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Grain in joints and finishing questions

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  • msgilliandurham
    My thanks in advance for any responses I get to the questions below. (and yes, this group will get *heavy* mention in my class next weekend! :-) Question one:
    Message 1 of 13 , Jun 30, 2006
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      My thanks in advance for any responses I get to the questions below.
      (and yes, this group will get *heavy* mention in my class next
      weekend! :-)

      Question one:
      I've been reading some books on modern carpentry (filling in the big
      honking gaps in my very rough-and-ready knowledge) and one of them
      insists that for a box with a lid, the front, back, and sides of the
      box all need to have the grain running the same way, (ie, parallel to
      the bottom) or "the joints will fail".

      This is fine if the ends of your box are the same height as the front
      and back, but if you are making the ends longer than required for the
      body (so they act as "legs") -- and the box is already 12" high, the
      grain on the ends has to run at right angles to the grain on the
      front and back if you are making the box more than 12" square.

      Anybody have any insights on this? I'm guessing it's not as big a
      deal as that book makes out.

      Question two:
      Regarding finishes: what is the advantage of applying boiled linseed
      oil first, then some kind of paste wax (butcher's wax, etc.) to just
      using a wax finish?

      I'm thinking that newcomers to woodworking may be a tad intimidated
      by the linseed oil, but will be okay using just wax (especially if I
      liken it to polishing your shoes)

      Speaking of which, my mother, God bless her, used to finish
      unfinished furniture with liquid Rit clothing dye and neutral shoe
      polish, and 35 years later it's all still holding up fine.

      Thanks again for the help --
      Gillian [who never thought about the grain in a joint until now]
      Durham
    • Chuck Phillips
      I ll pick up this gauntlet. (Why am I still awake? I have to be at a client in 9 hours!) Regarding question #1: Grain orientation matters for a number of
      Message 2 of 13 , Jul 1, 2006
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        I'll pick up this gauntlet. (Why am I still awake? I have to be at a
        client in 9 hours!)

        Regarding question #1: Grain orientation matters for a number of
        reasons. Visually, it is more pleasant to have continuous lines
        wrapping around the sides. This is more noticeable in a slab-sided
        piece like a six-board chest, less so in frame and panel construction.
        Structurally, cross-grain joints are inherently weaker and less durable.
        Why? As the wood moves with humidity changes, the two parts of the
        joint are trying to move in different directions. Most adhesives will
        eventually fail in this situation, and unless you take measures to
        mechanically lock the joint, it is destined to come apart.

        With that said, I think it is more important for your design to avoid
        small sections of short grain in the foot sections. Regardless of how
        good a box looks, if a leg snaps off the whole thing becomes firewood.

        #2: Wax alone is a pretty poor moisture barrier. Boiled Linseed Oil
        (or BLO) is a better barrier that will actually build a bit of a film.
        I'm not sure why people would find it intimidating. All you need to do
        is wipe on a coat, let it soak in for a few minutes, and wipe off the
        excess. After it cures for a bit, additional coats can be wiped on
        until the desired thickness is achieved. Once you're happy with the
        surface film, wax will provide a smoother feel and help prevent dust
        from sticking. The best reference I have for finishes is "Understanding
        Wood Finishing" by Bob Flexner (ISBN 0-7621-0680-8). The reason this
        book works for me is that he approaches the subject from the perspective
        of a chemist and engineer. YMMV.

        Good luck with your class. Make sure you have fun.
        Charles Joiner
        Caid

        -----Original Message-----
        From: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
        [mailto:medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of msgilliandurham
        Sent: Friday, June 30, 2006 6:07 PM
        To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [MedievalSawdust] Grain in joints and finishing questions


        My thanks in advance for any responses I get to the questions below.
        (and yes, this group will get *heavy* mention in my class next
        weekend! :-)

        Question one:
        I've been reading some books on modern carpentry (filling in the big
        honking gaps in my very rough-and-ready knowledge) and one of them
        insists that for a box with a lid, the front, back, and sides of the
        box all need to have the grain running the same way, (ie, parallel to
        the bottom) or "the joints will fail".

