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Correcting warping in finished projects

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Forum topic by 0331reaperguns posted 03-14-2019 12:04 AM 448 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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0331reaperguns

8 posts in 316 days


03-14-2019 12:04 AM

Topic tags/keywords: sealant warping salvage warped wood amateur question oak sealing

Hello all!

Newbie here. Just got my shop put together/finished last year but have been working for a little over two years (not including years of home renovation/remodel experience). Still very amateur with fine wood working.

I made this pipe box for my brother in law last summer and really felt great about how it turned out. It is made from red oak and stained with an oil based stain. There are plenty of goofs and things I would do differently, but for my first pass I was proud to give it to him as a birthday gift.

I visited in December to find that the top and bottom of the box had bowed inward and caused the box to be unusable. I was embarrassed and felt horrible, vowing to immediately find a way to fix it or build him a new one. He did mention that he would like me to try to fix this one as much as possible, as he said it has sentimental value and he is proud to have one of my first pieces.

Obviously this is from changes in wood moisture content due to the change in seasons. Humidity fluctuates pretty significantly here in Missouri, and while I try my best to climate control the shop, it’s far from a state of the art facility.

Can anyone please provide feedback/input on how I might be able to correct this piece? Since the beginning of March has brought significant moisture and temperature changes, it has started to correct a bit, so I planned on letting the humidity do the work and bring it back to normal and then seal it in order to keep the moisture content stable. Is this a reasonable approach? What kind of sealant would prevent this from happening again?

Thanks in advance, I appreciate the knowledge and experience of the community.

S/F

Matt


15 replies so far

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BFamous

336 posts in 727 days


#1 posted 03-14-2019 12:35 AM

When you stained it originally, did you seal it with anything? If so, did you seal both sides of the top and bottom?

When the doors are closed, moisture is going to escape from the top of the top quicker than the bottom of the top due to airflow. But if you only seal the top of the top, moisture can still get out of the bottom of the top, causing warping as well…
You’ll need to seal all surfaces to prevent moisture changes.

A matte poly would do the job and not any much if any sheen. Of course, if you want sheen, you can go with a standard gloss poly.

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC :: http://www.FamousArtisan.com

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0331reaperguns

8 posts in 316 days


#2 posted 03-14-2019 12:49 AM



When you stained it originally, did you seal it with anything? If so, did you seal both sides of the top and bottom?

When the doors are closed, moisture is going to escape from the top of the top quicker than the bottom of the top due to airflow. But if you only seal the top of the top, moisture can still get out of the bottom of the top, causing warping as well…
You ll need to seal all surfaces to prevent moisture changes.

A matte poly would do the job and not any much if any sheen. Of course, if you want sheen, you can go with a standard gloss poly.

- BFamous

Thanks for the Reply, Brian. No, I didn’t seal it at all. I even bought poly but wasn’t sure if i would like the sheen it tends to leave. Sounds like I made a really stupid goof by not sealing it. Is it likely that the wood will return to form as the humidity changes? Would it be futile to try to ‘steam’ it back to shape?

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Snipes

444 posts in 2851 days


#3 posted 03-14-2019 02:38 AM

No, I would b surprised if it returns. You could try adding moisture/damp rag to concave side while adding heat to other. There’s a good chance this works but getting it to stay is the challenge.

-- if it is to be it is up to me

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0331reaperguns

8 posts in 316 days


#4 posted 03-14-2019 02:58 AM



No, I would b surprised if it returns. You could try adding moisture/damp rag to concave side while adding heat to other. There s a good chance this works but getting it to stay is the challenge.

- Snipes

Thanks for the input. I was hoping I may be able to use heat and moisture to get it back to shape then seal it quickly. At this point it sounds like I’m going to have to remake the entire thing. This one took me a weeks work time to make in an 11×15 shop, so this is a big bummer. I’ll give the heat and moisture a shot

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BFamous

336 posts in 727 days


#5 posted 03-14-2019 03:04 AM

Can’t you just remove and replace the top with another piece without rebuilding the entire thing?

