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Dealing with wood defects

Dealing with wood defects 1
To put a straight edge on a crooked board, stick it on a long, straight carrier, such as a strip of plywood (about 3/4X8X60"), using double-faced tape. Guide the carrier along the tablesaw fence to rip off one bad edge.
There's no such thing as the perfect board. But you can salvage a lot of "challenged" lumber using these tricks.

In woodworkers' dreams, all wood looks like the boards we see in cutting diagrams: flat and straight with parallel edges and not a single knot or inconsistency. In reality, though, wood is far from perfect. Even the best grades often suffer from one or more of the defects shown in these drawings.

The best way to deal with lumber defects is, of course, to avoid questionable boards in the first place. But if a board has great grain, is the only one available that suits your needs, or carries a bargain price, don't reject it just because of a few problems. Use the following tricks to get the most from less-than-perfect lumber.

DEFECT
Bow: A board that rocks from end to end when laid on one face.

Dealing with wood defects 3

SOLUTION
Salvage a bowed board by crosscutting it into shorter sections, matching the lengths of pieces to the curve of the board.

Use areas that are too bowed to produce flat stock to test setups or finishes. You may be able to create small parts, such as cleats or spacers, from the bowed pieces.

DEFECT
Crook: A board that rocks from end to end when laid on one edge.

Dealing with wood defects 4

SOLUTION
How you straighten the edge of a crooked board depends on the severity of the defect. If the crook is mild, run the concave edge over your jointer to straighten it. Use caution to prevent the leading end from catching on the outfeed table.

For boards with severe crook, options exist. You can crosscut the board into shorter pieces, then joint each, as discussed above. You also can rip off the crooked edge at the tablesaw using a long carrier board, as shown in photo above. Or snap a straight line on the board, cut it with a handheld circular saw, then joint the edge smooth.

DEFECT
Cup: A board that rocks from edge to edge when laid on one face.

Dealing with wood defects 5

SOLUTION
Rip a wide, cupped board into narrow flat sections, as shown in Photo B. Rip each piece slightly wider than you need, then rerip or joint the edges square to the face. You even can glue these sections back together to create a wide board.

Dealing with wood defects 2
Rip cupped boards with the convex face against the saw table. A scrap clamped to the fence guides the workpiece and holds the portion being cut flat against the table.

Transform mildly cupped lumber into flat, thinner boards. First, joint the concave face flat, and then plane the other face parallel.

DEFECT
Twist: A board that rests on opposite diagonal corners when laid on one face.

Dealing with wood defects 6

SOLUTION
A severely twisted board is difficult to save. You may salvage short pieces, though, by using a combination of the methods previously described.

DEFECTS
Checks and shakes
: Checks are cracks across the growth rings. Shakes are cracks between the rings.

Dealing with wood defects 7

SOLUTION
These cracks occur at the ends of boards, so you may simply cut off the bad areas. But don’t be too hasty. Good narrow pieces often exist on either side of a check.

Shakes, because of their orientation, usually have to be cut off. Be leery of boards with excessive shake. This may be a result of the board simply being dropped on one end, but shakes also can be a sign of improper drying.

DEFECTS
Knots: These are remnants of branches.

SOLUTION
If they’re tightly held in the wood, knots usually pose just appearance problems. Use these boards in inconspicuous places where the knots won’t show. Loose knots, on the other hand, may fall out or be pulled free by cutting bits and blades. Cut out and discard areas with loose knots.

Written by: David Stone
Illustrations: Mike Mittermeier
Photographs: Marty Baldwin

 

Dealing with wood defects 1

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