Tall box grain direction

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Forum topic by Dabcan posted 05-02-2016 11:36 PM 1982 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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255 posts in 4007 days

05-02-2016 11:36 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wood box grain orientatio

I’ve made several small keepsake boxes, I always run the grain around the box as is common. I had a request for a very tall box and I was thinking about running the grain vertically as it would be easier to find wood to fit.

I was thinking this will cause the width/depth of the box to change with the seasons, but is there any other reason not to do this?

-- @craftcollectif ,,

6 replies so far

View conifur's profile


954 posts in 2488 days

#1 posted 05-03-2016 12:07 AM

Usually you run the grain the length, with that said, I have never seen so many pairiniod wood workers as here about grain/wood expansion. Grain expansion, as the rule of thumb is about 1/16” per foot of width. THAT IS FOR UNFINISHED WOOD. If you finish it, it is minimal, and most people have AC now and dont have high humidity in there homes. I never worry or do any mounting to compensate for it, even table tops, any never had problems.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

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954 posts in 2488 days

#2 posted 05-03-2016 12:18 AM

This is a partial pic of my cherry coffee table that is 40”’ long, this is the lower shelf in cased in the lower apron, I used scraps, and for poop and giggles I ran the grain the short way since I was gluing up cut offs about 6” wide.
Never a problem! with expansion.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View Lifesaver2000's profile


556 posts in 4449 days

#3 posted 05-03-2016 02:34 AM

I suppose seasonal expansion can be a function of where you live. Here in northern Arkansas we have very wide swings in humidity and temperature from summer to winter. I have central air conditioning that also has a setting to keep the humidity below a certain level, and a very tight, energy efficient home, but with that I still have a good amount of expansion/contraction across the seasons.

I built this bed three years ago ( ), and the upright pieces of the headboard all have the grain running vertically. The piece is finished with stain and at least three coats of poly, and I finished all areas both seen and unseen.

In the center section of the headboard you can see a small drawer. This drawer has plywood sides, and the stop for the drawer is at the back. In the winter time this drawer is about 1/16 inch proud of the face of the headboard, and in the summer is about 1/16 inch inset from the face. The depth of the headboard is only about 7-1/2 inches. Since it is unlikely that the plywood sides of the drawer are changing in dimension, the only explanation is that the headboard is expanding/contracting about 1/8 inch across the grain between winter and summer.

I have seen similar things happen with other items I have built, but since I learned the lesson of allowing for wood movement from Norm years before I actually started building, it has never caused a problem. I have seen a few items though in my area (a couple of table tops, for example) where the builder did not allow for movement, and with predictable consequences. One is a table I have that my wife’s grandfather built, with the top firmly attached to the legs, and it has a crack all the way along the length of the top that is undoubtedly from wood movement.

If you live in a climate with minimal variability in humidity, it may not be necessary at all to compensate for expansion and contraction. But if you live somewhere like I do, with as low as 30% relative humidity in the winter and then as high as 90% or more humidity in the summer, then it might be a good idea to give some consideration to wood movement.

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1557 posts in 4419 days

#4 posted 05-03-2016 10:27 AM

Lifesaver pretty much nailed it. Good post.

Blanket statements like ‘I don’t worry about it so you shouldn’t either’ are BS at best.
There are so many different variables involved(Species, cut, climate) that one general rule of thumb to follow is impossible except for ‘If in doubt, err on the side of caution’.
If I built a shelf for a coffee table as pictured above, I’d be fixing(or replacing it) in six months.

Another blanket statement heard too often…You don’t need to worry about grain(growth ring) orientation on wide glue ups.
Some really cool woodworker guy with a Utube blog said so…so I didn’t…and it worked out beautious! So…it’s a myth!
Bullshit…. “You” might be able to get away with it, due to too many variables to list. Great….many others can’t.
If I glued a tabletop up with all the growth rings in one direction in my climate, I’d be able to eat soup out of it in six months, if not a week.
Always err on the side of caution when you learning and use ‘proper woodworking techniques’...As you gain experience, you’ll learn just how far you can push your luck.

-- Lj's...The place to post what you had for breakfast and then do your utter best to complicate the hell out of the simplest of questions.

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1275 posts in 4154 days

#5 posted 05-03-2016 10:57 AM

i think the main issue is not wood movement but rather joinery. You can’t really do dovetails or box joints in the side grain of boards. On the other hand with all that side grain glue area a butt or a miter joint would be extremely strong. Will certainly change the aesthetics of the piece.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View Dabcan's profile


255 posts in 4007 days

#6 posted 05-03-2016 10:59 AM

Yeah my plan was mites, so I figured I’d be in the clear.

-- @craftcollectif ,,

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