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“How poor are they that have not patience!
What wound did ever heal but by degrees?
Thou know’st we work by wit, and not by witchcraft;
And wit depends on dilatory time.”
(Othello, 2.2.376-79)

Over this holiday weekend, I planned to do nothing but sit on my couch and read for my upcoming exams , and do as little physical labor as possible. Unfortunately, whilst sitting on my couch, I had an almost head-on view of the small hallway in which I’ve been meaning to install a built-in cupboard. In my line-of-sight were a box of cat litter and two bags of cat food that would be hidden behind the doors of said cupboard. Needless to say, this distracted me mightily from my Shakespeare.

So, I took some measurements, drew up a rough sketch (not my forte as you can see above) hopped in my car and drove to the home center where I picked up some 2×12 Southern yellow pine from the “Construction Lumber” section. I planned to paint the piece (and I’m cheap), so SYP was a perfect choice…except that I’d have to mill off a lot of waste to get to my desired 3/4″ thickness. But no problem , after all, we have the technology.

I got to the shop, plugged in my iPod (the first step in any project), and rough cut my pieces to length at the miter saw. Then I powered up the dust collection, adjusted the jointer fence and went to work on the milling. I moved to the planer, ran a couple pieces through…and was hit in the face with a HUGE cloud of dust.

It seems our dust collector hadn’t been emptied since Hector was a pup. Not only was the waste container full, the dust was backed up into the overhead pipes and jammed at the intake for the planer. So after a moment (or 10) of fishwife-worthy curses, I emptied out the container then spent a half hour getting the pipes unjammed, then swept up enough dust to fill another two containers. ARGHHH!!!!!

By this time, I was quite frustrated (yes, I should have checked the collector before I started; I was mostly angry with myself). I finished milling the lumber, stacked it on my bench, and decided the construction could wait. I’d had enough for one day, and I _really_ needed to get back to my books. So I left.

You’ll recall that I used Southern yellow pine. From the home center. From the Construction Lumber department. Rule #1 when buying cheap wood: Let it dry. Or if you’re impatient, mill it and IMMEDIATELY construct your project, clamping the ever-loving you-know-what out of it so it doesn’t warp/twist/cup/etc as it dries. OK. really, you should let it dry.

What you should never do is stack it, unstickered, on your bench.

Two days later, I’m hoping that, having stickered it, the top piece will flatten out as the moisture loss from the now-exposed side catches up. If it doesn’t (and I know it won’t, but a girl’s gotta have hope), it’s another trip to the home center…for a BIG box of screws. And stock for a beefier face frame to hide those screws. I’ll head for the hardwood. It’s usually dry.

– Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 9 comments
  • Steve Carroll

    Excuse me but what does stickering mean? How do you sticker wood?
    Steve Carroll

  • Bruce Jackson


    I bought select pine from Big Orange Box (or was it Big Blue Box?) to build infeed and outfeed supports for my bandsaw. Works out nicely for not much more. As nearly as I can tell, select pine is SYP milled to dimensions similar to the red oak and poplar you see at the Big Boxes.

    And it’s alread dry – to boot – and milled – to double boot.

    As for Shakespeare, as an English major in my lost BA days, that may be how the toffs spoke in those days, but as you can tell, it’s not how I speak and it’s not how I write. My people came over from northern England, near Hadrian’s wall, in the same year that Pres. Jackson died. As near as I can tell, it wasn’t how the yeomen of Lincolnshire spoke, either.

  • Craig

    We’ve all been there, so don’t get discouraged. At least it was SYP and not cherry!

    You might try to take a spray bottle and wet the previously exposed side. This will help to even out the moisture content and should take out some of the cup. Make sure you sticker it again after wetting.


  • Robert Dunaway

    To sneeze or not to sneeze
    That is dust collection
    Whether tis nobler in mind
    To withstand the slings and arrows
    of outrageous cupping
    Or to use stickers against a sea of moisture
    and by time end them

    Aye there’s the rub
    For what projects are being delayed
    When we have stickered all of our project wood

    Many apologies to Shakespeare for butchering Macbeth.

    And the first thing I do is plug the iPod into the shop stereo as well. 😀

  • David VanStone


    I was thinking: Why bother planing it down? I think if you had just flattened a little on both sides it might not have cupped and you’d have real sturdy shelves. Also, buy a wood moisture meter if you haven’t already. I have a Lee Valley with pins that stick into the wood. It’s a good investment.


  • megan

    Karl, if worst comes to worst, I can get more SYP…it was about $5 for a 2"x10’x12′, so not the end of the world. But I’m intrigued by the Saran wrap trick…I’m going to look into that just ’cause it sounds nifty.

    I should have specified that the iPod is hooked into the stereo system through a universal jack. I wouldn’t dare have dangling headphones hanging around my neck while using power equipment. And anyway, it sounds better over the stereo speakers (in between the whine of various machines…that’s one of the reasons I prefer hand tools for just about everything except milling – I like to hear the music!).

  • Karl Rookey

    How frustrating. I hope it comes back to shape. I do recall reading somewhere that a spray bottle and Saran Wrap can sometimes do the trick for unwarpint a board, but I’ve never tried it. Seems similar to the "set it in the grass and hope" advice above: reintroduce moisture where needed.

    Since Safety week is just passed, I did wonder about the use of an iPod around machinery with rotary blades. I hope you ran the cord through the inside of your shirt so it couldn’t catch in the blade. For that matter, I hope you had it turned off while you were running the machines. Even with ear muffs I imagine it would have to be pretty loud to hear it over dust collection and the jointer/planer

  • Samson

    The home centers sell poplar at reasonable prices. You can select straight stock. You can buy narrower stock to save money and glue it up into panels. It takes paint very well.

    White pine is also a good bet. It you are willing to prime, a few knots – often present in the cheaper grades – are sealed and hidden.

    Home Depot now also sells 2′ x 6′ glued up pine panels for a decent price.

    Just some alternatives for next time.

  • Elo


    You could try and add two big planes on top of that board right were the stickers are. The weight of the planes could help a bit. It worked for me once. Another trick is to lay it on the grass under the sun and hope.

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