        This is fine if the ends of your box are the same height as the front
        and back, but if you are making the ends longer than required for the
        body (so they act as "legs") -- and the box is already 12" high, the
        grain on the ends has to run at right angles to the grain on the
        front and back if you are making the box more than 12" square.

        Anybody have any insights on this? I'm guessing it's not as big a
        deal as that book makes out.

        Question two:
        Regarding finishes: what is the advantage of applying boiled linseed
        oil first, then some kind of paste wax (butcher's wax, etc.) to just
        using a wax finish?

        I'm thinking that newcomers to woodworking may be a tad intimidated
        by the linseed oil, but will be okay using just wax (especially if I
        liken it to polishing your shoes)

        Speaking of which, my mother, God bless her, used to finish
        unfinished furniture with liquid Rit clothing dye and neutral shoe
        polish, and 35 years later it's all still holding up fine.

        Thanks again for the help --
        Gillian [who never thought about the grain in a joint until now]
        Durham







        Yahoo! Groups Links
      • Conal O'hAirt Jim Hart
        ... in a six board chest the sides and the ends SHOULD have the grain running in different directions.... cause of the feet on the ends ( a drawing would
        Message 3 of 13 , Jul 1, 2006
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          --- Chuck Phillips <chuck@...> wrote:

          > I'll pick up this gauntlet. (Why am I still awake?
          > I have to be at a
          > client in 9 hours!)
          >
          > Regarding question #1: Grain orientation matters
          > for a number of
          > reasons. Visually, it is more pleasant to have
          > continuous lines
          > wrapping around the sides. This is more noticeable
          > in a slab-sided
          > piece like a six-board chest, less so in frame and
          > panel construction.

          in a six board chest the sides and the ends
          SHOULD have the grain running in different
          directions.... 'cause of the 'feet' on the ends
          ( a drawing would better illustrate )

          Running the grain the same as the sides would make
          the feet weaker and easier to break off.



          Baron Conal O'hAirt / Jim Hart

          Aude Aliquid Dignum
          ' Dare Something Worthy '

          __________________________________________________
          Do You Yahoo!?
          Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
          http://mail.yahoo.com
        • Chuck Phillips
          Conal; You re absolutely correct. Teach me to go spouting off in the wee hours of the night. This would explain why every example of a six-board I can recall
          Message 4 of 13 , Jul 1, 2006
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            Conal;

            You're absolutely correct. Teach me to go spouting off in the wee hours
            of the night. This would explain why every example of a six-board I can
            recall has the grain oriented vertically on the ends.

            I suspect that the reasoning people are using for the original
            recommendation is the differential expansion argument. A six-board is a
            special case where other considerations override - Short grain failure
            is much more likely than joint bond failure. We are still left with the
            issue of placing end grain directly on the ground, which will eventually
            lead to rot if there is any moisture. Adding some feet will help here,
            at the cost of making the chest something other than a true six-board...

            Charles Joiner
            Rambling, running on 4 hours sleep.

            -----Original Message-----
            From: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
            [mailto:medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Conal O'hAirt Jim
            Hart
            Sent: Saturday, July 01, 2006 5:56 AM
            To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: RE: [MedievalSawdust] Grain in joints and finishing questions



            --- Chuck Phillips <chuck@...> wrote:

            > I'll pick up this gauntlet. (Why am I still awake?
            > I have to be at a
            > client in 9 hours!)
            >
            > Regarding question #1: Grain orientation matters
            > for a number of
            > reasons. Visually, it is more pleasant to have
            > continuous lines
            > wrapping around the sides. This is more noticeable
            > in a slab-sided
            > piece like a six-board chest, less so in frame and
            > panel construction.

            in a six board chest the sides and the ends
            SHOULD have the grain running in different
            directions.... 'cause of the 'feet' on the ends
            ( a drawing would better illustrate )

            Running the grain the same as the sides would make
            the feet weaker and easier to break off.



