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Expert's Corner — shrinkage

Water Warps Wood Opposite From What You May Think

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Water causes wood to swell, so most people think that wetting one side and not the other will cause the wetted side to bow – that is, increase in width so the center is higher than the edges. If the wood is thin enough, this will be the case initially. But the overall swelling or shrinking after many wettings and dryings out, no matter the thickness of the wood, will be the opposite. The wetted side will shrink and the wood, or boards, will cup. The four accompanying pictures show examples of this. With a little thought, you will most...

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TIP: Finish Both Sides?

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A pervasive myth in the woodworking community is that you should finish both sides of wood, especially tabletops, to reduce the likelihood of warping. This myth has been carried to the extremes of finishing insides of chests-of-drawers, cabinets and drawers. Especially for the undersides of tabletops and the insides of drawers and cabinets, it’s often a good idea to apply a finish for looks, feel and ease of cleaning. But the finish does almost nothing to prevent warps. All your experience tells you this. For example, finishing undersides or insides of furniture made before the 1920s was very unusual. If...

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