Running with the Bull

Woodworking myths abound, as is true with nearly any craft or occupation. Two of my favorites, and by that I mean common misbeliefs that I try to correct, have to do with gluing up panels of solid wood.

The first is that adding biscuits adds to the strength of a well-made butt joint. It is simply not true. I do use biscuits to help align long butt joints (longer than, say, 30 inches) — which reduces frustration and improves my efficiency — but the joint is no stronger.

Second, when butt gluing flatsawn boards, there is no true advantage to alternating the growth ring orientation of the end grain … the “smile, frown, smile frown” orientation often suggested in woodworking magazines. If you like the grain pattern it provides as you compose the panel, great. But, with kiln-dried lumber, I have never personally seen the panel distortion that supposedly occurs if all the boards are aligned alike.

So there are a couple of myths busted … at least in my mind.

I am on something of a mission here: in an upcoming Woodworker’s Journal print magazine I instruct my recalcitrant staff in the proper way to make pilot holes. Now there is a slugfest you will not want to miss!

Rob Johnstone, Woodworker’s Journal

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