Avoiding warped lumber - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 01-29-2016, 04:49 PM Thread Starter
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Avoiding warped lumber

Been awhile since I've been on the forum; home improvement projects....

I'm about to build a grandfather clock from Klockit plans. I intend to use cherry. I've only ever purchased one piece of rough cut cherry, and it turned out to be so warped and twisted as to be unusable. I'd stored it on my lumber rack for several months before starting to use it. Rack is flat and I put stick spacers between all boards. Still warped and twisted. When I tried to run the board through the table saw, it had so much internal stress, the kerf would squeeze shut on the riving knife, making it almost impossible to run through the saw. After jointing and planing, the wood continued to warp and twist to the point that it all turned out to be firewood.

Is there any way to examine a board at the lumberyard to get some idea of it's likelihood of having internal stresses or to warp/twist? I've purchased a fair amount of lumber from the same yard, maple, padauk, mahogany, walnut and never had this problem, just this one particular piece of 4/4 x 8'.

Any guidance will be appreciated.
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post #2 of 10 Old 01-29-2016, 05:31 PM
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As much as possible use quarter sawn wood. Look at the end grain and select as much as possible grain that goes straight through instead of on an angle. The wood cut toward the outer part of the tree is less stable. The species makes a difference too. Walnut or mahogany would be more stable. I built a grandfather clock in 1973 out of walnut and it's still in good condition.
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post #3 of 10 Old 02-01-2016, 11:52 AM
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you could bring along a moisture meter. is the lumberyard wood stored indoors? sometimes a board is not dried properly, or enough, and it will cause many problems as you listed when trying to machine it.
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post #4 of 10 Old 02-01-2016, 03:12 PM
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I don't know that I'd want to use cherry on a clock. In my admittedly limited experience with it, it seems to be pretty prone to movement, more so than other woods, so it seems to warp quite a lot.

As far as what you can do at the yard to predict a pieces movement, there are a few things, both of which have been mentioned. Bring a moisture meter and check the pieces you're looking at, make sure they're already pretty dry. Secondly, look for quarter- or rift-sawn stock, either of those cuts are more stable than plain-sawn stock

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post #5 of 10 Old 02-01-2016, 09:50 PM
where's my table saw?
 
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Cherry Grandfather clocks are very popular

A quick search on Ebay shows many Cherry Grandfather clocks:
http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=...ndfather+clock

You would want to use kiln dried lumber regardless and then let it acclimate to your shop as well as choosing a vertical end grain or quartersawn. It would be a shame to go to all the work to make the clock with "suspect" wood!

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #6 of 10 Old 02-01-2016, 10:37 PM
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I work with cherry frequently and dont find it to be any more or less prone to warping than any other domestic hardwood I've worked. Sometimes you just get a board that looks fine until you try to rip it, and it takes off in all sorts of twists and bows.

I suspect that it has a lot to do with the quality of lumber that the large mills are producing any more. Trees are grown faster, occasionally hybrid, and cut sooner than they were back in the day when lumber was harvested from naturally growing stands. But this is just supposition on my part.

I do find that it helps to avoid 4/4 stock when possible. It costs a bit more, and generates more waste in some cases, but 5/4 stock is usually of better quality. Especially if you need to make dead flat and straight pieces that are 6' long or more.
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post #7 of 10 Old 02-01-2016, 11:28 PM
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Maybe it's just me with the cherry then. My apologies!

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post #8 of 10 Old 02-02-2016, 10:03 AM
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Cabinet and furniture makers buy their lumber in the rough. The rough boards may be twisted or warped due to drying in the kiln as well as their individual properties. In converting the rough lumber to a finished board we follow a well established process. The process ensures the resulting board will be flat and straight when finished. When you buy surfaced lumber at any lumber yard or supplier, the boards have not been flattened or straightened, they have been fed into a foursider machine. We also want kiln dried lumber to 7-8% moisture content, MC. The boards you find at big boxes and lumber yards are often 20% MC. Not suitable for interior work. People like to suggest buying quarter sawn lumber for the inherent stability. Other than white oak, there is hardly any quarter sawn lumber available anywhere. Sounds good to say but good luck finding any.


