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Thread: Inherited 50+ board feet of rough sawn walnut - looking for advice.

  1. #1

    Inherited 50+ board feet of rough sawn walnut - looking for advice.

    I'm very grateful to have received about 50 bf of rough sawn walnut after my grandpa passed away. He made lots of little trinkets for craft fairs, and always had new toys for us when we would visit as kids.

    The rough sawn boards are mostly 8/4 x 3 x 3'-5'. I have a 6" jointer and a dewalt planer and I've just started a project to build a simple hall table. I'm learning the hard way that planer/jointer knives do not like knots. Most of the boards have at least a couple knots (see attached photo), and after milling the first board, my knives already have a few good nicks leaving raised streaks. 20220630_081457.jpg
    So I guess I'm trying to figure out the best way to work with this material while keeping as much of it at full length as possible.

    Should I just power through and plan to change out the blades when I'm done with this project, or should I cut out and work around the knots?

    If I do just power through, should I just go ahead mill all 50 bf now so I don't have to mess up my blades in the future, or will I just have to go through it again if the boards move a little after sitting for months?

    Do helical cutter heads with carbide inserts do any better with knotty wood?

    Would material like this be better suited for other types of projects like turning or something else?

    Thanks for any help!

  2. #2
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    Itís probably not the knots. Itís most likely dirt or sand rough sawn seems to pick up debris easily. Try brushing with a wire brush and compress air. Check the ends of the boards too.
    For ordinary domestic wood like walnut Good High speed steel like T1 are better then a insert head.
    Good Luck
    Aj

  3. #3
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    In my experience helical heads do much better with knotty wood than straight knives, in both jointers and planers.

    I would surface the boards as you work on a project, not all at once.
    Shallower cuts will probably reduce tear out around reversing grain and knots.

  4. #4
    I'll make sure to give them a better cleaning and see if I have any better luck. Thanks!

  5. #5
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    If the walnut was stored in a shed, keep a strong eye on it. If you see any small diameter holes, or piles of fresh sawdust around it, there are powder post beetles in the sapwood. Get it out of your shop and make a decision on how to get it sterilized with heat.

  6. #6
    Based on your description, the picture and fact that most of the boards are only about 3 feet long, you're going to have to use at least some boards that contain knots, unless this table is tiny. As you've found, jointing and planing knotty material does tend to nick up knives, but sharpening or replacing knives is a routine part of woodworking, no big deal and the price to be paid to utilize this material that has special meaning to you.

    I would start by selecting the specific boards that will work best to construct your table. In doing so, give thought to how any knots present might make the board suitable or not suitable for particular parts of the table. To state the obvious, knots that are big or located on the board's edge generally are more problematic in terms of aesthetically unacceptable amounts of chip out or even structural weakness. You also want to make sure any areas of future joinery, like the end of an apron, are knot-free. So, for example, I'd start by finding boards from which you can extract sufficient material that is clear, or nearly so, as to make the legs, since this is the hardest place to work around knots. Then I would figure out the top, based on what will look best, since that's the most prominent element, and, last, the apron.

    Also, I would not mill up more material than you actually need, except perhaps to do a light pass just to know what the material looks like and gauge how much trouble any knots in it are likely to cause. If you process it all the way, some of that material will likely move some before you get round to using it, as you note, and will require a second round of jointing/thicknessing, which may cause it to end up thinner than you'd wish.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by David Stone (CT) View Post
    Based on your description, the picture and fact that most of the boards are only about 3 feet long, you're going to have to use at least some boards that contain knots, unless this table is tiny. As you've found, jointing and planing knotty material does tend to nick up knives, but sharpening or replacing knives is a routine part of woodworking, no big deal and the price to be paid to utilize this material that has special meaning to you.

    I would start by selecting the specific boards that will work best to construct your table. In doing so, give thought to how any knots present might make the board suitable or not suitable for particular parts of the table. To state the obvious, knots that are big or located on the board's edge generally are more problematic in terms of aesthetically unacceptable amounts of chip out or even structural weakness. You also want to make sure any areas of future joinery, like the end of an apron, are knot-free. So, for example, I'd start by finding boards from which you can extract sufficient material that is clear, or nearly so, as to make the legs, since this is the hardest place to work around knots. Then I would figure out the top, based on what will look best, since that's the most prominent element, and, last, the apron.

    Also, I would not mill up more material than you actually need, except perhaps to do a light pass just to know what the material looks like and gauge how much trouble any knots in it are likely to cause. If you process it all the way, some of that material will likely move some before you get round to using it, as you note, and will require a second round of jointing/thicknessing, which may cause it to end up thinner than you'd wish.
    Thanks David. Sounds like I'll just need to take more care in the planning and selection of material. I really appreciate the insight, it will help me prioritize when picking out the boards.

  8. #8
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    you could fill the holes / knots with epoxy to help with the tearout.

    How confident are you in the sharpness of your knives to begin with ?

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Sabo View Post
    you could fill the holes / knots with epoxy to help with the tearout.

    How confident are you in the sharpness of your knives to begin with ?
    Tearout has not been an issue yet, I'm mostly concerned about the streaks left by the nicks in the knives. I know I can shift the knives to help with that until more nicks appear, and I've got a set of brand new knives I can swap in if needed.

    When I bought the jointer, the guy said the knives basically brand new, so take that fwiw. I haven't used it a ton yet, but I've always gotten a nice finish from the jointer until these nicks appeared.

  10. #10
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    I never worry about planer knife nicks. The fine ridges sand off easily. I like knots in walnut...they add character. I fill with 5 minute epoxy colored with rotten stone. I've used 100s of bdft of air dried barn walnut...never worried about knife wear vs any other harwood. Just clean off surfaces of dirt grime, etc. Imho
    Jerry

    "It is better to fail in originality than succeed in imitation" - Herman Melville

  11. #11
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    Air dried walnut is just about the nicest and easiest wood to work. Machines like butter and handplanes nice too. Even knots donít seem to bother my chisels or irons.
    In fact all air dried wood has that advantage
    Aj

  12. #12
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    I think I would want to run that rough wood through the planer with the old knives one pass first, before I ruined a new set.
    Hobbyist

  13. #13
    Wire brush like a madman and maybe run a hand plane over first. A #4 can be sharpened much faster than a planer blade.

  14. #14
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    "Inherited 50+ board feet of rough sawn walnut - looking for advice." Best advice; send this annoying material to me for quick disposal .

    Seriously, as mentioned, wire brush dirty material. A wash job is not out of the question either. Just don't soak it and leave it lay. That is, if wet work is required, blow the material dry with compressed air after scrubbing.
    Take me to the hotel - Baggage gone, oh well . . .

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Coers View Post
    If the walnut was stored in a shed, keep a strong eye on it. If you see any small diameter holes, or piles of fresh sawdust around it, there are powder post beetles in the sapwood. Get it out of your shop and make a decision on how to get it sterilized with heat.
    Thanks for pointing this out. It was stored inside for probably the last couple decades, but there are definitely some beetle holes in the sapwood. As far as I can tell none of this is new since there are no new piles of sawdust or anything, but I'm going to clean these up a little and watch them carefully for any new activity.

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