Are there any problems that may arise due to mixing softwood and hardwood in making a glued up panel work piece?

I made this test panel last night with scrap pine and hardwood salvaged from a piece of hardwood I found.

pine and hardwood panel

I may use it as drawer front in our cottage bunk house, which is in an environment that may be hard on it. Unheated in very cold dry winters. Very humid periods in summer and about 50 ft from ocean.

More info...

  • this panel is 39" long
  • 1/2" thick
  • lighter wood strips are knotty pine 1" wide (but no visible knots in these strips)..
  • hardwood is oak, and they are 1/2" wide strips
  • Be sure to alternate the directions of the growth rings. – FreeMan Jul 1 '20 at 17:32
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    What is the thickness, length, and width of these panels your are glueing up? Are these short thin strips of wood? – Programmer66 Jul 1 '20 at 17:38
  • Added info to question – GWR Jul 2 '20 at 11:31
  • @FreeMan, that's a good general principle but can't always be followed because of other practical concerns (e.g. best face up) and possibly of no great importance with this application due to the narrowness of the strips and the intended use. – Graphus Jul 2 '20 at 13:01
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    P.S. Excellent glue joints by the way! – Graphus Jul 2 '20 at 13:05

This is actually a pretty common technique when making panels from smaller pieces, or it certainly was in the past.

As you have discovered, it makes for nice contrast.

Mechanically it is just as strong as any other panel you might make, allowing for careful jointing and glue-up. With today's excellent glues and correct clamping a panel like this is as good as a single-species panel.

My only caveat is that this technique was more common in the age before cheap sandpaper, and for good reason. Often such panels were planed after glue-up, and then maybe scraped smooth if finish planing wasn't possible (or you wanted the hand-scraped feel).

Unless care is taking with your sanding technique, powered sanders will tend to remove more of the softer woods, creating waves across the panel that correspond to the lighter and darker strips. This can create a situation where the woodworker ends up chasing level, removing way too much material in the process.

A longer sanding board with a light hand would have been the order of the day back then. Being very careful with even lighter orbital sanders would be advised. Or skip sanding except for the lightest pre-finishing, and in between coats of finish, letting the plane or scaper define level.

  • Very good point - I hadn't though about the softwood sanding down faster than the hardwood. The photo above is after it had gone through the planer (2 extremely shallow passes). After that, very lightly hand-sanded. – GWR May 13 at 22:57
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    @GWR it is a beautiful panel. nicely done. – jdv May 13 at 23:11
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    Re. the sanding issue, dead on, and it relates to one of the key reasons many would caution against mixing species this dissimilar in hardness. For anyone who would never power-sand it's not really a big deal at time of making, although you'd still have to be careful when scraping if any is needed after smooth-planing. – Graphus May 14 at 5:56
  • I think traditional guitar-makers either only scrape the tops, or use a very wide sanding drum for this reason. Quarter-sawn Sitka Spruce and the like is basically a sandwich of hard and soft growth rings that will easily have this same problem with careless sanding. – jdv May 14 at 17:23

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