Sometimes wood just doesn't cooperate..


Corporate Member

Above is the start of a post of a table build.

Its been a while since I posted some work I have been doing but I finally had some time to step back and do something with a table. The table is a trestle style but it has some unique elements to the design and I added a couple to suit my fancy.


The legs are interesting but the table is built around the design of a slab of walnut 17" wide and 58" long being cut and bookmatched for a special top. I hoped. I have done several of these and thought it would be a walk in the park as so to speak.

I took the slab(17wide x 57"long x 2") down to Scott Smith(walnut not from his stock I might add) and he helped me open the slab into 2 equal pieces that match as desired. Troubles immediately followed.

As soon as the boards separated, they began to cup the entire length. One board was worse than the other. I thought I could bring it back to level at the time but things got worse before they got better. The small crack at the top of each board went from small to 12" in.


This is after spending a day in the sun hoping it would equalize. No luck. Imagine folks it was almost 1/2" cup.


The stress crack just kept getting bigger.


When I came out to check on the cup arc, I found the 5" crack was now 12" in from the good edge.


When I flipped the board over the pith began to separate from the face. This was the deal breaker for me.

When I decided on the walnut I understood it was kiln dried and stable. Well?

As you can imagine with wood on the north side of 10bf, this is a bust indeed. Yes some of you might think just cut it into narrow strips and glue them up like a picnic table. If that's what I had in mind at the start, I would have used boards from my piles.

So there maybe light at the end of the tunnel: the 2 boards are 16" wide x 57 long x 1" thick and they will soon be for sale at a reduce rate in the near future.

This has been a disappointment indeed as I have done this with air dried wood and had no issues at all in the past. Makes you wonder?? I take no comfort in patting myself on the back with my old argument that air dried wood can be just as stable as the oven cooked stuff. Yes there can be bugs.

This business of working with a living material is full of surprises. Unfortunately, this one didn't work out. I'll post something when I pull my head together and find some good stock.

till then
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Corporate Member
Dan, so sorry to read about the uncooperative walnut. That said, I found it interesting to read about your efforts to salvage the boards, I wouldn't have known what to attempt. When you invest in wood as pricy as walnut, disappointment has several dimensions. I am confident, however, that you will ultimately make lemonade out of a lemon.


Corporate Member
Donn I'm thinkin' again about what Winston Churchil used to say- if you'r going thru hell don't stop. Got to keep going to get some other results. Hey its not like a fish hook in the eye.


Corporate Member
I feel your pain. I had something similar happen with some "kiln dried' white oak (not after resawing, but just cutting a 10' piece to five inches. Similar checking from each side of the cut.) I guess kiln drying is good, but I think the quality of the end product is determined by who is running the kiln. (I have never had problems with the wood I got from Scott Smith, for example). If the wood is dried too quickly, stress is induced. Then again, this could be wood from a storm tree that saw a lot of wind stress before it came down. Even if that was the case, I would have thought the defects would have shown during drying if done properly. I am no expert, though. In any case, I would be leery about getting more wood from the same source.

Sorry for the loss.


Senior User
Sorry for you loss and aggravation, I definitely feel your pain!. I am trying to wrap my head around the thought of leaving a pith in a plank though. To me, that would spell disaster no matter where it was. I n a plank, turning, anywhere , air or kiln dried, Ive always been of the school the pith needs to go. Am I wrong in this assumption?.


Corporate Member
Chris this was a small leap for me. The 8/4 slab did not include the pith but it was close. the issue was the bottom of the board that was not obvious when evaluating it in slab form.

It bugs me that it didn't work out and I have to go hunting for another table top. I think I have resigned my thinking to adding another wood to the mix. Maybe a maple top with walnut undercarriage. I'll have to see really. The project has taken on a new personality and unfortunately its moving to the corner of the shop for now.

I just finished making up several wooden dashboards for some old English sports cars and they came out pretty well so now I am making my way back to chairs, rifles and .... a frustrating table. Its that time of the year to get some oak and bend some chair parts.


Steam pot with propane burner really gets the job done quickly.


Most students wanting to learn to build a chair want to make an arm chair. Looking back on 40 plus years of making chairs for customers, I have made 3xs as many bowbacks as all the others combined. And thats well over 250 chairs.


I guess its time to get some work done. I have over 200 legs done and I need to make some stretchers.


Dan, I definitely feel your pain/frustration on this one. I think every woodworker has been there at one time or another. I think you're taking the right approach in setting it aside for now.

Nice chairs!


Corporate Member
Actually, I have bought the white oak for bending the last 2 times from Scott Smith. Regardless, its that time of the year and as the leaves fall the steam rolls.


Corporate Member
After 100 you start to catch on I guess. I enjoy building them but with all the schools and instructors teaching windsor chair building sales have dropped off considerably these days.

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