Q & A: Warped Wood Woes

Q & A: Warped Wood Woes

Q:

I ordered a milled piece of ebony
through the mail last winter. It looked
great upon arrival, but after a few
days it was so warped and twisted that
I couldn’t use it.What gives?

A:

Watching your prized ebony turn
into a potato chip must’ve hurt!
Chances are this board had a fairly
high moisture content (10 to 12 percent)
when it was shipped. It arrived in
a dry winter environment,where wood
can have a moisture content as low as 5
or 6 percent.Your board started to dry
out as soon as you unwrapped it.
Attempting to keep a board from
changing shape while drying is a bit
like trying to stop a glacier,but here are
some things to try next time:

• Buy rough lumber. You’ll need a
jointer and planer to mill it, but if you
start out with thicker wood you’ll have
more leeway if it warps.

• Use a moisture meter. Compare the
moisture content of your new wood
with old wood stored in your shop.
Don’t mill your new wood until it’s
about the same moisture content as
the old stuff.

• Paint the ends.Wood dries out faster
through its ends and can crack if it
dries too fast. Paint slows down the
rate at which end grain loses moisture.

• Stack your wood off the floor.
Concrete floors can be very damp.

• Place stickers between the boards.
All sides of your wood should be
equally exposed to air so they dry at
equal rates.

• Weight your boards. This helps keep
them flat and straight, but it’s no
guarantee. You’ve done about all you
can do.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Stack and sticker mail-order wood as soon as it arrives.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August 2001, issue #88.



August 2001, issue #88


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