Craftsmanship at Concepts Created is more than the ability to cut a straight line. It’s understanding that wood is a dynamic material that moves, breathes, and adjusts to its surroundings. Wood, no matter how old or new, always finds a balance with the surrounding moisture in the air. What this means for most climates is that during the summer months when relative humidity is high, wood will absorb moisture and expand. However, during the winter months when the air is dry the wood will shrink and there is nothing that can stop this process. Because reclaimed wood is old construction material, the milling technique used to cut the planks allows for maximum movement across the wood grain. To make matters worse, reclaimed wood has cracks, checking, and splits that can get larger as the wood expands and contracts. What this means for reclaimed wood furniture building is that the joinery must allow the wood to move while holding the joints tight. This is what we do very well at Concepts Created.
About drying wood
Reclaimed wood is air-dried lumber, which means that it has already lost the moisture content it had while it was a live tree. This does not mean that it is dry enough to build with. The drier the wood, the less movement it has. Kiln drying is the preferred method of finishing the drying cycle. However, this is not foolproof. Let’s say you dry a load of lumber down to nine precent in the month of June, but the lumber sits in a humid warehouse all summer. By August, the relative moisture will creep up. This is why proper joinery techniques are so important. Dry wood is a good starting point, but it is just one step of many in the process of building high quality furniture.
The building of a reclaimed wood dining table
After drying our wood, the first step in building a reclaimed wood dining table is choosing the planks. After considering the table size, I have chosen four planks that will make a great table top. These planks of old growth White Pine have already been planed to a uniform thickness and the edges straight lined.
Then I finish the edges with a jointer plane. A traditional glue-up joint with alignment pegs is a good way to join the side grain.
Managing existing cracks and splits is an important part of this process. This is done by inlaying ties which will hold the split in place as the the plank expands and contracts. These are hand-cut pieces of Black Walnut which are simply inlayed in strategic locations as needed. These are functional elements but can be added for decoration, as well. Some tops may have as many as five or six, other tops may have none. Once the ties are in place, if needed, the cracks are filled with a high quality wood filler.
Here you can see the corresponding mortise cut in the end board. Notice how the mortise is one half inch larger that the tenon. This will allow the planks room to move inside the end board. No glue, nails or screws are needed.
The end boards are held on using draw bore pins, which are pegs driven through a set of offset holes through the end board and tenon. This compresses the end board into the tenon shoulder creating a strong, yet movable joint.
The holes in the tenon are cut in an oval shape to allow the tenon to move laterally while being held by the draw bore pin.
The table frame is made from the same material as the top and a three piece corner holds the leg in place. This allows for a removable leg as well as some adjustment in the leg to account for uneven floors and/or wood movement.
Table top attachment
Now that the top is assembled it can be attached to the table frame. Again, we don’t want it to be permanently attached to the frame. Wooden clips are made that fit into a dado cut in the table frame. This allows the top to move freely across the frame while still being firmly joined.
Note, the underneath of the top is sealed with Polyurethane. This regulates moisture interaction with all surfaces of the table top. Uneven moisture loss can cause warping and cracking.