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Thread: Buying Straight, Flat Wood....and keeping it that way.....

  1. #1

    Unhappy Buying Straight, Flat Wood....and keeping it that way.....

    I often purchase some pieces of lumbar from my local blue or orange store. When I'm planning a project I like to buy the lumber soon after the planning is complete because the project details are fresh in my mind. I often do not get time to work on the project that day or within a few days though. I live in AZ, down in the valley, so it's very very hot and dry. I find that straight lumber at the store soon turns to warped, not so flat lumber in my garage.

    Are there any good ways of keeping lumber as flat as when you buy it? I hate getting excited about a nice piece of hardwood and then finding it is warped and bowed when I go to use it.

    At the very least I would love to find a good way to straighten lumber. I'm a beginner, so any idea that works is a good idea to me!

    Oh, yes, and this is my first post to Sawmill Creek! I've already read a lot of good information on this site, I look forward to many more readings and, when I'm more experienced in the woodworking trade, I hope to contribute as often as I benefit from the site.
    Last edited by Brandon Weiss; 10-05-2009 at 10:35 PM.

  2. #2
    the only way to store lumber is in the rough or sized larger than what you need. That way when you get to your project you can surface it then.

    I dont know of anyway you can keep wood from moving as it accepts and releases moisture.

    It sounds like the material you are buying isnt as dry as it should be. Even if it is, your non-insulated garage getting up to 120 degrees during the day i acting like an oven drying the wood even more.

    You may want to store the lumber inside the house. Sticker it and weight it down. That may help.
    Fullerbuilt

  3. #3
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    If you have a jointer and a planer, you can buy nicer quality wood in rough..

    I have some Rift sawn oak in the shop, paid top dollar for it and bought it from a company called Hardwoods.. No problems

    Some companies buy there inventory on price, others buy it on quality ..

    Dont know how relevant that is in Arizona, where the shock of going from an air conditioned store to a 100 degree garage is ruthless..

    once its warped, you need to use it for "shorter" projects.. If you can somehow straighten it again, I wouldnt trust it to not warp again.

  4. #4
    Not trying to hijack thread, I'm also new to woodworking myself... on a related question, can twisted lumber be saved? Would gluing up two twisted boards give one straighten board twice the thickness?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Trinh View Post
    Not trying to hijack thread, I'm also new to woodworking myself... on a related question, can twisted lumber be saved? Would gluing up two twisted boards give one straighten board twice the thickness?
    When you consider how much effort and time goes into building something out of wood, using something that doesnt want to be the shape you intend it to be is just bad practice..

    If you glue the warp out of wood, you now run a big risk of it cracking.. especially if its a hardwood.

  6. #6
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    My solution would be to quit buying wood at the local blue or orange stores. They are the WalMarts of the lumber world, and unless you give your projects and your time just that much importance, I would search for a real supplier with quality wood, and you will probably save money as a bonus.

    For example: I figured out the Bd. Ft. price of Poplar one day when I bought a board at a big box. It was $5.72 a ft. Now they change the way that lumber is traditionally priced so that many will not be able to compare, but you can't fool me!

    The last load of poplar I bought from Johnsons Lumber I paid $1.32 cents a board foot. Now I have to admit it was not wrapped in plastic, but it was a full 4/4, it was from Southern Ill. where the best poplar comes from, it was properly kiln dried, and they did deliver it to my shop. So at 23% of the cost of the big box, I made a bit more profit, and I have better wood.
    Last edited by Larry Edgerton; 10-06-2009 at 6:09 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eiji Fuller View Post
    ....I dont know of anyway you can keep wood from moving as it accepts and releases moisture......It sounds like the material you are buying isnt as dry as it should be......You may want to store the lumber inside the house. Sticker it and weight it down. That may help.
    Actually, the lumber could have been well within standard MC% when it arrived at the store. Like any retailer, the boxes want to turn their inventory, so this could have been delivered fairly recently. I swear - sometimes it seemed to me that the humdity in Phoenix area was negative. I agree with sticker & weight (serious weight) and, if SWMBO will allow it, inside the house where the environment is more controlled. If you can, let it acclimate for a couple weeks or more. Then - when you get ready to start the project, you gotta be ready to GO - rip, joint, plane, and glue up in same day. Add stress relief in the fiber to the drying process, and you will see wood spaghetti in a day or two. After that, you should be fine (as long as you allowed for movement in design .)

  8. #8

    options

    I have used several methods to 'straighten' warped boards:

    If the board is cupped (looks like a U when you look down the length) I will rip it down the middle, joint faces, joint the ripped edges and glue them back together. You lose more than a saw kerf of width, but you can keep the thickness. If you face joint then plane a wide cupped board you will do a LOT of work and end up with a very thin board that will probably try to cup again.

    If the board is twisted (rocks from opposite corners when laid down flat) I usually try to cut out smaller pieces from it. As the boards get shorter there is less twist.

    If you are doing shelves, etc out of hardwood you might be able to straighten thin stock by 'trapping' it in place. I recently did this with a bookcase. The shelves were 3/8" thick oak and were glued into 3/8" dados. The shelves cupped a little, maybe 1/4" but I muscled them into the straight dado slots.

    If a board has several drying defects and is full of knots I throw it out. Especially if you are buying rough lumber there will be parts of boards that are just not suitable for 'fine' woodworking. You can spend (waste) a lot of time on these and at the end the board will still be garbage.

    Don't let the quality of your material detract from the quality of your work.

    -Brian
    Last edited by Brian Kincaid; 10-07-2009 at 8:17 AM. Reason: felt it needed a little emphasis.

