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"Soft Spots" - a hardwood problem that's difficult to describe8/13
I'm doing a job which includes making table tops from premanufactured IKEA-style wood countertop slabs. These are edge-grain with finger-jointed blocks about 2ft long glued up to form 25"d countertop blanks. I've been told that returning the slabs to the manufacturer isn't an option and that I need to find a solution. The problem as best as I can describe it is that some of the components are face-grain-up rather than edge-grain-up, and although everything seems in order in the early stages, after sanding down we occasionally find an end of a block within the table top face that is "lifting". It's almost like the wood is stratifying, like a head of lettuce. Sorry I don't know how to describe it better than that. So there's a portion of the wood that is "loose" as my coworker describes it. Although I'm curious to know what cause this, I'm much more concerned with finding a solution to finish the job. We tried saturating the "soft" are with super glue which works marvelously except that it forms a slick that stands out from the surrounding oil-finished surface. Is there an adhesive or hardener that can be used to "cement" these areas that isn't so glossy when dry? Any other suggestions? The clock is ticking.
Regardless of what kind of glue you use to glue it down you'll need to sand it off the surface of the wood before finishing.
As for the cause it's not b/c of face grain vs edge grain. It's a problem with the wood itself. May be b/c it was improperly dried or possibly stresses that were within the tree. being that it's from Ikea I'd hazard a guess there's not a whole lot of QC going into slamming as many of these wood tops as as quickly as they can. You can glue it down to do a band-aid fix and get it out the door.....I just wouldn't be too surprised to get phone calls down the road!
If you bought the tops, you are stuck. If they were given to you, give them back with a clear and simple explanation. If the owner will not take them back, then explain what you are up against and how it has already cost you more than anticipated. It is not unusual to see costs go up in one area as a result of lower costs in another. You do not have to absorb that difference.
It sounds to me as if pieces of punk or shaky wood were used. Sometimes it is hard to train those 12 yr old kids.
If the glue will not consolidate the bad wood, you can route them out about 3/8" deep and inlay good wood. This will still increase the costs, but should yield a quality result/product.
I refused to cut or work with Ikea or other tops years ago, with the phrase "I prefer to see local woodworkers employed."
I did get some photos. These particular ones are in a different wood but they illustrate the problem more clearly.
The wood is cracking horizontally at intermediate stave ends. In this case the woodworker had cut a trough into the surface, revealing the issue. The problem is that after finishing this thin top piece will sometimes raise up, or "peel".
That is low quality wood. The heart of the log can be seen. This is avoided in better construction since it often splits in drying and has reaction wood in it.
This can be repaired by injecting a thin epoxy into the cracks, but you have to find them first - nearly impossible. The epoxy soaking into the wood may make the oil finish difficult.
The tops should be returned for a full refund. You will need to increase your fees to cover the unknown amount of work that you will encounter. This could go on for a while. You could get a call in a year about your tops 'falling apart'.
Oil finishes are reserved for the finest woods since that quality shows better with the oil. This is 'rustic' wood at best, and will not tolerate an oil finish, and would require a typical surface film, or barrier coat.
we specialize in custom wood countertops and have rarely encountered this problem. unfortunately, this is most directly related to the quality of product you are working with. i'll leave it there because this isn't going to help your situation.
typically, we do as you have with epoxy and the like to keep cracks from lifting and feeling soft. sanding an oil finish is difficult at best so i would encourage you to tape everything but the cracks to limit your sanding and refinish work.
one question for you - are the tops finished on both sides?
the few times we had a similar problem it seems like we'd finished one side and let the other side sit for a day or two unfinished. this has been due to unexpected situations as we typically finish the other side the next day (as soon as we can with our finish system). anyways, that seems to be the constant when we get situations like you have described.
If the wood has finish on it, I don't think anything will work. If you have raw wood, use a clear coat thin epozy finish, then scrape and sand back to wood. Oil finish after that. That is some really crap wood, wonder why it was the cheapest option for them?
Don't be silly, Sam R. Give them what they'll pay for, and move on to the next job. Some people are just programed to purchase temporary things multiple times. There's nothing that you can do about it.
It has been my unfortunate pleasure to come across this problem as well.
You'll be chasing this monkey for years before you fix it.
You are showing the heart of the tree. It's the part that moves most with changes in moisture. You can perhaps overpower it with epoxy, but it could easily check elsewhere, and you never know how far the splitting goes.
My experience with stabilizing wood like this with epoxy is that it sounds so much easier than it is: it takes at least 5x as much as you'd think possible, both in materials and in time.