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Why is it that on occasion, a straight piece of good quality wood (not firring or stud) that I will router a decorative edge onto or trim down a bit in a planer will almost immediately cramp up and distort? As if were torqued.

The bits and blades are all razor sharp and I take my time feeding the stock. It only happens occasionally but it's annoying.
 

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Dr. Gene Wengert had an article in Cabinetmaker Magazine a while back about casehardening. It's something that occurs when wood isn't dried properly. Assuming that you're not talking about movement near a knot or something and that it happens immediately, this might be the problem.
 

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Could be reaction wood - wood that has internal stresses - and then you have removed one of the opposing forces in the area you cut away with the planer or router, and it bent in reaction.
 

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Karma Carpentry is likely correct. All pieces of wood have tension from the grain. Some pieces will react extremely when the stresses are changed by the removal of some of the grain where the stresses are strong. You cannot always predict where, when, and to what extent this will occur, but if you remove wood equally from opposing faces or edges, you can sometimes minimize it.
 
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