Woodworking FAQ: How to Deal With Wood Shrinkage and Expansion

Use this woodworking guide’s Q&A to craft around wood’s predisposition to shrink or expand with fluctuations in humidity or temperature.

  • Wood Shrinkage Example
    One challenge all woodworkers face is dealing with wood’s predisposition to shrink and expand in response to changes in humidity and temperature.  
  • Woodworking FAQ for Wood Shrinkage
    “Woodworking FAQ” by Spike Carlsen has the answers to your most complicated woodworking questions. Loaded with charts, tips and tricks, this woodworking guide will help you through the trickiest woodworking situations. 
  • Flatsawn Versus Quartersawn
    Quartersawn boards are best used for a tabletop because they’re more stable than flatsawn boards. Due to the orientation of the grain, quartersawn boards will tend to expand and contract less across their width and be less prone to cupping. 

  • Wood Shrinkage Example
  • Woodworking FAQ for Wood Shrinkage
  • Flatsawn Versus Quartersawn

For the problems and questions that arise as you work through new projects, count on finding the answers in Woodworking FAQ (Storey Publishing, 2012) by Spike Carlsen. This woodworking guide offers the know-how and experience to answer common questions and provides handy tricks of the trade and simple instructions that will improve your woodworking and building skills. The following excerpt on wood shrinkage and expansion is taken from Chapter 2, “Wood & Plywood.” 

Movement in Wood: Dealing With Wood Shrinkage and Expansion

One challenge all woodworkers face is dealing with wood’s predisposition to shrink and expand in response to changes in humidity and temperature. This may eventually result in cracks, gaps, and weak joints. This section offers some tips for meeting that challenge.

Q: Why is it so necessary to use dry wood?

A: Wood shrinks and changes shape as it dries. You want the bulk of that shrinkage and change of shape to occur before you start working with it. Freshly cut wood is also extremely heavy — in some species, over twice as heavy as when it’s dry. Plus, wet wood is more susceptible to decay and rot. That said, there’s an entire field of woodworking called “green woodworking” that focuses on building furniture and other items with wet or unseasoned wood. This furniture is often “rustic” in nature.

Q: Does wood shrink and expand equally in all directions?

A: No. The amount of shrinkage varies from species to species, but generally wood shrinks 8 to 10 percent tangentially, 4 to 5 percent radially, and close to zero percent lengthwise. In other words, the surface of the board where the grain intersects it perpendicularly, or close to perpendicularly, shrinks the most. This means woods of different shapes will shrink differently based on how they’re cut from the tree.

1/20/2018 9:51:36 AM

Our furnace reached 99 + degrees on Jan. 12 of 2017. It was discovered on Feb. 4, 2017. All the white, painged woodwork has cracks at the joints etc. The bookcases and crown molding are also damaged. We are in a lawsuit to see if we can get some satisfaction and get it all fixed. Can a painter caulk and repaint after an episode like this? I live in a small community and we are devastated as we are over 75 years lod and cannot repair ourselves. Any words of wisdom?.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters