We are a high-end furniture company and we use white oak solids and veneers in our furniture. We consistently have the problem of surface checking as well as ray flecks in the wood - both solid and veneer believe it or not. We keep chalking it up to the wood, but i'm starting to think that i am missing something. Is my lumberyard not drying the wood properly? Am i not storing the lumber properly? Regardless of the cause, any suggestions on how to fix the checks/flakes when they do present themselves? Right now we fill with either epoxy or CA glue, then re-sand - very wasteful and time-consuming!!! Please help.
Sorry Dan, that's a big, "who knows?" The only advise that I can give, is to become familiar with the moisture content of your materials at various stages. Buy a moisture meter, and use it. If you find that you are laying up veneers at 10% MC onto cores at 5% MC, and they check in a couple of days, then you have an answer. Everything else is just conjecture.
Ray flecks are normal in white oak and your not going to easily get around them if your buying in large quantities of random boards. It has to do with the angle of the wood grain, i.e.. quarter sawn has a lot of rays, rift a bit less, and plain sawn is usually pretty clean.
Surface checks do have to do with the lumber and how it's dried. White oak seems to be more prone to surface checks than other lumber I've worked with. Hopefully Gene Wengert will chime in as he us very knowledgable in this area!
As far as a solution I would think trying to cut around the defects at the beginning instead of fixing them down the line would be the best bet. White oak is relatively cheap so you may be better off tossing the defects when you compare the material costs to the labor cost to repair?
Ray fleck is normal, and it is often considered to be desirable, as it is a type of figure. This is one of the key attributes of quarter sawn oak. Medullary rays in oak generally appear in quarter sawn oak. However you may see them on edges of plain sawn oak. A pile of of plain sawn oak, will also usually have a quarter sawn board, or two mixed in as well.
I am not sure what you mean by flaking, as I have never encountered anything like that. A little tear out at times is unavoidable, and that is easily fixed with filler.
Also. White oak tends to have a coarse open grain, compared to most woods. I am wondering if you may be confusing this with checking, as the pores can be quite elongated, and large compared to other hardwoods. Standard practice is to apply a grain filler to achieve a flat surface prior to applying a film finish. Or you can leave it as is, especially when applying a finish with little to no build, such as "danish oil"
Actual surface checking (obvious cracks) is a major red flag, and it generally indicates poor drying. I have encountered this in maybe 1 or 2 pieces of white oak. I reject material with obvious cracks, and other indicators of serious drying stress.
You need a new lumber supplier. This is definitely a sawmill/drying issue. In years past, not a single piece of white oak furniture would leave the shop without a grain filler being used. Some shops would use this to also color the wood, others used natural colored filler to just make it glass smooth for the finish. This method has fallen out of favor in relation to speed to get the piece out of the shop. You may want to implement that into your work, AFTER you get a new wood supplier.
White Oak is hard ($$) to dry correctly, especially the thicker sections. The most prominent drying defect is checking which is separation along the medulary rays - the same rays that are desired/exposed in Quartersawn material. When they are loose, they are hard to repair.
I have a Qrtrd and Rift W Oak supplier that also supplies Stickley Furniture - and their competitors - with QS W Oak. The largest QS supplier in the US. They don't advertise here, so write me privately, and I'll tell you who to contact.
They know how to dry the material to minimize the defects you see.
Much of what you are describing is inherent of White Oak , especially QSWO . Since the WO log is so much harder and denser it will season for more years than say Red Oak before it may be milled in some cases .The wood looks shiny when cut on the chop saw closed grain so the moisture can't escape through the end of the logs well so it sneaks through the length where it may .
I think this may cause the checks , I see them in the white colored wood so closest to the edge of the log maybe .
The lumber is naturally brittle and prone to some edge breaks but if you understand how it behaves it machines like a dream and cuts like butta .
Another issue that can cause extensive surface checking is circle mills pushing their blades when they are very dull. Not sure if your material is circle sawn or band sawn but when a band dulls it simply stops cutting but when a circle mill dulls it will still cut for some time. At that point, rather than cutting the wood fibers it actually tears them. The fibers wrap slightly around the tooth and tear back away from the cut similar to pulling a weed. A bit of this would be dealt with in surfacing but if the checking is substantial it may not be completely removed in average/normal surfacing.
If this is the case (can be tough to know unless your supplier is having a lot of complaints) there isnt much remedy for you. As I recall the only remedy is to pre-surface the green material before it goes into the kiln.
As far as the "flaking", Im wondering if your seeing a shaggy surface or if your actually having flaking like the trees suffer from shake? Hard to say. If the surface is shaggy it would be interesting to know the humidity of your shop. If your shop is damp it can really make oak shaggy in my experience.
I am not going to repeat the correct and valid comments made by David and others. I would strongly support that you need a different supplier. Indeed WO, especially q-sawn, is hard to dry, but a good yard will dry it without much defect at all.
I do believe that what you are calling flaking is actually the end result of honeycomb (deep surface checking) on q-sawn oak. It can be controlled by proper drying.
Thanks everyone for all of your responses. As it turns out, i have switched my vendor and have not seen the issues arrise. I had extensive conversations about their process for drying the lumber and they assured me of their sound practices. Now i just have to wait and see that they stick to it!
