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October 17, 2018Olen Murriel

For wood workers, there is only an unending list of alternative wood types in the entire universe that could be conveniently used. However, regardless of the type of wood one works with, wood movement is generally bound to occur. Wood movement is the expansion and/or contraction of wood. This movement is due to the dryness or wetness of the wood which is influenced by air environmental temperature and humidity as well as the variety of wood. All trees have one thing in common – over 50 percent of their mass is water (sap). Wood is hard to burn when freshly cut and can be heavy when wet or dry depending on the tree species. It is also susceptible to rot when wet. When wood dries, it moves. A lot of warping and bulging of wood fiber has usually occurred with regard to weather by the time it dries up. Therefore, working with either too wet or too dry wood may prove stressful to work with during projects. this presents the need to dry wet wood significantly by either air drying or oven drying.


Ultimately, project wood should be in tandem with the project surroundings on condition that the wood will have some kind of humidity exchange with the environment depending on the climate. Since humidity levels fluctuate in a given year, the wood must be able to correct the humidity difference between itself and its surrounding. In addition, such wood will also adapt to relative humidity changes which caused by changes in project location. Like if a decision entails moving the wood working project from a very humid New Orleans, Louisiana to a low humidity zone such as Las Vegas, Nevada, the wood will have to give moisture to its surrounding to reach optimal work-ability state.


Being adequately equipped with basic knowledge especially on wood movement is pivotal in wood working. When wood fibers absorb moisture, they bulge and when they release moisture. They change causing the entire wood to either expand or shrink. This bulging and shrinking depends majorly on the moisture content of the wood and that of the air. So does the breath and width of the wood. The most movement occurs on the board surfaces where the grains intersect at a ninety degree angle or even close to ninety degrees. Grain orientation is also important in that floor wooden boards move less across their width which means the fiber is less likely to swell. Wood expansion should not be underestimated since the cumulative small variations are significant.


A crucial way of dealing with wood movement could be working with wood types that are less affected by humidity than others. An example of this would be plywood or Medium Density Fiberboard. In addition, working with quarter-sawn material such as lumber reduces wood movement when making parts by reducing the chances of joints loosening or the wood getting cracks due to uneven movement. Drying of the wood improves its work-ability. It is also necessary to focus on grain orientation and leaving room for movement which occurs in two directions.


Ignoring wood movement may have negative consequences on woodwork projects. The Gluing boards is an easy art to be well mastered by wood workers while making table tops. The boards are quality with similar grain patterns and colors although the end grains must face opposite directions to prevent cupping. If the colors are similar but with varying, arranging them would be appropriate for optimal merging of their distinctions. After that, shuffling to get appealing real grain colors, marking and numbering for easy assembling would be necessary. When finally assembling the boards into a table top, Just enough glue should be applied evenly and smoothly using a finger as a guide and then sliding the glued edges together making sure the boards are well aligned. For desks, the table tops should be laid such that the boards’ and grains are on the table’s widths. Wood movement in this case should be restricted at the front of the desk using screws. At the back of the desk, screws should also be used but this time fastened in slots to permit board movement.


Wood projects will always succeed if rules of the wood are well followed.

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