green wood for drawers

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Forum topic by jwmalone posted 09-04-2016 05:40 PM 899 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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768 posts in 1558 days

09-04-2016 05:40 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question green wood drawers

Hello lady’s and Gents, I have some 3/4 and some 4/4 flat sawn oak that has approx. 15% mc. If I plane it down to 1/2 inch thickness and make drawers with it right away, through dovetails all four corners (a box basically), plywood slid into grove in bottom. Now the actual fronts ill ad later from some wood dried to 6%. My question is, being made into a box, when the wood dry’s it will shrink but it should hold its shape and not warp just decrease in height until they are dry enough to add the fronts and be installed. Am I fixing to screw up, ive read some stuff somewere before that said they done this but would rather have a second opinion.
Thanks for any advice or experience

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

17 replies so far

View HerbC's profile


1806 posts in 3715 days

#1 posted 09-04-2016 05:50 PM

I think you’re courting disaster with this approach.

Rough mill your material to approximate size, with plenty of extra pieces to spare. Stack with stickers inside, allow material to stabilize in that environment for a few weeks and then do final milling to size and cut your joints and assemble the drawer boxes. Again, let assembled units stabilize inside and check them for warpage before final overall assembly.

Good Luck!

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View jdh122's profile


1174 posts in 3673 days

#2 posted 09-04-2016 06:19 PM

I don’t really understand why you’d do this – given that you’re going to wait to put the false fronts on, why not wait to make the boxes? If you bring the wood inside I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly it dries to equilibrium.
On the other hand, it just might work. And I’d be interested in learning the results of the experiment. The shrinkage from 15 to 6 percent is not that great, and you might well be OK, although I expect that if you did it more than a few times the law of averages would catch up with you. Do you have a moisture meter? I see you’re on the east coast, and wood dried to 6% could well be considerably higher than that, even inside.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View CharlesNeil's profile


2501 posts in 4726 days

#3 posted 09-04-2016 06:21 PM

NO..its that simple

View jwmalone's profile


768 posts in 1558 days

#4 posted 09-04-2016 06:45 PM

I should have been more specific, If I mill it down to 1/2 inch it will dry much faster. Now ive done that before, stacked and stickered and it worked out with only minimal cupping. But its a pain in ass to use even when you can push the cup out. So I’m thinking if I assemble the boxes then dry them the dovetail joints should be plenty strong enough to hold them. This is a time and resource thing. I have enough dry qs oak to do the entire project except the insides of the drawers. I have some dry poplar but that’s not going to look right imo.
CharlesNeil, I do believe your wrong by implying its totally out the realm of posibilty, I’m no Roy Underhill but I’m not a total dumbass either. Wood movement and shrinkage is a real concern but I believe it to be over rated in some applications.
Ill keep yall posted.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 1755 days

#5 posted 09-04-2016 06:58 PM

Try it, this is how you gain experience. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. Variables are different for everbody. If you do try it, be sure when you mill it down to 1/2” try to take the same off of both sides.

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Combo Prof

4409 posts in 2133 days

#6 posted 09-04-2016 07:47 PM

I think jbay is right. No offense, but if your not going to take advice given, well then you should just try it and report back the results ... good or bad. We would like to learn too.

-- Don K, (Holland, Michigan)

View Tony_S's profile


1351 posts in 3938 days

#7 posted 09-04-2016 07:50 PM

CharlesNeil, I do believe your wrong by implying its totally out the realm of posibilty, I m no Roy Underhill but I m not a total dumbass either.

- jwmalone

I didn’t see where he called you a dumass…? You asked a question and he answered you.
He just didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear.

-- “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

View jwmalone's profile


768 posts in 1558 days

#8 posted 09-04-2016 07:58 PM

Tony, I didn’t think he called me a dumbass. And your right he gave me his honest answer and I appreciate that. Didn’t mean to sound offended Mr. Neil my apology’s. Point was no explanation as to the straight out No. That was my way of saying I know a little but far from an expert.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View JayT's profile


6412 posts in 3067 days

#9 posted 09-04-2016 07:59 PM

If you don’t want to listen to people with a lot more experience, why are you posting the question? Especially when it is someone with Charles Neil’s track record. He’s got the body of work to back his statement, unlike many of the rest of us.

Personally, I wouldn’t do it and think you are just asking for trouble. Wood moves and it’s not always predictable how it will move as it dries. It’s much easier to work with dry material that has shown what it will do and then you accommodate it than to do all the work of cutting your joinery and have a piece twist so bad that it throws your drawer out of square or splits as they dry, or ends up with gappy joints, or …. There are a lot of reasons to not buck hard learned lessons of the past.

Why not use the poplar for the sides and back? Lots of high quality furniture is built with poplar drawers and a different species for the front. It’s not just the cost or ease of working, poplar is also very resistant to wear from sliding, much more so than oak. Take a look at an old dresser where poplar slides rub on oak runners (or vice versa) and you’ll see much more wear on the oak.

If you just have to use the oak for the drawers, plane it down to just over final thickness, stack & sticker it and put a lot of weight on top to help keep it flat as it dries. You’ll have a better end result.

But hey, that’s just my opinion. Feel free to reject it as easily as you did Mr Neil’s.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View bondogaposis's profile


5844 posts in 3207 days

#10 posted 09-04-2016 08:15 PM

I understand your reasoning and in theory it should work. Reality may yield a different result. One thing I would be concerned about is that the wood will also shrink in thickness and that may loosen your joinery.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View jwmalone's profile


768 posts in 1558 days

#11 posted 09-04-2016 08:18 PM

for crying out loud people I didn’t reject anything just thought no without explanation was extreme. I cant learn from that. And I’m familiar with his track record, very talented guy.
JayT, thanks that was useful information. I’m familiar with poplar but didn’t know it would wear better than oak.
Bondgaposi, Thanks that was also helpful. what it will or may do to the joinery is also info I’m after.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View Robert's profile


3960 posts in 2336 days

#12 posted 09-04-2016 09:36 PM

Like or not, making the drawers “right away” is a huge mistake, so this is the qualifier behind “No”. You will get one or more of the following which will result in poorly fitting drawers: shrinkage, cupping, bowing.

The only way do it I know of is mill it down incrementally and evenly each side no more than 1/8” per session. You have to have patience and allow the wood to acclimate. Plan on 2-3 millings,

Sticker and leave it be for a week between each session. Where you store it is also important. Don’t put a fan on it and don’t leave it out if the humidity is subject to rapid changes.

Rejoint at a light setting each time before planing. Take MC see what you’ve got.

Once you have the material where you want it, keep in plastic bags until ready for use (Thank you Charles Neil for this great tip!!)

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Gerald Thompson's profile

Gerald Thompson

1257 posts in 3090 days

#13 posted 09-05-2016 01:05 AM

I always remember a man saying, “Wood is gonna do what wood is gonna do.”

-- Jerry

View johnstoneb's profile


3154 posts in 3028 days

#14 posted 09-05-2016 01:31 AM

x1 Gerald Thompson. If wood is going to cup, twist, warp, move it will do it whether you have it dovetailed together or not. The joints will not stop it from moving.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View Clarkie's profile


500 posts in 2697 days

#15 posted 09-05-2016 12:13 PM

Just make one drawer a full size and watch the result. No need to make a bunch to see what will happen, and much less expensive and time consuming. Keep in mind, there are reasons us old guys stick to what has proven to be a true and tried method. Have fun, make some dust.

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