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Q & A: Warped Wood Woes


Q & A: Warped Wood Woes


I ordered a milled piece of ebony through the mail last winter. It looked great upon arrival, but after a few days it was so warped and twisted that I couldn’t use it.What gives?


Watching your prized ebony turn into a potato chip must’ve hurt! Chances are this board had a fairly high moisture content (10 to 12 percent) when it was shipped. It arrived in a dry winter environment,where wood can have a moisture content as low as 5 or 6 percent.Your board started to dry out as soon as you unwrapped it. Attempting to keep a board from changing shape while drying is a bit like trying to stop a glacier,but here are some things to try next time:

• Buy rough lumber. You’ll need a jointer and planer to mill it, but if you start out with thicker wood you’ll have more leeway if it warps.

• Use a moisture meter. Compare the moisture content of your new wood with old wood stored in your shop. Don’t mill your new wood until it’s about the same moisture content as the old stuff.

• Paint the ends.Wood dries out faster through its ends and can crack if it dries too fast. Paint slows down the rate at which end grain loses moisture.

• Stack your wood off the floor. Concrete floors can be very damp.

• Place stickers between the boards. All sides of your wood should be equally exposed to air so they dry at equal rates.

• Weight your boards. This helps keep them flat and straight, but it’s no guarantee. You’ve done about all you can do.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Stack and sticker mail-order wood as soon as it arrives.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August 2001, issue #88.

August 2001, issue #88

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