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From recent question Will forcing a twisted drawer front flat cause issues?

Wood sometimes distorts after we make it final thickness. Can we avoid this?

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  • Note that the OP in the original question suggests that the twist might've been present in the rough piece ("I should have caught it sooner"). So the issue there may not have been distortion during/after milling, but rather distortion during the drying process before final milling.
    – Caleb
    Nov 3, 2021 at 6:16
  • @Caleb so? rouch wood rarely is 100% flat, we make flat boards from it.
    – Volfram K
    Nov 4, 2021 at 8:44
  • As the OP of the linked question, I'll say I'm almost certain the board was twisted before milling and I just missed it. Some other boards in the project were as well, but I was able to take it out with a planer sled. They have remained flat. Nov 8, 2021 at 16:35
  • @BrianThompson but how did you flatten 1st face of this board, and then make final thickness? Very hard to keep twist :)
    – Volfram K
    Nov 9, 2021 at 6:29
  • @VolframK - No it isn't... I've done it lots of times....
    – gnicko
    Nov 15, 2021 at 2:20

1 Answer 1

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It's not always possible to avoid it, but there are techniques to minimize this problem.

  • Good quality lumber that has been well dried is the best start!
  • Buy wood closest to needed thickness so you expose less of the core when milling. Usually this is also most economical because thicker boards are a higher price.
  • After purchase leave time for the wood to equalize with conditions in your workshop before use. 2-3 weeks, more if possible.
  • Quartersawn boards are more stable than flatsawn boards. But more expensive and may have boring grain. Or ugly figure such as in oak!
  • Wood with knots is less stable than 'clear' wood. But more expensive and possibly with less character.
  • Where you must reduce thickness by a lot, do not plane or sand to final thickness in a single session. Work in stages over some days. If a board distorts a little at one stage the next step can remove it.
  • Try to remove an equal amount from each face to equalize core exposure.
  • Only mill the wood that you will use immediately.

Where you cannot use milled wood immediately:

  • For a short delay, 1-2 days, stack boards with stickers between to prevent uneven water loss.
  • For longer delay, up to many weeks, place boards in plastic bags or wrap in plastic to minimize water exchange with air. This also prevents color change from light!

Many such techniques presented with other important tips for new woodworkers in this video from The Wood Whisperer Don't Make These Lumber Mistakes! | Tips for New Woodworkers on YouTube.

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    Wood distortion is usually drying related, but in some cases, cutting a perfectly dried/thicknessed board in half will release internal stresses and cause problems. Couple solutions: cut oversize initially, then be prepared to joint/thickness to final size. (I know -- that's a pain.) Or have spare pieces. Nov 2, 2021 at 0:46
  • @AloysiusDefenestrate this is in linked video. And my #2 bullet: unless boards are free salvage you pay more for volume of wood so it is false economy :( We all must resaw sometimes, but I was advised by 1 of my early instructors not to trust it for long boards unless wood was free salvage
    – Volfram K
    Nov 2, 2021 at 6:21

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