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First of all, I am a complete beginner! I've recently bought a couple of wood boards(~50cm×50cm×2cm) to make a board game scenery. It needs to be completely straight so that it can be placed on a table and played on it. I've noticed it started to bend so I clamped it to a straight surface to stop from bending and it thankfully has stopped. My concern is that once I release it and paint it, it will bend again. I was thinking of buying some wood/steel/aluminium ribbons/strips and screw it to the base of the board in a square shape(?) to keep it flat. Is that going to work? What does one usually do in this cases?

Thanks in advance!

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  • Sorry to hear about your boards warping. Unfortunately fairly common with pine because of the way that much of this kind of wood is processed these days! We need to know a bit more about how you would intend to attach the metal to the wood to be able to advise properly on this. But boards 2cm thick can exert considerable force if they begin to warp again, enough that they could easily distort flat strips unless the metal is really strong (which thin strips are unlikely to be). L-shaped strip or channel (C-shaped) on the other hand could be strong enough to resist the strain, but no guarantees.
    – Graphus
    Mar 6 at 18:00
  • @Graphus Thank you so much for your help! To be completely honest I would have mprovised with those strips... Could you explain a bit how you would attach the L-shape/C-shape strips? Maybe that works for my project! Mar 6 at 23:45
  • Sorry I can't go into it in the Comments. The rules say specifically not to use Comments for this, but while I often ignore this to try to help there's simply not enough space to allow for a useful response for you. You have to tell us (ideally with a sketch, doesn't have to be a Leonardo but something) and we respond to that with an appropriate Answer. If you want to get into a discussion about this with some back and forth the conventional forum format is ideal, and there are many fora to pick from including local ones for most countries/regions if you're not in the US.
    – Graphus
    Mar 7 at 8:08
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    But I do have one recommendation for you: if you need a big flat board your best bet is to buy a big flat board! What I'm saying is use plywood, MDF or chipboard/particleboard instead of solid wood. All the manmade boards can be dead flat when you buy them, and are pretty good at staying that way. And additionally to make a panel from individual boards of solid wood is not actually that easy for the complete beginner as it requires certain techniques, skills and equipment (specifically clamps) that you probably don't have yet.
    – Graphus
    Mar 7 at 8:15
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    If you want to discuss it, there's also SE's chat though the woodworking chat room isn't particularly active. Read that with a British bent toward understatement... If you want something that doesn't look like it belongs on the side of a house, there are high quality hardwood plywoods that look very nice and are available in project sizes.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 8 at 17:22
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What you're describing is a medium sized solid wood panel that is likely to be "cupping".

A "Cupped" board

This is a phenomenon that happens with solid wood boards/panels so the most practical solution for a beginner would probably be to use a different material - such as plywood or MDF. These engineered materials will be perfectly flat from the factory, and are not subject to the wood movement forces that a solid board or panel would be subject to. A nice hardwood plywood with edge banding that you add could still look nice for your board gaming application.

What if you want to salvage your existing panel? You're going to have to constrain the cupping while still allowing for seasonal wood movement. There are many approaches to doing this but I will outline just 2:

  1. Use metal c channel or angle to constrain wood movement on the bottom, or on the sides. A flat strip of metal on the bottom will not resist the cupping action of the panel. Fasten the metal channel/angle to the sides or bottom of the panel using screws in slotted holes to allow for wood movement. To see if the metal you have selected is strong enough for the task, try clamping your cupped panel to metal channel and see if the panel flattens out. If the metal is too weak, you'll notice the metal bending and the wood remaining cupped. See, for example, this large drafting table top kept flat in part by the metal channel on the sides:

Backside of a drafting table

  1. Make breadboard ends for the panel. This is a fairly advanced woodworking technique for keeping solid wood panels flat on tabletops or, originally, breadboards! Ultimately, the goal here is the same as with the metal - use a cross-grain support to constrain the cupping, while still allowing for seasonal expansion/contraction of the panel. There is a plethora of breadboard end information out there - you just need to know the term.

Exploded view of breadboard end joinery

In summary - the easiest solution for a consistently flat wood panel is to use an engineered wood material like plywood or MDF. If you want to use the panel you already have, you may be able to contain the cupping with some strategically placed, cross-grain c channel. For those looking to tackle a more traditional/advanced woodworking solution to the problem - this is a case for breadboard ends.

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