FORUM GUIDELINES: Please review the guidelines below before posting at WOODWEB's Interactive Message Boards(return to top)
WOODWEB is a professional industrial woodworking site. Hobbyist and homeowner woodworking questions are inappropriate.
Messages should be kept reasonably short and on topic, relating to the focus of the forum. Responses should relate to the original question.
A valid email return address must be included with each message.
Advertising is inappropriate. The only exceptions are the Classified Ads Exchange, Machinery Exchange, Lumber Exchange, and Job Opportunities and Services Exchange. When posting listings in these areas, review the posting instructions carefully.
Subject lines may be edited for length and clarity.
"Cross posting" is not permitted. Choose the best forum for your question, and post your question at one forum only.
Messages requesting private responses will be removed - Forums are designed to provide information and assistance for all of our visitors. Private response requests are appropriate at WOODWEB's Exchanges and Job Opportunities and Services.
Messages that accuse businesses or individuals of alleged negative actions or behavior are inappropriate since WOODWEB is unable to verify or substantiate the claims.
Posts with the intent of soliciting answers to surveys are not appropriate. Contact WOODWEB for more information on initiating a survey.
Excessive forum participation by an individual upsets the balance of a healthy forum atmosphere. Individuals who excessively post responses containing marginal content will be considered repeat forum abusers.
Responses that initiate or support inappropriate and off-topic discussion of general politics detract from the professional woodworking focus of WOODWEB, and will be removed.
Participants are encouraged to use their real name when posting. Intentionally using another persons name is prohibited, and posts of this nature will be removed at WOODWEB's discretion.
Carefully review your message before clicking on the "Send Message" button - you will not be able to revise the message once it has been sent.
You will be notified of responses to the message(s) you posted via email. Be sure to enter your email address correctly.
WOODWEB's forums are a highly regarded resource for professional woodworkers. Messages and responses that are crafted in a professional and civil manner strengthen this resource. Messages that do not reflect a professional tone reduce the value of our forums.
Messages are inappropriate when their content: is deemed libelous in nature or is based on rumor, fails to meet basic standards of decorum, contains blatant advertising or inappropriate emphasis on self promotion (return to top).
Libel: Posts which defame an individual or organization, or employ a tone which can be viewed as malicious in nature. Words, pictures, or cartoons which expose a person or organization to public hatred, shame, disgrace, or ridicule, or induce an ill opinion of a person or organization, are libelous.
Improper Decorum: Posts which are profane, inciting, disrespectful or uncivil in tone, or maliciously worded. This also includes the venting of unsubstantiated opinions. Such messages do little to illuminate a given topic, and often have the opposite effect. Constructive criticism is acceptable (return to top).
Advertising: The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not an advertising venue. Companies participating in a Forum discussion should provide specific answers to posted questions. WOODWEB suggests that businesses include an appropriately crafted signature in order to identify their company. A well meaning post that seems to be on-topic but contains a product reference may do your business more harm than good in the Forum environment. Forum users may perceive your references to specific products as unsolicited advertising (spam) and consciously avoid your web site or services. A well-crafted signature is an appropriate way to advertise your services that will not offend potential customers. Signatures should be limited to 4-6 lines, and may contain information that identifies the type of business you're in, your URL and email address (return to top).
Repeated Forum Abuse:
Forum participants who repeatedly fail to follow WOODWEB's Forum Guidelines may encounter difficulty when attempting to post messages.
There are often situations when the original message asks for opinions: "What is the best widget for my type of shop?". To a certain extent, the person posting the message is responsible for including specific questions within the message. An open ended question (like the one above) invites responses that may read as sales pitches. WOODWEB suggests that companies responding to such a question provide detailed and substantive replies rather than responses that read as a one-sided product promotion. It has been WOODWEB's experience that substantive responses are held in higher regard by our readers (return to top).
The staff of WOODWEB assume no responsibility for the accuracy, content, or outcome of any posting transmitted at WOODWEB's Message Boards. Participants should undertake the use of machinery, materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB's Message Boards after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages it deems inappropriate. (return to top)
Forum Posting Form Guidelines
The name you enter in this field will be the name that appears with your post or response (return to form).
Personal or business website links must point to the author's website. Inappropriate links will be removed without notice, and at WOODWEB's sole discretion. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
Your e-mail address will not be publicly viewable. Forum participants will be able to contact you using a contact link (included with your post) that is substituted for your actual address. You must include a valid email address in this field. (return to form)
Subject may be edited for length and clarity. Subject lines should provide an indication of the content of your post. (return to form)
Thread Related Link and Image Guidelines
Thread Related Links posted at WOODWEB's Forums and Exchanges should point to locations that provide supporting information for the topic being discussed in the current message thread. The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not to serve as an advertising venue. A Thread Related Link that directs visitors to an area with inappropriate content will be removed. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links or images it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
Thread Related File Uploads
Thread Related Files posted at WOODWEB's Forums and Exchanges should provide supporting information for the topic being discussed in the current message thread. Video Files: acceptable video formats are: .MOV .AVI .WMV .MPEG .MPG .FLV .MP4 (Image Upload Tips) If you encounter any difficulty when uploading video files, E-mail WOODWEB for assistance. The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not to serve as an advertising venue. A Thread Related File that contains inappropriate content will be removed, and uploaded files that are not directly related to the message thread will be removed. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links, files, or images it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices.
What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe
for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use
of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation,
and at their own risk.