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Jim Morgans Wood Profits

Jim Morgan's Wood Profits

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Editor's Letter

Forget the Cutting Diagrams

Every so often I get a letter asking why we don't publish cutting diagrams for solid wood, the way we do for plywood.

The answer is simply that lumber is so varied—in width, quality and grain pattern—that a cutting diagram can do more harm than good. Learning to work with the grain of wood, in its infinite variety, is one of the most important skills in woodworking. It's also one of its greatest joys. When it comes to solid wood, no cutting diagram can guide you; only your eye can see the parts you need in the boards you have.

For example, I recently needed six pieces of butternut, and had the wood been perfectly clear and straight-grained (ha!), perhaps I could have used a cutting diagram. Instead, my board (shown at left) had cracks, knots, swirly grain and two weird black veins. I had no choice but to cut around these defects. Cutting diagrams simply don't take this real-life woodworking into account.

Most important, though, is that there are few tasks in woodworking as satisfying as figuring out how to cut parts from a board. How to get the grain in each part so it's interesting, but not wild, so it matches well with the parts that will be next to it, so the grain patterns complement the shape of the finished piece and so the colors of the parts are similar. Sure, this takes more time and sometimes a return trip to the yard for more lumber. But nothing can make such a dramatic improvement to your projects as being particular about the grain. So go ahead, on your next project, toss away that cutting diagram and go for the best grain you can get!

PS. Here's a tip:Yellow and red chalkboard chalk are great for laying out parts on a rough board, because you can just rub the marks off if you change your plan.

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Stack and sticker your wood to dry it out before using it for furniture.

Edited by Tom Caspar

Edited by Tom Caspar

Question&

Answer

Is Construction Lumber Good For Furniture?

Q* I've tried to use construction-grade lumber for furniture, but the wood warped like crazy. How can I prevent that?

Harold Lindstrom

A. You cant use this wood as it is. You've got to do some selective cutting first and then dry out the wood before making furniture with it.

Construction-grade lumber warps for two main reasons. First, boards often contain unstable wood from the center of the tree. You can spot this by wood by ripping your board on the tablesaw. Second, crosscut the boards on either side of large knots, which cause a board to kink as it dries. Don't worry about small knots. Third, stack and sticker the wood indoors until it dries out. Weight your lumber with cinder blocks or sandbags to help keep it flat. Drying may take anywhere from a few weeks in a very dry environment to a few months in a more humid one.

Stack and sticker your wood to dry it out before using it for furniture.

looking at the growth rings at the end of the board. If you see rings that are almost a full circle, that area of the board is likely to cup and twist.

Second, it's too wet. The industry standard for construction-grade lumber is about 19-percent moisture content. For making furniture, the moisture content should be far less, about 7 to 9 percent. At this point, boards are unlikely to warp any further.

Both problems are easy to solve. First, cut out the unstable center

Buy wide and long boards to get the best yield of stable wood.

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