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Large solid wood panel11/6
I recently received an order from a new client for a bedroom set. The wife is a designer and designed the whole set. I've had to make a few tweaks to make it work, but the headboard is giving me headaches. She has designed a floating panel to sit between the legs and the top and bottom rails. I've figure out how to attach the panel, but building the panel is what is tough. It is basically a large shaker style door that is 58" long x 30" tall with the center piece being about 52" x 24". She wants a figured wood and all of the plywood sheets we've looked at are not figured enough so I'm thinking of gluing up several boards to form the panel as I'm using figured solid wood throughout the bedroom set for drawers and tops. But I am worried the whole thing will explode with moisture movement. The frame is 1" thick and the insert can be anywhere from 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Can I get away with space balls to control the movement on something this large. Any other thoughts. Thanks in advance.
Do what every other furniture maker in the business does….use veneer.
Plywood and solid wood are best avoided in that situation IMO.
JeffD has a good point. If you are not comfortable with larger stile and rail, frame and panel construction (Shaker has nothing to do with it....), then veneer is easier for you work with. Solid wood moves in a scientific and predictable manner and is no mystery, but if you are uncomfortable....
The veneered panel can be a custom layup that you have others press for you if you do not have veneer experience or equipment. A veneered panel can also be glued into the frame work instead of floated, giving more rigidity to the structure.
But you still have to do the frame and panel construction so it will all work and stay together.
Thanks for the idea on veneers. Unfortunately, I don't have a vacuum press and living in the middle of nowhere, it probably is quite the drive to find one.
Besides the benefit of stability, (which is a big one!), there's also the benefit that you can usually get really top notch wood in veneer form that's not always easy to get in solid timber.
As far as the vac press goes I personally think they are invaluable. However there's likely more than a couple guys still out there just using the old veneer hammer to get the job done!
24x52 isn't that big of panel. Pin it in the middle, and you only have to worry about 12" of movement, each direction. Make sure the grooves are deep enough and be aware of the movement based on what time of year you build. Not a big deal.
Go with the solid wood if you're more comfortable, the engineering is no big shake.
You are right about 3//8" movement with a lot of domestic hardwoods (oak, cherry, maple, for instance) so go conservative and allow for a half inch. As rich c. said, pin it in the middle, put a couple battens (with slotted holes) on the back to make sure it stays flat. Allow an extra 1/4" in the edge grooves for movement.
Personally, I don't use the balls, but you could work the battens into the frame and use them to keep the panel centered.
Make sure your glue joints are good and tight at the ends just to keep things safe.
On the other hand, if your plywood supplier lets you pick your sheet, flip through a few to see if there is any weird veneer in there. You can field the ply with solid wood or rebate the back to make the face flat. I suppose that's the more Shaker look.
While you are at it, consider PSA backed veneer from a company such as Oakwood. I think you can get it with the thicker backing, or veneer backing, which seem like better quality products. For best results, you have to stick it to a finished surface. I believe 24" is the widest you can get PSA veneer.
The veneered panel can be a custom lay-up that you have others press for you if you do not have veneer experience or equipment.