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    Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    Now that tax season is over and I am again retired, I am embarking on building a curly cherry, flat top highboy that I have wanted to build for several years now. It will, of course, be built in two sections; lower with four cabriole legs and upper with the majority of the drawers. The cabriole legs are 38" overall with posts of 12". The sides of the lower portion will be 14" long and 12" wide. I am making the sides out of a single wide curly cherry board. My question is actually a request for opinions. Should I run the grain of the sides horizontal or vertical. The front drawers will all be run horizontal of course. The face frame of the lower portion will have the outside rails run vertically which will match the orientation of the grain of the legs. If I run the side grain horizontally, it will match the front drawers but will be at a right angle to the grain of the cabriole legs. With a width of 12", will that seriously risk the side splitting over time. If I run the grain vertically, it will match the grain of the leg post and be more stable but will not match the grain orientation of the drawers. Also, the lower edge of the side will be scalloped. The sides to the upper portion will definitely run vertically, so running the lower side vertically will match that. OH MY GOSH, WHAT SHOULD I DO? I NEVER KNEW RETIREMENT WAS SO HARD!!!!

    Thanks for any opinions. Rob Liles

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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    I try and have my grain go the direction of the longest measurement. If 12x20 the grain would go with the 20.

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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    I would match the sides of the top and bottom. Also vertical side will be stronger where the scalloped part is, less likely to break off it it gets hit or grabbed to lift the chest.



    One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man." -Elbert Hubbard

    WWFD

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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    You asked for opinions so here goes:

    Horizontal for a couple reasons right of the top of my head:

    1. I wouldn't want to tenon parallel to the grain. To me this is a potential problem because the side will be able to cup.

    2. I would want the side grain parallel to the drawer fronts.

    On the uppers I might still go horizontally for the same reasons given above.

    Time to start looking in some antique furniture books........

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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    Rob,

    I'll give it a try, since not many have responded. I was hoping Danmart77 might chime in.

    I have recently bought several books on traditional American furniture, though only a few photos of the side of highboys appear in the many examples.

    In general, cases that end near the floor (think feet, rather than legs) like dressers, secretaries, etc. seem to have the grain running vertically on the sides. Cases with legs (lowboys, highboys, sideboards) often have the sides arranged horizontally.

    I agree that 12" cross-grain is likely to cause problems. Indeed, I have seen many old cases like this with cracks in the sides. Funny thing is, many craftsman that I admire don't seem to allow for movement of the sides in their pieces (Garrett Hack and Glen Huey for example). I am thinking about building a sideboard. If so, I am going to allow the lower tenon some room to move.

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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    When edge joining flat sawn boards to make up a panel. Try and position the cathedral grain to make it smile at you - not frown. This does a couple of things for you... It make the panel easy to route / machine / sand as the grain is all running one way and it makes for happy furniture. I mean no one wants sad wood in their furniture
    Last edited by CrealBilly; 04-21-2017 at 12:53 AM.
    Proud to be a Deplorable Common Redneck, doing his part to Make American Great Again #MAGA

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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    If you tenon the sides into the legs you want the side grain runnng horizontal into the legs. Divide your tenons and glue and pin at the top. Pin but don't glue the lower tenons and leave room for the pins to move by making the holes in the tenon oblong across grain. If your sides are quartersawn or nearly so they will move less than if they are flat sawn. Tenons should fit snug at the wide faces but have a little room to let your sides move. You anchor the top and leave some room for movement at the bottom.

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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    Rob, Are you building from a set of plans?

    I'm not sure how you'd do an 18th century Queen Anne low boy or high boy without M&T into the legs. My bonnet top is horizontal with M&T.



    FWIW, we do have a second high boy (a commercial one) that has the grain vertical???
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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    Thanks for all the replies. Right now, horizontal is ahead of vertical. Tendriver, I am using a set of plans as a guide but am modifying some aspects of the drawers and overall dimensions to fit what I want to do. The lower sides will, of course, be tenioned into the leg posts. By the way, incredible bonnet top high boy!! I am leaning toward horizontal grain orientation. One thing I did make a mistake in my original post is the sides are actually going to be 14 1/2" long and 14" wide instead of 12. The addition of the 1 3/4" post on each side will give it a more rectangular look. I am still concerned about the 14" width and the movement restriction of the vertical grain of the cabriole legs. What Charlie suggests is a possible solution.

    Again, thanks to all. Rob

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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    Lester Margon had plans for two pieces in one of his books. The high boy had horizontal grain in the lower sides, but the builder had put veneer over them with the grain oriented vertically. The low boy he showed had vertical grain for the side pieces. I think that was the look that was popular back when the antiques were made. Thats why so many originals have cracks in the lower sides.

    Roy G

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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    Rob, If I were building a flat top, this would be it. Really like the legs, feet and hidden drawer on top.

    Unfortunately, I don't have a place for it.

    Framed out the space for the bonnet top to help protect it. The ankles are tiny. Make sure you have zero runout through your ankles as they are holding up more weight than you realize.



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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    Always set the grain to the longest dimension. This is an artistic decision. Horizontal grain on the sides will end up looking odd. Somethings have to be done for viewing pleasure. Then the construction will be modified to allow for construction strength.

    Pop

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    Re: Which Way to Orientate the Grain

    TENdriver,

    Amazingly, the picture you have posted is the exact highboy I am building. I have to assume that you possess a copy of "Queen Anne Furniture" by Norman Vandal. I am making some slight modifications to this to accommodate some features I want to include. I hope to have this finished sometime this summer and will post pictures when it is complete and maybe even during construction. Again, I am leaning toward horizontal grain on the sides and will try to accommodate for wood movement. There should not be too much as my shop is very well humidity controlled and is at or slightly less than my house where the piece will ultimately be.

    Again, thanks for all the comments and suggestions. Rob

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