Cross-grain Solutions


Methods to prevent cross-grain splits in traditional solid wood case construction.
By Alan Turner
Pages: 42-45

From the December 2010 issue # 187
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What is obvious to the seasoned furniture maker often escapes the attention of the newer, aspiring maker. This is especially true when it comes to recognizing and avoiding cross-grain wood movement problems. Wood moves seasonally due to the ability of warm summer air to hold a far greater amount of moisture than cold winter air.

In Philadelphia, we are 60 miles from the ocean and we see the equilibrium moisture content (EMC) of wood at about 6 percent in February and approximately 12 percent in early September. This change from winter to summer causes wood to swell across the grain, and this can easily cause splitting in solid wood parts.

Several trips to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to examine pieces in storage, and in its furniture conservation lab, revealed a number that had experienced some level of failure due to cross-grain construction methods, inelegant crossgrain solutions, or had fallen victim to modern systems of climate control.

Museum conservator Christopher Storb argues that the 18th-century furniture we examined was built well for its time, but that the advent of dry, centrally heated buildings, coupled with poorly conceived repairs, are at least as much at fault as original design flaws.

WEB SITE: Visit Alan Turner’s web site to see his work and learn about his school.
ARTICLE: “Massachusetts Block Front Chest.”
WEB SITE: Discover the Society of American Period Furniture Makers (SAPFM).
VISIT: Philadelphia Museum of Art.
IN OUR STORE: “Illustrated Guide to Building Period Furniture” by Glen D. Huey.


From the December 2010 issue # 187
Buy this issue now