Should I use wide boards for my woodworking project?

I’ve read conflicting advice about the use of wide boards for furniture woodworking projects. Some say its okay, others recommend slicing the boards to no more than 4 inches wide before gluing them back together again. I have some very wide cherry planks set aside, and I’d like to use them at full width. Will this work? I’m worried about cupping and warping of whole boards in the completed project.

Sometimes wide wood is okay to use as-is, and sometimes it’s not. The issue hinges on growth ring orientation in the board, moisture content, and the particular application at-hand. The midsection of a board is especially volatile if it contains pith; the very center of the tree. That’s quite an unstable area, a problem that declines the more you move from that area. Sawing and re-gluing wide boards into smaller strips is certainly safe, but it’s also boring. There’s something to be said for the story told by a 14 inch wide plank in the middle of a table. It’s precious.quartersawn_flatsawn_furniture_woodworking_tool

  • The first step in making use of wide wood is to make sure it’s fully dry. And this means storing what might seem like dry wood in a heated, indoor space for at least three weeks before construction, ideally during winter.
  • Next, choose wide boards with growth rings as nearly square to the board face as possible. This is called quartersawn or vertical grain growth ring orientation, and it minimizes the kind of seasonal wood movement that can cause trouble.
  • One final thing… when you attach wide solid wood elements to the rest of a furniture project, use a method that allows seasonal movement to occur. In the case of a tabletop, that means securing the wood with metal clips designed for this job, or using screws driven through oversized holes bored through the table framework.