A cautionary tale

My wife bought  me this trivet a couple of Christmas’s ago (from Stinson Studios), made from a section of tree (which I believe is Red Cedar?). It has sat in a sideboard in the dining room where the climate is fairly much the same all year round. Yet yesterday when I pulled it out of the sideboard, I noticed a large crack – coming from one of weak points along the trunk.

This is a cautionary tale in the realization that wood is an organic object. It moves, even in its life after life as a tree. The reality is round cuts made this way nearly always split. Boards made of quarter-sawn lumber don’t usually have these problems, but wood cut in this cross-cut fashion cracks because of the increased shrinkage in the rings, something called tangential shrinkage (wood shrinkage in a direction tangent to the growth rings), versus radial shrinkage (wood shrinkage across the growth rings). Of course, as in this case, when shrinkage does occur it takes the path of least resistance – and manifests from a weak point on the outside of the tree.

There’s no real way to avoid this happening… except maybe avoid these types of trivets. Oiling it won’t help. In the end, one just has to live with it. It could be also repaired using a bowtie inlay.

P.S. There is a good guide to wood shrinkage and expansion here.



2 thoughts on “A cautionary tale

  1. Antony Brinlee says:

    The ratio of tangential to radial shrinkage can help you understand and minimize this issue. In North America, Southern Magnolia only has a ratio of 1.22 (5/4%/6.6% respectively). I looked into this when I cut some Magnolia and Osage Orange at the same time and wondered why I saw less endgrain check on the cut logs between the two species. I hope that helps.

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