneer piece of figured maple. It’s got a wenge trim
around the outside and it sits in a rabbit, and this beautiful jatoba frame encases the whole thing. And again, you have to
use ply if you’re going to encase it in a frame,
otherwise you blow it out. It actually sits a little
bit proud of a frame too, which is something that’s
a little bit unique. The one thing I really
want to point out here, and it’s something we talked about on the serving tray as well, are these miters. Over the years I’ve done a
lot of frames and things, and if you’ve done a lot yourself I’m sure you’ve noticed that they
almost always seem to want to separate, to
some degree or another. A couple years down the
line, run your finger there and you feel that they’ve
moved a little bit. Judging even just from
this one experiment, if you call it that, from this
one particular project alone, the fact that I put this
wenge spline in here has kept all four of these joints
dead one, I mean perfect. I don’t feel a joint
at all on any of them. That’s enough evidence for me to say that any time I do a miter
joint it is absolutely going to be supplemented
by either a biscuit, a spline or something to
make sure that those are kept perfectly level for the
entire life of that piece. It worked really well in this one. Other things that we
could take a look at … Well, here’s a good lesson. Again, this was a prototype. In the future if I were to
make another one of these I would make sure that I have
the right lumber to do it. In this case these legs
required a very thick, I believe it was even a four-by-four block to cut these compound curve legs, and in order to do that I had
to glue up multiple pieces. And what happens when you do that and you cut a leg with a curve? You sometimes, I don’t know
if you can see this here, but you sometimes get a wacky joint where it goes from one piece to the next piece. That doesn’t look good,
especially not in the front and right on this really, really,
visible front left leg. In the future that’s something you want to make sure you avoid, kind of as an aside. Again, prototype so it wasn’t
really that big of a deal. Let’s take a look at the drawer here. The drawer was sort of an
experiment in simplicity and design, just trying to come up with
something that wasn’t dovetails, I wanted to do something
unique, that had a little bit of a visual interest that you
don’t normally see in a drawer. That’s what we wound up with,
with these stainless steel dowel rods that are serving
just like a normal dowel, pushed straight in to the
front of the piece, and there’s a little strip of wenge
trimming out the front edge. It gives it kind of a unique look, and that’s held up really well. I don’t feel any of the joint at all. I do feel these metal pieces,
just like in the stool. Whenever you have that
metal and wood combination it may feel perfect on day one but it’s probably not going to feel perfect later. But all that is perfectly normal. The drawer itself just
slides into this compartment. There’s no guides, the side of the drawer compartment is the guide. There’s a little play in there, and that was intentional, that
was there on day one. It still slides nice and easy
and the internal compartment here is made out of plywood
so we don’t really expect that to swell or anything,
so this drawer for the duration of its life will
probably slide perfectly. This is usually how I spend
my time in furniture stores. Anyway, while we were under
here, in the shop lighting, which is much better than the
lighting inside the house, I noticed a little hairline fracture, in fact it’s small, it’s hard to … Okay, it’s right here on the front, where it looks like there’s
a little bit of a split. I don’t know how that’s going to affect this thing over the course of time but it definitely is something to keep my eye on. Why something like this
would happen, I don’t know. The bottom line is wood has
internal stresses on it. As seasons change, and we
laminated two or three pieces to get this leg to become
as thick as it is anyway, so it’s hard to say what
causes those things but the bottom line is you have to
know that they may happen, it’s just part of the game that we play. It’s not terrible, but I will
keep my eye on it and if it starts to spread I may have
to do something about it. Maybe take it back in the
shop, sand it down a little bit and put in some CA glue or
something, that might seep deep down and hold that
together, maybe even epoxy. But right now it’s not
significant enough to even do anything to
treat it at this point. Many of you may notice this piece, this is the crown jewel of my collection. This was featured in the beginning, I believe of our first intro to the show, and it looked fantastic
in that picture didn’t it? It’s a good thing we got that picture when we did because it
doesn’t look so good now. Let me show you some great lessons, and this was one of my first, or maybe my third project
