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I made this chess board then accidentally left it in a garage for a few months before finishing it, causing a very significant warp presumably due to humidity changes.

Things I'm considering:

  1. Gluing wood spars along the bottom/sides that would force it back into shape
  2. Steaming it with a clothes steamer then clamping it flat and letting it slowly dry
  3. Some combination of the two?

enter image description here enter image description here

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  • The warp you experienced here is recoverable (fairly easily, since it appears to be merely an example of differential drying) however the long-term stability will remain questionable — we have multiple previous Q&As here on flattening warps which give some insights into the method(s) you could employ, and most will mention the potential for warps to re-occur, In any case, this may be an object example of why chess boards aren't built this way (at least boards of this size).
    – Graphus
    Commented Feb 5 at 8:43
  • Any chance you could point me toward a Q&A that would be relevant to me? I haven't been able to find anything that seems specific enough for me to be confident it's the right answer for my case.
    – James
    Commented Feb 5 at 23:10
  • The same principles apply regardless of the specifics — swell the contracted side or dry the expanded side, or both; possible use of heat from some source to help the process along; maybe over-flexing in the opposite way to compensate for any tendency for the wood to spring back. People do this is all sorts of ways that cover some or all of the above and report success (although frustratingly it is much more rare to hear about how the flattening has held up over time).
    – Graphus
    Commented Feb 6 at 8:31
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    It's worth emphasising a point @AloysiusDefenestrate made below, that even with finish this is going to want to move over time. You will reduce this tendency (the speed at which the wood responds and its severity) by applying a good moisture-blocking finish, but nothing short of epoxy or other thick resin coating will truly seal wood and make it completely unresponsive to humidity changes. This is why chess boards are generally made with a dimensionally stable substrate underneath, be it plywood, MDF or something else.
    – Graphus
    Commented Feb 6 at 8:36

1 Answer 1

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It looks like you have glued the squares to a thin piece of plywood or particle board. The glue-up will put pull that side of the board up if there is no equal pull on the opposite side. IF the mounting panel had been thick enough you may have avoided this problem (maybe). If you look at plywood, it always has an odd number of layers for exactly that reason. It might be possible to fix this by gluing a new layer on the under side, placing the new layer under the board, and applying enough weight to the entire surface to hold it flat during its dry-up. Otherwise, start over (no guarantees).

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  • Actually the squares are just glued to each other and nothing else (other than the bottom rim pieces). The top of the board is actually the side that's not visible in the photos, it's just hard to see the warping from that angle. All of the wood is hardwood, black walnut and maple for the squares and mahogany for the rim pieces.
    – James
    Commented Feb 2 at 21:59
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    If this was mine, I’d be thinking about how to glue the whole thing flat to a stable substrate. Thin squares, bound only by edging, are likely to move forever — finish or not. Commented Feb 3 at 15:45

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