  9. #9
    Always sticker lumber that has been finished to the final dimension until you get ready to use it so that air can circulate evenly around all sides of the boards. This will allow the board to acclimate to a new relative humidity and temperature without uneven drying forces on the board. For example, say you just flat stacked the lumber in the corner somewhere. The boards in the interior of stack are not getting any air flow so they will acclimate very very slowly. When you get ready to do the project and unstack them, they are not fully stable to the environment, so they will move some as they try to acclimate. This creates cupping and warping risk.

    Consider the board on top of the flat stack. If gets lots of air flow on the top side and none on the bottom side. This uneven exposure will cause the topside to gain or lose moisture much much faster than the botton side, setting up uneven forces on the boards two flat surfaces. The result is a cupped board that may not have cupped at all if both side of the board was exposed evenly to the air. When the boards are stable to the interior environment, they can be safely flat stacked.

    However, when kiln dried lumber is stored outside in a shed, keep the lumber flat stacked while outside. This retards moisture gain from the ambient environment because there is no air flow thru the flat stack. Then, when you move some of the lumber to the shop for a project, sticker it to let it get acclimated. It is a good idea to maintain a little inventory inside so that you are not always having to wait on the boards to stabilize.

  10. #10
    Brandon,

    The lumber at the big box stores is not the way to go. It is purchased in bulk and shipped all over the country with no regard for its final destination. In this case AZ. The wood needs to be dried carefully in order to avoid defect. This means controlling the humidity so that it dries slowly.

    Your best bet if you do not have the tools to joint and plain is to purchase from a reputable lumber dealer. They will have lumber that is already acclimated to your climate. This will more than likley save you money in wasted material.

    James

  11. #11
    I agree with the others that if possible locate another source for your hardwood. The Borgs (Blue Orange and other colors) are not fussy about their wood storage and often leave wood exposed outside before it appears on the shelf in the store.

    The second problem is where you live. I built a dresser for my son and shipped it from PA to Arizona (Tucson). After a year there the tops had shrunk nearly 1/4" in width due to the reduce humidity. The lumber was all kiln dried and worked in my shop in PA where it has an MC of 8%, yet it shrank in Arizona. After they moved to New York State, the wood has returned to the original dimensions.

    When ever you buy lumber bring it home and stack it so it is stickered and weighted or clamped for several weeks before starting to work on it. If you plane a piece of wood try to remove equal amounts from each surface. When you quit work not knowing when you will return take time to sticker pieces of the project in process instead of leaving them stacked.

    You sometimes get lucky removing warps, twists or cupping, but most likely the wood will return to that shape at some point on its own, usually right after it is glued in place on a project. DAMHIKT
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  12. #12
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    Wood moves

    Wood moves and your best bet is to let it do what it wants, and then deal with it. Makes woodworking without a jointer and planer a challenge, but regardless of the source all wood has a mind of its own. This is another advantage to buying rough sawn lumber is often when you buy surfaced stock you end up milling it again anyway, and rough lumber gives you more room to work.

    Buy your stock well in advance of a project if you can, and after it acclimates to your shop and reaches equilibrium rough mill your parts oversize. Then sticker them, and wait as long as you can. They will likely freak out and move again as the moisture content once again is going to be higher towards the center of the board. Try to remove equal amounts of material from both sides while planing/jointing.

    When re sawing thin parts off thick your going to want to use wood thats as well seasoned as you can get!

    Once your rough parts have had a chance to do what they want to do, joint them and plane them once again, and cut your joinery. Its a good idea at this time to dry assemble parts as it will help keep them from moving yet again.

    The number one thing to think about in woodworking before anything else is the fact that wood moves and you can only fight it, and try to stop it. Wood movement is going to weigh heavily on design and construction of furniture.

    Now the above rules are ideal, I break them every day because I just can't wait a month sometimes to get started on a project. But keep the general concept in your mind and be aware that your working with a product that has a mind of its own.

    One you get a feel for what boards with certain grain will do your lumber choices are much easier. This is hard to describe and best learned from experience, but obviously grain that runs strait down the board is your best bet. But often for visual appearance you have to work with things that you wouldn't want to.
    Last edited by Michael Schwartz; 10-06-2009 at 10:20 PM.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kent A Bathurst View Post
    Actually, the lumber could have been well within standard MC% when it arrived at the store. Like any retailer, the boxes want to turn their inventory, so this could have been delivered fairly recently. I swear - sometimes it seemed to me that the humdity in Phoenix area was negative. I agree with sticker & weight (serious weight) and, if SWMBO will allow it, inside the house where the environment is more controlled. If you can, let it acclimate for a couple weeks or more. Then - when you get ready to start the project, you gotta be ready to GO - rip, joint, plane, and glue up in same day. Add stress relief in the fiber to the drying process, and you will see wood spaghetti in a day or two. After that, you should be fine (as long as you allowed for movement in design .)
    I disagree, strongly.

    The wood is going to do what the wood will do no matter what. When you buy good lumber that has been dried properly it will never move as much as a piece that was handled , well how? You have no idea what process the wood that you buy at the Borg went through, where it came from, and the salesmen may blow smoke up your dress, but they have no idea either. I agree with EiJi, buy wood prepared to satisfy professionals, store it in the rough, and prepare as needed.

    I disagree however with forcing a piece of wood to stay straight, eventually it will go where it wants, and I would rather know before rather that after. I store my wood vertically for this reason.

    If you want a great steak, the first thing you need to do is buy a great steak. Same goes with wood. In the end good wood is always cheaper and produces a better product.

  14. #14

    Sticker

    What is stickering wood?


  15. #15
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    Stickers are spacers used between boards to allow air to circulate through a stack, and allows moisture to leave all sides of the wood evenly, helping to prevent warping. Stickers are usually made from dry pieces of hardwood.

    You can Google "stickering wood", and find a few pictures of examples of stickering. I would post links, but they are on other public forums, and posting such links is verboten here.

    Dan
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