Wood Movement vs Bowtie Inlays

jfynyson

Jeremy
User
Background
I'm building a computer for my wife and the top is 65"x33" using 8/4 sapele. The top is glued up from 4 boards. While there are no cracks/checking my wife likes the look of the bowtie inlays (butterfly keys, Dutchman, etc...) and wants them added. I'm familiar with using these to mitigate existing cracks from getting worse but I've never used them purely for aesthetic reasons. I'm thinking of just using some ~1/8" or less soft maple rather than the typical thicker bowties that one would normally use since they'll really serve no functional purpose here. She wants several here and there down both sides (long the glue joint potentially on the 33" width). Also will be staying in this region and in a conditioned office space so I do not expect a lot of seasonal wood movement.....plus it's quarter sawn sapele.

Questions
  • Will using bowtie inlays when I have no cracks create any issues to mitigate wood movement thus creating an issue I would not have had otherwise ? I'm thinking of how folks will afix a table top that doesn't allow for wood movement....am I creating that issue here being that I'll be using several inlays ?
  • If using thin ~1/8" soft maple for bowties be too thin potentially and thus create a issue during seasonal movement where the bowtie could itself become an aesthetic issue such as the tips crack or pop up, etc ? I'm not sure how this would happen if glued and inset properly but not sure what could go wrong...
  • Could anything else potentially go wrong I'm not thinking of here ?

Thank in advance !
 

cyclopentadiene

Update your profile with your name
User
In my experience, bowties work exceptionally well. I have not had issues.
If you look at the work of the master, George Nakashima, the piecces he created are still in exceptional condition. Note I have only seen pieces in the Renwick gallery and Smithsonian has perfect temperature and humidity control.

In addition, sapele is very dense and stable. It generally does not move a lot. In the worst case, if you see movement in a couple of years, you can always add another bowtie. I am assuming the lumber you are using is kiln dried.
Soft maple may be a sanding challenge as sapele is very hard and the mismatch in hardness will require care to avoid a scallop which is not good on a table top. I would use a hand plane and card scraper to make the surface flush and only sand 320 grit and up.
 

jfynyson

Jeremy
User
In my experience, bowties work exceptionally well. I have not had issues.
If you look at the work of the master, George Nakashima, the piecces he created are still in exceptional condition. Note I have only seen pieces in the Renwick gallery and Smithsonian has perfect temperature and humidity control.

In addition, sapele is very dense and stable. It generally does not move a lot. In the worst case, if you see movement in a couple of years, you can always add another bowtie. I am assuming the lumber you are using is kiln dried.
Soft maple may be a sanding challenge as sapele is very hard and the mismatch in hardness will require care to avoid a scallop which is not good on a table top. I would use a hand plane and card scraper to make the surface flush and only sand 320 grit and up.

Thanks for the reply; but to clarify, I'm not looking to add the bowties here to mitigate movement but rather just for aesthetic reasons and I want to ensure I'm not going to create any issues such as not allowing for any movement that would normally occur.

You did remind me that I need to be careful in cleaning up the maple to ensure it doesn't "contaminate" the pores of the surrounding sapele and show up as white spots and appear as a grain filler so to speak. I've seen this happen but usually when using a darker wood accent contaminating the lighter maple after sanding.
 

Roy G

Roy
Senior User
You could use veneer for the bowties. Or make them small so less influence on the sapele movement.

Roy G
 

red

Papa Red
Red
Senior User
I think you're way over thinking this. I always used homemade bowtie inlays in all the farm style tables I built purely as decoration and my customers asked for them too. It adds to the piece. You will not create an issue by using them. Go for it.

Red
 

jfynyson

Jeremy
User
I think you're way over thinking this. I always used homemade bowtie inlays in all the farm style tables I built purely as decoration and my customers asked for them too. It adds to the piece. You will not create an issue by using them. Go for it.

Red

That's comforting from your experience and exactly hat I was looking for (hoping for). I made the bowties last night and plan on starting the insets soon now based off your experience. Thanks !
 
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