that I did, or second project, that was like a serious
woodworking project. I saw in a magazine, they had this great plan for a chess board or a checker board, in my case, because I don’t
know how to play chess. Anyway, it was a chess board with storage. Hinged top, it was a really great design. You could make these cove
mouldings on the table saw, which was a new technique for
me, and I thought it was great. The one thing I didn’t
like was the fact that the chessboard itself had a
gap all the way around it, and I guess maybe I didn’t read the instructions all the way
through and I was like, “Who would want a gap there?
It’s just going to be a place “where dust and dirt and
things are going to fall. “Why would I want to do that?” So I made the top out of all solid pieces, and I framed it with this
beautiful walnut frame, and I didn’t realize what
they were doing was putting a spline between the frame and
the body of the chess board, with some extra room to move
so that as this piece expands, in this case it’s going to
expand and contract this way, as it does that it has the room to do it. I didn’t give it that room,
so let’s take some close up shots and show you some of
the magic of wood movement. The way this is
constructed, the sides were created as one piece and then we cut it. Last minute you cut the top off and that creates the whole top portion. Looking at the joint here on the side, this is pretty good,
this held up pretty well. There’s a biscuit holding
it together, and I’d be pretty happy with that
if that was everywhere. The problem is the top. Since I ignored the rules, this
has separated dramatically. I don’t know if you can
see how, we’ve got about a quarter inch separation
where the wood has decided, “I’m stronger than this frame,
I’m pushing my way through it.” We’ve got a gap that starts about here, and increases significantly over there. The miter here, although
it’s still together it’s sort of just slid, very interesting
the way it split apart. And we’ve got one to
match on the other side. Right here, this one starts even further back, and look at the size of that gap. And again, just pushed
this frame piece forward. Didn’t really separate it. It’s a very interesting lesson here that that glue can still
keep a grip, yet slide. It’s actually separated
yet the pieces haven’t come apart completely,
which is kind of amazing. Now another interesting thing, and I’m guessing that my
joinery and gluing skills weren’t really that good at
the time, because there’s a lot of separation on these
actual squares themselves. I can feel major ridges,
and in fact I can separate the pieces with my
fingers just by pushing. I have a feeling that if I push too hard they would just fall all over the place. So, really embarrassing, actually. I’ve tried to sell this at a
yard sale a few different times. In fact I peeled a 10
dollar sticker off of it. I’m glad that it didn’t
sell, and I’m glad it looked like crap and no one wants it, because it’s a really
good lesson and reminder that I can pull out for
occasions just like this, to show you what happens
when you break those rules. We talk about it all the time,
we talk about wood movement and not violating those
rules of wood movement, and we try to follow the rules, but how often do we see
a really great example of what happens when
you ignore those rules? And that’s exactly what this is. I think I’ll keep it
around, maybe it will be just a little comic
relief once in a while, but it is certainly a good
lesson in wood movement. As a professional
woodworker you might think that I know a little bit more about the final destination of the
pieces that I create, but the reality is a lot
of times you make something for someone and you never
hear from them again, so you really don’t know how
that piece has held up over time. The only experimental
pieces that I can monitor over time are the ones
that I made for family, and I really do use them as experiments. Every time I see them I touch
it and feel it and examine it, and see what may have gone
wrong over the course of time, and that’s where I learn
the most important lessons. As a new woodworker you
may be in even more of a trouble situation,
because you haven’t made enough projects to accumulate
them in your house, and use those as experimental
pieces of furniture. Hopefully this gives you
an idea of what things you can expect, what things
are normal and not normal, and really a lot of it
is just the way wood is. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going
to go bury this in the back yard. (burp) Huh? You have a lid
that- Let’s do that again. (drumming) Nicole:[unintelligible] (laughs) Marc:Serious? Are you serious?
(laughing) Well it look- (stuttering)
What the hell happened? Nicole:Thanks for filling out the survey. Marc:(unenthusiastically) Yeah, thanks. Nicole:You’re just
doing this to get clips!