            Baron Conal O'hAirt / Jim Hart

            Aude Aliquid Dignum
            ' Dare Something Worthy '

            __________________________________________________
            Do You Yahoo!?
            Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
            http://mail.yahoo.com



            Yahoo! Groups Links
          • Glenn McDavid
            ... Roy Underhill discusses six-board chests in one of the _Woodwright_ books, including the differential expansion issue. Don t recall the details, but it
            Message 5 of 13 , Jul 1, 2006
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              On Sat, 1 Jul 2006, Chuck Phillips wrote:

              > I suspect that the reasoning people are using for the original
              > recommendation is the differential expansion argument. A six-board is a
              > special case where other considerations override - Short grain failure
              > is much more likely than joint bond failure.

              Roy Underhill discusses six-board chests in one of the _Woodwright_
              books, including the differential expansion issue. Don't recall the
              details, but it can be made to work.

              Glenn McDavid
              gmcdavid@...
              http://www.winternet.com/~gmcdavid
            • msgilliandurham
              ... By mechanically do you mean with nails, dowels, or screws? or by cutting a strip out of the ends (esentially making one great big finger joint) I m
              Message 6 of 13 , Jul 1, 2006
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                --- In medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com, "Chuck Phillips" <chuck@...>
                wrote:

                > Structurally, cross-grain joints are inherently weaker and
                > less durable.
                > [...] Most adhesives will
                > eventually fail in this situation, and unless you take measures to
                > mechanically lock the joint, it is destined to come apart.

                By "mechanically" do you mean with nails, dowels, or screws? or by
                cutting a strip out of the ends (esentially making one great big
                finger joint) I'm guessing both would be best.

                > With that said, I think it is more important for your design
                > to avoid small sections of short grain in the foot sections.
                > Regardless of how good a box looks, if a leg snaps off the
                > whole thing becomes firewood.

                Oh, DU'UHHH! <sigh -- *think* Gillian, THINK!>

                >
                > #2: Wax alone is a pretty poor moisture barrier. Boiled Linseed
                > Oil (or BLO) is a better barrier that will actually build a bit of
                > a film. I'm not sure why people would find it intimidating.
                > All you need to do
                > is wipe on a coat, let it soak in for a few minutes, and wipe
                > off the
                > excess. After it cures for a bit, additional coats can be wiped on
                > until the desired thickness is achieved. Once you're happy with the
                > surface film, wax will provide a smoother feel and help prevent dust
                > from sticking.

                I guess the oil seems more toxic to me than just wax -- not as
                practical to use if you are doing this in your apartment :-) -- more
                flammable, smellier, etc.

                I'd be willing to put on a wax finish in the bathroom with the
                exhaust fan running -- BLO I'd really want to do outside, which would
                mke my nosy neighbors whine to the complex management, wno would come
                down on me ...

                There's also that judgment factor of how long to let it cure, and
                the "desired thickness". All I'm saying is that there's more of a
                learning curve involved.

                And thanks for the book reference -- probably won't be able to get my
                hands on it before the class, but I'll definitely look it up.

                Thank you so much for the help -- Gillian Durham
              • msgilliandurham
                My thanks to you both -- and Milord Charles -- go get some sleep!! I m thinking the wicking up the feet issue could be solved easily enough by 1) Dipping the
                Message 7 of 13 , Jul 1, 2006
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                  My thanks to you both -- and Milord Charles -- go get some sleep!!

                  I'm thinking the "wicking up the feet" issue could be solved easily
                  enough by

                  1) Dipping the feet in warm wax until they will absorb no more wax,
                  and have a thin coating on the outside

                  2) setting the feet on pieces of glazed tile,

                  3) capping them with boiled leather or [horrors] pleather.

