The True Art Of Furniture Making

The art of furniture making has a long tradition in Kansas City as well as the rest of the country. If you cut planks with the saw running in lines parallel to the length of the trunk, you get plainsawn (sometimes called flatsawn) wood (with ovals or curves on the biggest flat surface of the wood); if you fell a tree, cut the trunk into quarters, then slice each quarter into parallel planks, you get quartersawn wood (with the grain running along the biggest flat surface in broadly parallel stripes).

I think the single biggest help would simply be to know what the MC the wood is currently at. Beyond this, as a general rule, I’d recommend starting outdoors and moving indoors after several months — it all depends on what the MC of the wood is at. Tarps aren’t ideal, but yeah, you should try to keep it somewhat protected from the elements — direct sunlight as much as rain.

I have had success taking wood down to 6% in mere minutes by microwaving very small pieces of oak in the kitchen microwave a few pieces at a time (a lot of trial and error getting the timing/settings just right for my wattage of oven of course the microwave heats the water on the inside and you then set the wood outside the oven to dry while you heat the next batch; test and repeat until you get it).

The way to determine water content is usually by jamming an electronic probe into the side of the board on an inconspicuous surface, but if you know how much your wood should weigh dry versus wet then you can determine water content by weighing it. I suppose that tip is more useful for people using very small pieces of wood who don’t want any surface marred by test probes.

The main advantage of a kiln is that with the increased temperature and airflow—all while carefully maintaining and controlling the ambient humidity—the wood can be dried much more evenly, minimizing any sort of moisture gradient between the outer shell (which dries very quickly) and the inner core (which slowly equalizes moisture with the shell).

I think this is one of the biggest financial mistakes first time furniture builders make — tools. If you are lucky enough to find a small sawmill operation, or someone who mills lumber as a hobby, you might be allowed to pick through the slab pile. Those oils also make this an excellent wood for use with an oiled finish, but it can also have a hard finish such as lacquer or varnish. This really is a good wood for furniture, in fact lots of Arts and Craft cabinetry is done with it. SYP stands for southern yellow pine, a really fine furniture wood and a staple of the South. It is denser, heavier and longer lasting (and more expensive) than treated wood.


Amazingly, the rubber wood tree species is fast-growing, yet also very high in density and provides a hard wood material, excellent for furniture production. We actually just made a nice dark mahogony stained table using unfinished wood on the top with pine spindles to support it. But that option is just from my department. The wood of most firs is considered unsuitable for general timber use, and is often used as pulp or for the manufacture of plywood and rough timber. In fact, some of the highest valued antiques in the world are made of cherry wood.

Better still, to add a new twist to an old saying, it even grows on trees making it a resource that’s at least theoretically renewable. Having lumber of uniform lengths and thicknesses greatly aids and simplifies the stacking process; once a log is sawn up into planks of satisfactory dimensions, it’s crucial to stack them in such a way that they will be exposed to air on all sides—stickers are typically used for such a task. The bow-lathe was a crude primitive tool, yet a skilled woodworker could produce decorative spindles and bowls with it much like today’s wood turners. I have made some indoor furniture with it (not great), but like to use it for outdoor furniture.

As you hopefully found out before now, the answer to the question of how dry wood should be depends on the humidity of the air in which it will stay, but generally under 7%. If you coat only one side and then put the table in a dry home, the uncoated underside will dry out before the coated top side and this can result in warping and cracking. Offering both beauty and strength while remaining easy to manipulate, there are few purposes for which wood is unsuited. This is phase#1 of the drying process and it’ll bring wood moisture content down to 12% to 16% tops, depending on the climate in your part of Canada.

If current trends continue, these harvesting methods could one day leave our world largely stripped of the forests we depend on for lumber and more. Other times, a piece of wood may sit around my shop for years before the right client comes in and I finally see what it was meant to be! Later, wood was used for doors, window frames, floors, roof beams, and some interior walls. Let’s just say it would be hard for me to write daily articles online if I only had nine fingers to help me type. Green wood has not been dried and therefore has an unusually high moisture content.

I used to spend more time looking for quality hardwood lumber than I did building my cabinets, furniture and other woodworking projects and when I found some, it was low quality, incredibly overpriced, air dried, or turned into potato chips by someone else’s attempt at kiln drying. After an international exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, Grand Rapids became recognized worldwide as a leader in the production of fine furniture.

The trick is ensuring that your wood has a moisture content (and size) in balance with the driest interior environment your completed furniture project is likely to face. Birch wood has a beautiful appearance; it is fine grained and has a pale color giving it an elegant look to clean line furniture designs. In softwoods, reaction wood forms on the underside of a branch or trunk, and is called compression wood.

Freshly exposed wood surfaces need the most drying, and you want this to happen before critical joinery stages. The most prized wood in the Roman Empire was the African wood thyine, which was believed to have mystical powers. I am a woodworker, cabinet maker, former house builder and furniture maker and have lived in the Huntsville area for nearly 40 years. Select lumber is excellent quality for use when appearance and finishing are important and common lumber that has defects used for construction and general-purpose projects.

Aside from the fact that cutting live trees is not a good forestry practice, freshly cut live trees do not make for good furniture. Mahogany is also used in styles ranging from Victorian furniture reproductions to Contemporary. Because Wagner meters have no pins, they do not damage wood surfaces, as do pin meters. Bronze Age carpenters used them with both integral handles and socketed wooden handles for house and furniture construction. Someone to hold a piece of wood when you cut it or someone to hold the other end of the measuring tape. Flat pieces of wood can be made from trees by cutting logs in two different directions.