Wood has a mind of its own

Wood has a mind of its own. It cups, bows, twists, expands, contracts. A woodworker has to take into account seasonal wood movement when designing a project. A dresser drawer is a common example. It must be designed in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing, and yet constructed to move freely during the summer’s high humidity, when the wood will expand across the grain.

Recently, I took from inventory an urn to show to a prospective customer. To my surprise, the right front corner of the hinged lid was raised about 1/16” off the box. Certainly, I thought, I would not have finished this piece and left it in this condition. I proceeded to remove the hinges and investigate. I routed the mortises a little, thinking they were not deep enough in the lid to allow it to seat upon the box. That wasn’t the answer. Perhaps the mortises were too deep in the box? I cut small pieces of veneer and placed them underneath the hinges on the box’s base, as sometimes a mortise set too deep, as well as being too shallow, can cause the lid to be suspended. I had no luck.

After removing and reinstalling the hinges three times I was miffed. I took the piece inside and soon my 15-year-old son, who has an uncanny ability to notice the minutest detail, explored the situation. Sure enough, he discovered the lid had twisted—two high corners and two low corners. I remedied the problem by sanding the lid’s bottom with sandpaper adhered to glass.

The moral of the story? A project may not be finished, even after the maker thinks it is.

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