                  None of which are documentable, but then how many of our medieval
                  ancestors left their furniture sitting outside for a week or two at a
                  time, several times a year??

                  [g,d, & r]

                  Thanks again -- Gillian Durham

                  --- In medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com, "Chuck Phillips" <chuck@...>
                  wrote:
                  >
                  > Conal;
                  >
                  > You're absolutely correct. Teach me to go spouting off in the wee
                  hours
                  > of the night. This would explain why every example of a six-board
                  I can
                  > recall has the grain oriented vertically on the ends.
                  >
                  > I suspect that the reasoning people are using for the original
                  > recommendation is the differential expansion argument. A six-board
                  is a
                  > special case where other considerations override - Short grain
                  failure
                  > is much more likely than joint bond failure. We are still left
                  with the
                  > issue of placing end grain directly on the ground, which will
                  eventually
                  > lead to rot if there is any moisture. Adding some feet will help
                  here,
                  > at the cost of making the chest something other than a true six-
                  board...
                  >
                  > Charles Joiner
                  > Rambling, running on 4 hours sleep.
                  >
                  > -----Original Message-----
                  > From: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
                  > [mailto:medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Conal O'hAirt
                  Jim
                  > Hart
                  > Sent: Saturday, July 01, 2006 5:56 AM
                  > To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
                  > Subject: RE: [MedievalSawdust] Grain in joints and finishing
                  questions
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > --- Chuck Phillips <chuck@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > > I'll pick up this gauntlet. (Why am I still awake?
                  > > I have to be at a
                  > > client in 9 hours!)
                  > >
                  > > Regarding question #1: Grain orientation matters
                  > > for a number of
                  > > reasons. Visually, it is more pleasant to have
                  > > continuous lines
                  > > wrapping around the sides. This is more noticeable
                  > > in a slab-sided
                  > > piece like a six-board chest, less so in frame and
                  > > panel construction.
                  >
                  > in a six board chest the sides and the ends
                  > SHOULD have the grain running in different
                  > directions.... 'cause of the 'feet' on the ends
                  > ( a drawing would better illustrate )
                  >
                  > Running the grain the same as the sides would make
                  > the feet weaker and easier to break off.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Baron Conal O'hAirt / Jim Hart
                  >
                  > Aude Aliquid Dignum
                  > ' Dare Something Worthy '
                  >
                  > __________________________________________________
                  > Do You Yahoo!?
                  > Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
                  > http://mail.yahoo.com
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Yahoo! Groups Links
                  >
                • Conal O'hAirt Jim Hart
                  ... I didn t sleep much either last night.... forgive me if I was blunt. Baron Conal O hAirt / Jim Hart Aude Aliquid Dignum Dare Something Worthy
                  Message 8 of 13 , Jul 1, 2006
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                    >
                    > Charles Joiner
                    > Rambling, running on 4 hours sleep.
                    >

                    I didn't sleep much either last night....
                    forgive me if I was blunt.

                    Baron Conal O'hAirt / Jim Hart

                    Aude Aliquid Dignum
                    ' Dare Something Worthy '

                    __________________________________________________
                    Do You Yahoo!?
                    Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
                    http://mail.yahoo.com
                  • AlbionWood
                    Most of the 16th c. six-board chests appear to have been treenailed; some appear to have used iron nails. Treenails have the advantage here as they are
                    Message 9 of 13 , Jul 1, 2006
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                      Most of the 16th c. six-board chests appear to have been treenailed; some appear to have used iron nails.  Treenails have the advantage here as they are flexible, so can accommodate some cross-grain movement without splitting the boards.  Using kiln-dried quartersawn material also helps.  Thick stuff won't move as much as thinner.

                      I use Tremont nails in slightly oversize holes.  My main problem is cupping as the boards shrink in dry climates; this is exacerbated by my use of 1/2" boards for the sides (to save weight).

