In Chris Schwarz Blog, Joinery

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I’ve been doing quite a bit of drawboring lately while building a couple cabinets for the next issue of Woodworking Magazine. And it’s given me a chance to try a couple of new tactics, one of which has turned out to be a bit daft.

During a demonstration of drawboring I gave a few weeks ago, one of the woodworkers in the audience offered up a suggestion that seemed intriguing because it might fix one of the cosmetic downsides of the technique. With some drawbored joints, there will be a small gap on one side of the peg. The peg is being bent, of course, so this is understandable. If the wood you’re using for your frame is a bit wet, it will shrink around the peg, tighten up and eliminate the gap. But if your frame wood is bone-dry, then you might be left with the gap.

One solution is to dry out your raw material for pegs as much as possible, below the ambient humidity level even. Then form your pegs with his desiccated material and they’ll swell. You could do this in the oven , I’ve done it with chair legs and spindles with success (try 250Ã?° for a few hours). But it’s a pain. So the idea offered up was to was to keep the peg material in the freezer. Freezers are giant dehumidifiers, right? It seemed worth a try.

So I rived some raw peg material a few weeks ago and stuck it in the freezer in an unsealed freezer bag. Yesterday I pulled it out and immediately drove it through the 5/16″ hole in my dowel plate and measured the results. The smallest diameter of the peg was .306″. The largest was .316″. I marked the exact spot on the peg where I took my readings and have been monitoring the peg all weekend. So far, no change. Nothing. Not even a thou. I’m going to leave the peg here on my desk for a week or so, but right now I think this tip might be a red herring. Maybe I should buy a toaster oven for the shop?

Christopher Schwarz


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Showing 2 comments
  • Christopher Schwarz

    Dave,

    I like the dessicant idea. I’ll try that and see how it works. More importantly, I’ll monitor the stock’s progress with our shop’s moisture meter and see how rapidly it progresses.

    If it works we’ll include it in the next issue!

    Chris

  • Dave Brown

    The freezer was a good idea but a little flawed. It takes a while for water to sublimate when it’s sitting in your ice cube trays. Changing from a solid to a gas is a pretty slow process. Water locked inside a dowel will take even longer to work itself out. Also, the water only "moves" to reach a state of equilibrium. Ice has a high moisture content, hence it’s desire to shed some water. The wood already has a relatively low moisture content so it has no interest in approaching 0 percent any time soon.

    In an oven at 250 degrees, there is almost no water in the air, hence the waters desire to escape from the wood. That and the fact that when water becomes a gas it expands and forces itself out of the wood.

    If the intention is a relatively "passive" approach, you could try some of the desiccant gel packs that you can microwave to revive. If you were to stick some dowels into a ziplock bag with a desiccant, I imagine you’d see a pretty significant drop in the wood’s moisture content.

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Mass-produced holdfasts we tested, front to back: Jorgensen #1708, Veritas, Woodcraft, Jorgensen #1716.