Measured once, cut twice

sapwood

Johnny’s big blunder

The picture above is worth a thousand curse words. Earlier this week, I milled up a couple boards of walnut that were to seamlessly wrap around the front and sides of my entry table. I carefully matched two thin streaks of sapwood and glued up the would-be focal point to pleasant effect. All was running smoothly until the following day, when as I was crosscutting the sides from the front, I made a faulty measurement and accidentally cut an inch under final length.

I calmly approached our teacher slightly ticked that I’d have to glue the board back together as I had during the footstool project. “You can always add to the width of a board,” he said, pausing to prepare me for the bad news, “but never the length.” My mistake was permanent. After omitting the sacred “measure twice, cut once” rule, I’d immediately forgotten another: not all glue surfaces are created equal. Bonding edge grain to edge grain and face grain to face grain makes use of plenty of flat glue surface. The end grain, however, where the miniscule xylem, or straws of the wood are exposed, makes for a lot of absorption, micro-movement and instability.

wood grain diagram

If all the grainy detail has confused you, please refer to the handy diagram above

Faced with the choice of constructing a table one inch less deep or milling up new stock, I chose the former (see the dramatic difference in the boards above). And while I’m sad to part with the original look, I’m already designing a small side table to make new use of the wood. “One thing’s for sure,” my teacher told me once I’d returned from my coffee/mental health break, “you’ll always remember this.” And remember it I will.

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One Response to Measured once, cut twice

  1. janet hogan says:

    Hi Johnny

    your descriptions of your woodlearning process are great…i am enjoying following your progress….hang in there….

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