Is there a process for wood similar to annealing for metals to relieve internal stress?

For example, if I have a thin piece of oak used for trim that is bowed sideways (bowed parallel to trimmed face), but I force it straight when gluing and clamping, is there something I can do to make it happy in its new position so it doesn't exert any force on the piece it was glued to?

I realize this may be a silly question. I also know there are better solutions, e.g. planing the trim or not using a bowed piece, lining up grain correctly, etc. I am wondering if this specific process exists, though and what it is called if it does (searching for "annealing wood" doesn't yield sensical results).

  • 3
    There have been various claims, eg that dropping the board would somehow shock it into releasing stored stress, but short of steaming it I don't think any of them work.
    – keshlam
    Oct 18, 2015 at 19:28
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    I second steaming. I haven't heard of any reliable means to "reset" the stresses in a piece of wood aside from that.
    – grfrazee
    Oct 18, 2015 at 19:35
  • I know we had a question related to this already....just have to find it. woodworking.stackexchange.com/questions/874/…
    – Matt
    Oct 18, 2015 at 19:43
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    In some cases, you can run a saw kerf/kerfs to weaken wood. This is handy for fitting to curves, where the kerf is perpendicular to the length, and I could imagine that a couple of kerfs might soften up a curve in a long board. Be very careful if you use a tablesaw for this, as a major contributor to accidents is bent/stressed wood. I'd suggest a circular saw. Oct 19, 2015 at 1:10
  • @AloysiusDefenestrate I have seen many deck related programs that do that with circular saws and 2x8, 2x10's
    – Matt
    Oct 20, 2015 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


Your best 'chance' is using moisture. Basically getting the wood 'wet' and straightening it, then letting it dry straight. Some woods and small bends might work with wetting/moistening the board. However, steaming the board is likely to be the most successful on the widest ranges of species and quality. It also is unlikely to be worth the extra effort vs. just buying another board that will meet your needs.

On top of all the work, of steaming the board, you still have to dry it back to usable moisture content before gluing it to the other boards or bad things can happen.

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