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    How to Hide Flat-Sawn Wood Grain

    About a week ago I began construction of a Shaker-style writing desk in pine. For anyone just starting out in woodworking, I can't recommend pine and poplar enough. When you're just learning to cut joinery, these soft woods are forgiving, easy on tools, and simple to cut. And while poplar is best finished with paint (see my recent post on achieving an antiqued milk paint finish), pine can be left natural, with nothing more than a protective coat of polyurethane. There's one caveat however--be sure to select the right type of pine when building your furniture projects. Wood (in this case pine) that's been flat-sawn has an incredibly boring grain pattern. That's why most furniture-makers opt for quartersawn stock. The type of cut you get simply depends upon the way the logs were rough-sawn by the sawyer. Quartersawn woods have nice, tight, straight grain.


    Differen't Cuts on the Same Leg


    Quartersawn vs. Flat-Sawn LumberWhen I began rough-milling the leg blanks for my Shaker table, I quickly found that of the four faces on each blank, two were quartersawn, and two were flat-sawn (click to enlarge the photo at left). This was no good. It would have left me with legs that just looked odd. Having that tight quartersawn grain juxtaposed beside the less-desirable flat-sawn grain was visually arresting (not in a good way) and I knew I had to come up with a solid solution. Here's what I did:


    Use Veneers to Cover Up Boring Flat-Sawn Grain

     By using a thin 1/16-in.-thick veneer of quartersawn pine sawn from the same stock my table legs came from, I was able to achieve beautiful tight grain on all four sides of each leg.

    Slice Your Veneer
    I began the process by slicing off a 1/16-in.-thick piece of quartersawn stock on my bandsaw. It's very important to obtain your veneers from the same stock you're building your project from. This will give you a perfect match in terms of grain and color. click to enlarge

    Apply Glue and Set Veneer
    It really is as simple as brushing on some glue and placing the quartersawn veneer right over the ugly flat-sawn side of the leg blank. click to enlarge
    Clamp the Blank
    Notice how I've used "cauls" to protect my precious table leg from getting beat up by the clamps. Cauls are nothing more than small pieces of scrap wood that-in this case-protect the soft pine leg. click to enlarge

     After allowing the glue to dry for 3 hours, I unclamped my pine leg and was ready to trim everything down. In this example, I veneered by quartersawn grain onto a tapered leg. Notice how the veneer was larger than the leg. That's an important part of woodworking. You always want to work "subtractively"--in this case, gluing on an oversized veneer. The next step involves paring back that extra wood. Click to enlarge the photo at right.


    Block Plane for a Smooth Shave


    The final step couldn't be more simple. I used a block plane to shave off the excess wood, working my way down to the actual leg stock. The end result is seamless!

    Take Your Time
    Your first impulse might be to shave off the majority of the excess at the bandsaw. Don't. This thin veneer will get torn apart by the up-and-down movement of a bandsaw blade. Instead, use a block plane to shave the excess down for a perfect fit. click to enlarge
    Quartersawn Grain All Around
    The end result really is seamless, and while this technique doesn't take much effort to execute, it's the kind of detail that separates a "decent" piece of furniture from a great one. click to enlarge