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC :: http://www.FamousArtisan.com

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Snipes

444 posts in 2851 days


#6 posted 03-14-2019 03:04 AM

I can get boards to go back straight in front of my wood stove, or under the hot sun. But I’ve never tried on finished product

-- if it is to be it is up to me

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Aj2

2650 posts in 2405 days


#7 posted 03-14-2019 03:08 AM

I like it. Because it has a very masculine first glance.
And I haven’t seen anything like it.
My guess from a thousand miles away is something you did in the construction caused the warping.
I would think about how you built it and improve that.
But keep the design

-- Aj

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0331reaperguns

8 posts in 316 days


#8 posted 03-14-2019 03:10 AM


Can t you just remove and replace the top with another piece without rebuilding the entire thing?

- BFamous

It’s glued on, so I wouldn’t know how to remove it. You can see how I did the joinery in the picture below. Would a heat gun around the edges free up the glue enough? Or another method to dissolve the glue?

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BFamous

336 posts in 727 days


#9 posted 03-14-2019 03:14 AM

What type of glue did you use?

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC :: http://www.FamousArtisan.com

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0331reaperguns

8 posts in 316 days


#10 posted 03-14-2019 03:22 AM


I like it. Because it has a very masculine first glance.
And I haven’t seen anything like it.
My guess from a thousand miles away is something you did in the construction caused the warping.
I would think about how you built it and improve that.
But keep the design

- Aj2

Thanks Aj2, it’s great to hear that someone other than family (whom I think naturally feels obligated to be less critical) likes it!

I’ve been thinking about what I could have done during construction that would have made this happen, but I’m just not sure. I think I try to make things fit too tight and precisely, which may put stress on the wood as it naturally expands and contracts. I hate to say it, but I may need to be a bit more ‘sloppy’ with tolerance on a build like this. Also, the top and bottom are 1/2 inch pieces glued to a 1/4 inch piece that sits in the grooves of the joint on the inside of the walls (see pic in above post). Part of me wonders if uneven gluing might have resulted in uneven stress points and lead to this bowing.

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0331reaperguns

8 posts in 316 days


#11 posted 03-14-2019 03:23 AM



What type of glue did you use?

- BFamous

Gorilla wood glue (PVA I think)

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BFamous

336 posts in 727 days


#12 posted 03-14-2019 03:26 AM

Heat gun may work. Denatured alcohol could too…

Another option is a little less fancy… Get your router and a straight bit slightly wider than the walls of your box. Set the depth to slightly (like 1/32 – 1/16” less) than the thickness of your top. Now route a channel on the top that follows the exact path of walls (well, you can be sloppy just as long as you route out the entire top). It’s like sawing it off, but without losing any of the wall height.
Once you are done routing, the top should come off pretty easy, if not follow up with a nice sharp chisel. Once the top if off, sand and you’re ready to put a new one on.

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC :: http://www.FamousArtisan.com

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0331reaperguns

8 posts in 316 days


#13 posted 03-14-2019 03:34 AM



Heat gun may work. Denatured alcohol could too…

Another option is a little less fancy… Get your router and a straight bit slightly wider than the walls of your box. Set the depth to slightly (like 1/32 – 1/16” less) than the thickness of your top. Now route a channel on the top that follows the exact path of walls (well, you can be sloppy just as long as you route out the entire top). It s like sawing it off, but without losing any of the wall height.
Once you are done routing, the top should come off pretty easy, if not follow up with a nice sharp chisel. Once the top if off, sand and you re ready to put a new one on.

- BFamous

Brilliant, thank you! I’ll try salvaging as much as possible at first then will move to removing and replacing the top. The bowing isn’t absurdly bad, but it’s a box with drawers and doors with very little tolerance, so even a little bowing is an issue. This is likely a newbie lesson for me in that I need to learn to allow some space for natural movement. Also, and I can’t believe I have to say this, I need to seal everything next time. I was being too anal about not wanting the sheen and didn’t think of the consequences.

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Aj2

2650 posts in 2405 days


#14 posted 03-14-2019 04:07 AM

It’s perfectly acceptable to leave a piece unfinished on the inside. I would want to smell tobacco when I opened the doors. Or maybe Spanish cedar. Definitely not any type of finish.

You mention how you made up the pieces for the top. Did you keep the grain all in the same direction?
It’s very common for new woodworkers to try to build their first few projects ridged. Because they are not sure how wood will move. Trying to prevent wood movement is usually a bad idea.

-- Aj

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Woodknack

13017 posts in 2987 days


#15 posted 03-14-2019 04:13 AM

Are the top and bottom glued to pieces of plywood? Hard to tell from the pic. If so, that’s the problem and there is no way to fix it except redo it. If not, I still suspect the two pieces glued together are the problem.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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