The first part of the process is "stock selection". This can be one of the more difficult parts since it takes a fair amount of experience to be able to see a boards characteristics in the rough.

Step 2 is making rough cuts, cutting the rough boards into more manageable pieces, if possible. No sense milling a 16' board when it will be cut up into 4' pieces for the project. It also doesn't make sense to cut things too short. Anything less than 30" long will cause other issues as you go through the milling process. Normally, at least 2 extra inches are left on a rough cut.

Step 3 is flattening one face on the jointer. You don't have to surface the face completely and don't want to. Just get the face surfaced so that 80% or so is flat and can serve as a reference to the planer bed.

Step 4 is planing to thickness. The flat face gave you the reference from which all other faces/edges will be referenced. When planing, it's important to flip the boards so you take equal amounts off both faces. Too much off one face will cause the board to warp.

Step 5 is straightening an edge. It's important to cut with the grain on all the steps. If someone tries to straighten an edge after only surfacing one face on the jointer, they only have one face to register against the jointer fence. That may not allow cutting with the grain and is the reason both faces are surfaced first. Cutting with the grain will give the best results as far as chipping, tearing, splintering and the overall quality of the surfaces. When done correctly, no secondary operations, such as power sanding, scraping or hand planing are needed.

Step 5 is ripping the board to width, using the straight edge against the table saw fence. Depending, this cut edge may be run with one single pass on the jointer to remove the saw marks. This has to be planned ahead.

Step 6 and 7 are squaring one end then cutting to length. You cannot cut a square end on a board if you don't have a straight edge to reference to.

All the various woodworking joints and details you want to cut are a piece of cake once you have properly prepared stock. Many do not have jointers or planers. If you do have them, they need to be set up and operated correctly or you won't get the desired results. Without them, you are limited in your control of the stock and everything related to the project. It's
one of the reasons so many on forums have trouble with accuracy and need secondary operations to make things fit.
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post #9 of 10 Old 02-03-2016, 08:07 PM Thread Starter
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thanks for all the great replies.!

The yard I buy from stores the hardwoods indoors, mostly standing on end against racks; the space is not heated or air conditioned, so same temp/humidity as outdoors. Once in my shop, I try to keep it at 50 or so and have A/C on when I plan to be working in the shop.

I do not have a moisture meter. Are the inexpensive ones from Harbor Freight accurate enough or should I purchase something else?

Thanks for the description of the method to prep rough cut lumber. It's pretty much the process I follow except I often flatten boards by attaching them to a flat piece of MDF and run them through the planer, propping up any corners that don't lie flat so it's stable on the board.

I think I'll stick with cherry for the clock, and will consider 5/4 for the long case parts to be sure they can be made flat.
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post #10 of 10 Old 04-25-2016, 11:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorman View Post
thanks for all the great replies.!

The yard I buy from stores the hardwoods indoors, mostly standing on end against racks; the space is not heated or air conditioned, so same temp/humidity as outdoors. Once in my shop, I try to keep it at 50 or so and have A/C on when I plan to be working in the shop.

I do not have a moisture meter. Are the inexpensive ones from Harbor Freight accurate enough or should I purchase something else?

Thanks for the description of the method to prep rough cut lumber. It's pretty much the process I follow except I often flatten boards by attaching them to a flat piece of MDF and run them through the planer, propping up any corners that don't lie flat so it's stable on the board.

I think I'll stick with cherry for the clock, and will consider 5/4 for the long case parts to be sure they can be made flat.

I think you should think about getting your own Moisture Meter, because for further projects it will be more easier. But don't buy the cheapest one or randomly, read reviews on the net and watch some videos:) I have also wrote a post about best wood moisture meter which I have used, you can read on my blog also:)

Read my personal blog about woodworking tools and learn from my mistakes and success !

Last edited by Steveayerse; 04-25-2016 at 11:15 AM.
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