Sunday, November 16, 2014

Changing Table Woes

This mortise broke as I was attempting to fit
it to its tenon.
Sometimes things don't work out how you planned them.

After spending an entire week attempting to mill my Alder boards into the proper shapes to build my changing table, I've decided to change directions. Alder, much to my chagrin, is a lot more difficult to work with than I had anticipated. It's a really pretty wood (looks a lot like Cherry, and is sometimes called "poor man's Cherry" for that exact reason), and does mill and work easily (it's one of the softest hardwoods). But, I got a lower-grade version of the wood called knotty Alder, which as you might predict, has knots.

These knots make the wood much more difficult to work with, as the grain isn't going straight anymore, it curves in all different directions. This causes tear-out as I plane the wood, as there's no good direction to run the wood (planing wood needs to be done with the grain, otherwise the plane knives cause the grain ends to stand up and pull out, causing tear-out). Around the knots, the grain changes direction, so part of the board is fine and the rest isn't.

There's another problem too: Alder, or at least this knotty Alder, is not very stable. Maybe that's also due to the knots, I don't know. But it was all I could do to get a straight, flat board and keep it that way. I'd spend an afternoon milling and planing the wood flat, leave it overnight, and come back the next day to find it warped beyond recognition!

At least I still have the floor...
After doing some reading, it seems I'm not alone in having difficulties with this wood. Many people online seem to offer the advice of just using Cherry, rather than trying to use Alder.

I agree.

So, my plan B for this project will be to abandon the Alder wood, and instead use Cherry. Having built the jewelry box for my mom out of Cherry, I'm very familiar with how to work with it, and it will be a joy using it again.

Unfortunately, that means I lost a week on the project and have to start over.

Well, not completely. At least I still have the floor I glued up. ■

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