                      I made a couple of clamped-front chests with full 1" thick lids (milled from 5/4 lumber) treenailed to battens about 2" wide, as seen on surviving 13th to 15th c. chests.  I was worried about differential movement, but the customer reported the lid stayed flat.

                      Speaking of clamped-front chests, this is another example of a medieval technique that modern authors would say cannot work.  The joints between the legs and the panels are cross-grain, and frequently involve wide boards.  Sometimes you can see where this has indeed caused the panels to crack, but quite a lot of them look just fine.  It's possible that the peg holes in the tenons were elongated (this is what I usually do), but it's also possible that the combination of flexible pegs and thick lumber accommodates all the cross-grain movement.

                      Cheers,
                      Colin


                      msgilliandurham wrote:

                      By "mechanically" do you mean with nails, dowels, or screws? or by
                      cutting a strip out of the ends (esentially making one great big
                      finger joint) I'm guessing both would be best.



                    • msgilliandurham
                      ... I m guessing from the context that treenailing is using some kind of narrow pegs as if they were metal nails -- but could you elaborate, please? ...
                      Message 10 of 13 , Jul 1, 2006
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                        --- In medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com, AlbionWood <albionwood@...>
                        wrote:
                        >
                        > Most of the 16th c. six-board chests appear to have been
                        > treenailed; some appear to have used iron nails.

                        I'm guessing from the context that "treenailing" is using some kind
                        of narrow pegs as if they were metal nails -- but could you
                        elaborate, please?

                        > I use Tremont nails in slightly oversize holes. My main problem is
                        > cupping as the boards shrink in dry climates; this is exacerbated
                        > by my use of 1/2" boards for the sides (to save weight).
                        >
                        > It's possible that
                        > the peg holes in the tenons were elongated (this is what I usually
                        > do), but it's also possible that the combination of flexible pegs
                        > and thick lumber accommodates all the cross-grain movement.

                        Elongated how, please?

                        Also, the book which started my thinking about this issue, says
                        that "when assembing a box or drawer [this is one where the grain of
                        all four sides is the same] turn the boards so tha annuual rings
                        curve out [...] The board's natural tendency to cup will keep the
                        corner joints tight at the edges."

                        Gillian [grateful with the patience of this group for her questions!]
                        Durham
                      • albionwood
                        ... Treenails are basically wooden nails. There really isn t much difference between pegs and treenails, except the latter sounds cooler. It s more the way
                        Message 11 of 13 , Jul 1, 2006
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                          --- In medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com, "msgilliandurham"
                          <msgilliandurham@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > > I'm guessing from the context that "treenailing" is using some kind
                          > of narrow pegs as if they were metal nails -- but could you
                          > elaborate, please?

                          Treenails are basically wooden nails. There really isn't much
                          difference between pegs and treenails, except the latter sounds
                          cooler. It's more the way they are used that's different: Treenailing
                          implies (to me at least) fixing one board atop another, whereas
                          pegging is a way to lock mortise and tenon joints together.

                          Note well, however, that these terms aren't rigidly defined, so other
                          writers may use them in different ways. (I think in boatbuilding a
                          treenail means a peg with a head, like an unthreaded bolt, so it can't
                          be pulled through a board. But what I know about boatbuilding
                          wouldn't cloud your vision if it was in your eye, so...)

                          >
                          > Elongated how, please?

                          When pegging a wide, cross-grain mortise-and-tenon joint, you can
                          elongate the peg holes in the tenon so that the tenoned board can move
                          without opening up the joint. For example, a breadboard end might be
                          fixed with three (or five) pegs. The center one is done the usual way
                          (i.e. drawbored - the hole in the tenon is offset slightly toward the
                          shoulder, relative to the holes in the mortise) so all movement is
                          away from the center. The other holes (also drawbored) can be
                          elongated slightly across the grain, so that the tabletop can shrink
                          or swell without cracking.

                          I don't think this was ordinarily done much in the MA because thick
                          riven planks don't actually move that much, and because the pegs are
                          flexible enough to accommodate some movement. But I wouldn't be
                          surprised to see it on clamped-front chests or tabletops in the late MA.


