Wood Movement

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Forum topic by Beeguy posted 01-21-2009 08:35 PM 1092 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Beeguy's profile


179 posts in 3903 days

01-21-2009 08:35 PM

Hi Everyone,

I used five 8” wide pine boards to make a panel. I used a few biscuits, glue and cleat in the back for support. The panel was used for a high back bench. I did this in November. The wood had been stored in the shop for a long time. I don’t know the MC. The project was finished and moved into the house. About 6 weeks later one of the joints opened and pulled apart about 1/16”. In thinking back there is a possibility that one of the boards had been brought in to the shop from an unheated (but dry) outbuilding not too long before use.

It is pretty obvious what happened but my question is in regards to making panels. My next project is a pine hutch where again I want to use a solid wood panel for the back. I also thought that movement in pine was somewhat less than hardwoods.

I put an edge on each board that emphisizes it the panel is made of multiiple boards so I could use a modified tongue and groove joint that would allow for movement but I was hoping for another/simpler way. Bottom line, what is your favorite method for making panels that will be used for the backs of country style cupboards, hutches, etc.?

-- Ron, Kutztown, PA "The reward is in the journey."

4 replies so far

View Waldschrat's profile


505 posts in 3702 days

#1 posted 01-21-2009 10:00 PM

Here is a great method that I use often… you dont see how the panel is held together from the front and it keeps the panel straight and allows for movement. This is VERY simplified sketch, and I use it often for doors, and such applications but works well for panels as well. It is simply a piece of wood that would go across the top and bottom of the panel on the end grain ends. It is a groove that is cut and a hard wood lat that is pinned in. To make sure that the size does not change from the over all. the pinns on the outside boards must be positioned closer to the outside that the wood can expand and contract from the inside. The pins can go through or just shy of the surface from the back so you do not see them from the front. The tounge should be cut wide enough so the cross piece of wood can be fit in and still not be seen from the front… well it does not have to be, but in my opinion it looks the best.

quick sketch

I hope this is clear discription. I have a few more versions when anyone has interest. You can cut any kind of profil for example wainscoat beading or something common in country style cupboards.

If this is too much effort, which i could understand for a rustical piece of furniture… you could just pin the boards in the middle with screws on the back of the cabinet, in the middle… it is important no matter the moisture content to allow for movement of the wood and that means generally when working with boards as a paneling to attach them in the middle in order to divide the movement in half, and not to use too large of boards because that just means more expansion.

Last but not least… sometimes hardwoods are more stable than softwoods, just depends on the wood. Sometimes hardwoods are worse. Beech for example moves quite a bit. Oak too is one that can move as well when the air moisture climbs. Cedar for example is relatively stable. It would probably do well to get a small reference book and you can look up when ever it is necessary how much a wood moves. More importantly you can check what wood moves in which direction. Keep in mind that wood expands in direction of the growth rings more than perpendicular to them and hardly at all in direction end grain to end grain

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4141 days

#2 posted 01-21-2009 10:12 PM

I’ve seen this done on country cupboards before …

... basically just ship-lap with a detail at the joint. Put a brad at the top center and bottom center of each board to attach it to the frame and still allow it to move.

-- -- --

View Beeguy's profile


179 posts in 3903 days

#3 posted 01-22-2009 11:12 PM

Thank you Nicholas and Peter. Both suggestions are good and I will be incorporating them in future projects. I guess I just did not really respect wood movement.

-- Ron, Kutztown, PA "The reward is in the journey."

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11237 posts in 3695 days

#4 posted 01-23-2009 01:06 AM

I’m no purist. For the back, I’d use beaded pine ply. There are profiles very similar to Peter O’s example.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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