23 comments / Add your comment below

  1. A way your chessboard would have moved less, is to orient the grain in the squares so, say, the dark squares' grain ran front-to-back, and the light-colored squares' grain ran side-to-side. Better: Make the squares no more than 1/8" thick, and glue them to a plywood substrate. Do the same on the inside, if you wish to have that "just made of squares" look.  Problem solved. And no dirt-catching grooves.

  2. You made a mistake in your explanation, wood doesn't expand in length, it will expand in thickness and width. That is considering length is along the grain. Wood is essentially a bunch of tubes that can't get longer, but can get wider and thicker. For your bar stool example ( where you made the mistake of saying wood expand in length ), it would actually be the thickness of the butt rest that becomes smaller thus giving the impression that the tenons have extruded from the surface. You will see gaps and spaces appear on your furniture. But really if you keep the final product at the same temperature and humidity level than the shop it was made in, which is around 12-14% humidity. Then the wood shouldn't work and you shouldn't be getting openings. The only reason why it opened is because the wood's humidity level changed, which is most likely due to the fact that you didn't properly stabilised your house humidity levels. You can also use several methods like a pull dowel mortise and tenon assembly, which will pull the tenon inside the mortise as the riser reduces in thickness, and will pull even harder as it expands in thickness. Something like a dovetail joint will never separate if done properly as both pieces of wood work together and are expanding and contracting together.

    Hope this helps.

  3. The entertainment center I built for my wife 5 years ago from cherry, purpleheart, and walnut, (asian inspired) has weathered well except for the (24" deep due to the Pioneer 200 disc CD changer) top swells during the monsoons and cracks the rest of the year. I framed the top with the purpleheart, (at the time not knowing). Beautiful piece that centers the room perfectly, just don't look at the top! Looks great from the couch though! If you ever find yourself in Sedona, look me up!

  4. you need to be more carful !,every creator knows that every project needs AT LEAST one flaw… "Known as an Indian" if you keep attempting flawlessness you might pull it off and therefore ofened the Gods. Tiny flaws left in the projects let the Gods know that we do not think ourselves better creators than them. An old man told me this,I now embrace my small flaws and let anyone know = "That is not a flaw!!,that's simply my Indian,for personal safety! 😀

  5. Great video. I love that hall table. Will have to go hunt for the build video. Also love the gag about how you are when you go into the furniture store. I was doing the same thing last night looking at how our dining table was put together. 🙂

  6. Would love to see more videos about "the rules", i.e., what sorts of things are going to create problems down the road.

  7. It would be nice to see how some of your projects fared after moving from the desert to the high cold country.

  8. My biggest mistake was make the lid for my tool chest in the middle of summer in Houston, Texas. It was a nice snug fit and moved beautifully! Then winter came and would not shut 100% flat. Then I recently moved to Colorado and this region's winter has caused more shrinkage! Now I can't close the lid pas the lip of the chest top. Added bonus is the floating panel has shrunk to expose unpainted wood of the stiles and rails!!!! Looking back I should have fitted the lid for the outside dimension and incorporated a little more wiggle room on the inside!

  9. I’m glad I knew of this video in advance to trying out new joinery techniques. I make a lot of things with dowel joinery, and I have definitely noticed ridges over time. Even on my end grain cutting board I’ve been able to feel ridges where the Purpleheart and maple meet up. Glad to know that it’s normal and nothing to worry about.

  10. Mark, looking at your chess board project and separation woes – it appears on your close up views that your squares are all oriented with the grain running the same way. I made mine from walnut and maple 25 years ago and alternated every square and its held together well. I made my squares all 1/8” thick. I also bonded them to a piece of 3/8” Baltic birch ply.

  11. I'm starting to understand the rule of never framing wood with wood or you will blow out the frame from expansion… but what if you wait until the hottest most humid time of year where its the "most expanded" and then make the frame based off of that? is that feasible or will it still be bad?

  12. 7:13 watching this literally after spending weeks making an all mahogany arcade stick and it's a mahogany board encased in a mahogany frame… Welp.. Who knows how long i have with it. What a shame 🙁

  13. You keep saying that w/ frame and panel construction you have to have plywood. No. Hundreds of year old frame and panel solid wood will work if the panel is allowed to float instead of those Cretans who glue the entire panel.

  14. Great job! Those are some beautiful pieces. In the case of the projects you shared that use the plywood centers framed by solid wood. Did you consider using tenoned miter joints? with the centerpiece grooved in place on the sides and left with a hair of wiggle room I wonder if you could get away with it being solid wood, possibly laminated.

  15. Just another reason why plywood with veneer, even MDF with veneer. Is KING. Then use solid wood edgebanding

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