                          > Also, the book which started my thinking about this issue, says
                          > that "when assembing a box or drawer [this is one where the grain of
                          > all four sides is the same] turn the boards so tha annuual rings
                          > curve out [...] The board's natural tendency to cup will keep the
                          > corner joints tight at the edges."

                          This is true only if the board is losing moisture and shrinking. The
                          outside of a log shrinks more than the inside, so it cups opposite the
                          curvature of the rings. It's also only true for plainsawn (flatsawn)
                          lumber. Quartersawn lumber has little tendency to cup.

                          Cheers,
                          Colin
                        • Chuck Phillips
                          Conal; Even if intended (and I m sure none was), no offense was taken. This is one of the most civil mailing lists I ve even subscribed to. Charles Joiner A
                          Message 12 of 13 , Jul 2, 2006
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                            Conal;

                            Even if intended (and I'm sure none was), no offense was taken. This is
                            one of the most civil mailing lists I've even subscribed to.

                            Charles Joiner
                            A little better rested now, watching Le Tour on the TV.

                            -----Original Message-----
                            From: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
                            [mailto:medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Conal O'hAirt Jim
                            Hart
                            Sent: Saturday, July 01, 2006 12:41 PM
                            To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
                            Subject: RE: [MedievalSawdust] Grain in joints and finishing questions


                            >
                            > Charles Joiner
                            > Rambling, running on 4 hours sleep.
                            >

                            I didn't sleep much either last night....
                            forgive me if I was blunt.

                            Baron Conal O'hAirt / Jim Hart

                            Aude Aliquid Dignum
                            ' Dare Something Worthy '

                            __________________________________________________
                            Do You Yahoo!?
                            Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
                            http://mail.yahoo.com



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                          • Geffrei Maudeleyne
                            A short story on grain. In High School we designed and built our own furniture instead of bird houses. I designed a game table with a checkerboard in the
                            Message 13 of 13 , Jul 2, 2006
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                              A short story on grain.

                               

                              In High School we designed and built our own furniture instead of bird houses. I designed a game table with a checkerboard in the middle. The board had all of it’s grain going in one direction. Then I wrapped it in a frame of walnut with the grain going along the sides of the checkerboard. I filled out the bulk the table top with poplar that ran in two directions and then banded the eight sided table top with walnut that ran in four different directions. The walnut came from someone’s grandfather’s barn attic, many years old. The poplar was kiln dried.

                               

                              My shop teacher was in on all of this planning and execution. He should have been executed. We built our projects an hour a day for several months so it did not get a finish until late in the game. By then it was too late anyway. Wood, even when removed from the tree grows and shrinks. I had to fight the top to re-glue all the joints when they pushed each other apart. In disgust, the table now has a painted piece of birch plywood.

                               

                              Projects like the 6 board box have room for the legs to get longer etc. you have just an angle to another.

                               

                              Compare to:

                              -l-l-l

                              l-l-l-

                              -l-l-l

                              If the lines crudely denote grain direction. The interior swelling and shrinking directly affects every other joint. Adding things like dovetails, biscuits, dowels and pegs also affect your results.

                               

                              Geffrei


                              From: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com [mailto:medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of msgilliandurham
                              Sent: Friday, June 30, 2006 9:07 PM
                              To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
                              Subject: [MedievalSawdust] Grain in joints and finishing questions

                               


                              My thanks in advance for any responses I get to the questions below.
                              (and yes, this group will get *heavy* mention in my class next
                              weekend! :-)

                              Question one:
                              I've been reading some books on modern carpentry (filling in the big
                              honking gaps in my very rough-and-ready knowledge) and one of them
                              insists that for a box with a lid, the front, back, and sides of the
                              box all need to have the grain running the same way, (i.e., parallel to
                              the bottom) or "the joints will fail".

                              trimmed for digest users.

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