Getting metal and wood to live together peacefully

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Don Butler posted 08-15-2010 02:22 PM 1478 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Musings on marrying wood and metal

by Don Butler
The current project in the woodworking shop is for a street rod (no, really) which was originally a ‘37 or ‘38 Chevy pickup truck. Now what would a woodowrker do for this street rod?

The owner/builder wants a black walnut floor in the bed of the truck.

And it’s a fussy and odd thing because of the way the rear axle and wheels fit into the body. The tires are humongously wide and they’re entirely under the truck and fenders. So, there is a big wheel well right across the truck bed, dividing the floor in two parts. the front is shorter than the back by about 4 inches. The boards, six across, are tongue and grooved and the end boards are under cut on the edge so the boards will fit in without scraping the bed sides.

Aluminum strips fit over the joints between the boards and the bolts that fasten the boards, through the strips goright through the joint between the boards. Thin, shallow grooves accomodate the downturned edges of the aluminum strips. They not only cover the joints, but the act as slide strips to keep cargo off the wood. There are also trim angles that will go along the sides, fastened only to the bed sides.

OK, I think that describes the job, but there are other considerations, which some of you no doubt, have already thought about.

Metal and wood are not especially ideal marriage partners. They are so dissimilar by nature that you have to think ahead so the marriage doesn’t get into trouble at some future point in time.

This job, about 45 inches wide, will expand/contract almost a half inch between August and January!

So, I’m really glad we’re doing this in August, not January.

I still want to watch it next winter to see that nothing crazy happens when the humidity drops.

It’s a good thing this client lives and works right across the street from me!

Best regards,
Don Butler
Aug 14, 2010

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

7 comments so far

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 4091 days

#1 posted 08-15-2010 03:49 PM

Is it expected that there will be no gaps in the T&G widthwise then?

I would have thought the Aluminum strips would have covered any expansion/contraction gap and as you say better to do it now than January.

What is the wood finish, Don (or did I miss it in the text again)?

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 4250 days

#2 posted 08-15-2010 04:06 PM

Very interesting.

I’d be worried about how rigid the Chevy’s frame is. I doubt he’ll be driving a ‘38 in a crazy manner, but would this truck’s frame twist at all on turns? I don’t know what kind of framing they did that early on, but it may help to add a tower strut bar in the front and back to prevent this twist. I think metal would flex much easier in the twists than the wood would, so I’m not sure if it would cause the wood to slowly pull away from the metal over time. I’m no expert though but car frames can twist slightly.

Sounds like a very exciting but difficult project. Please post pics when you finish :)

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View hairy's profile


3267 posts in 4587 days

#3 posted 08-15-2010 04:59 PM

Good luck on your project. Until about 2 years ago I was a long time owner of an antique truck. Just in case you haven’t seen this, here’s a link:

I believe he started doing beds, and has grown from there. I had an old catalog,pretty much beds only.

-- You can lead a horse to water, but you can't tie his shoes. Blaze Foley

View Abbott's profile


2570 posts in 4358 days

#4 posted 08-15-2010 05:05 PM

Sounds like a good project, have fun!

-- Ohh mann...pancakes and boobies...I'll bet that's what Heaven is like! ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 4250 days

#5 posted 08-15-2010 05:07 PM

Oh the bed of the truck yeah that doesn’t twist :)

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 4450 days

#6 posted 08-15-2010 05:58 PM

There will no doubt be gaps in January, but the aluminum strips will cover them.
He won’t be driving this truck hard. He put way too much money into it so it would be a show piece. He even takes it to shows in a covered trailer. It will be driven oround town on streets, but gently, one hope.

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View JDboy's profile


17 posts in 3951 days

#7 posted 08-15-2010 06:08 PM

Here is some food for thought. Wood floors and wood floor conversions have been done on/in trucks for many years. You can buy kits for almost any truck on hte market. They come in several different species of wood. While the wood will expand and contract if you leave room for expansion you shouldn’t have any problem. It will look great. I know because I used to own a truck with a wood floor bed. Good luck.

-- JD Boy

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics