wood moves: Crafting Receptive Designs
The craftsmen and women at Thos. Moser pride themselves on being experts on working with wood. They understand that the material’s organic complexity is both the beauty and the challenge of the work. Building with solid wood takes patience and a deep appreciation of its mercurial nature to create a result that will last a lifetime. Each wood species has its own unique personality, growth pattern, and tendencies to react to the elements in different ways.
With this understanding in mind, we utilize traditional joinery to allow for the natural movement of the wood, our finishes allow the wood to naturally develop a rich patina over time- most prominently cherry as it begins to darken within weeks acquiring a richness that is unparalleled to anything that comes from a can. And most importantly, when we have signed a piece of furniture we can, with confidence, understand how our furniture will age, perform and ultimately, withstand the rigors of time.
As Nakashima discovered in his live-edge pieces, and as woodworkers and furniture makers, we must pay close attention to what the wood is saying, allowing nature to inform the design. Through this process, we learn to accommodate the natural movement of the wood because without working within these organic parameters, we end up with a piece of furniture that splits, cracks, or simply falls apart.
Moisture Content and Relative Humidity
Wood moves in three-dimensions and the moisture content of freshly cut lumber ranges from 30% to 200% of the weight of the wood. When we build furniture, we use wood that has been kiln-dried to a moisture content of roughly 6%. In our Auburn, Maine workshop we maintain a year-round relative humidity of 43-50%. As the moisture content of the wood is in direct correlation with the relative humidity, working in a controlled environment, we can build our furniture with certainty knowing that the cut or chiseled dry-fit joinery we make today will have the same measurement tomorrow.
There are three directions of movement in wood; tangential, radial, and longitudinal.
Tangential movement is the amount the wood will expand and contract along with the growth rings and has the highest percentage of movement, usually around 2%.
Radial movement is the amount the wood will move perpendicular to the growth rings. This movement is about half the amount of tangential movement at about a rate of 1%.
Longitudinal movement is the length of the wood. This amount is minimal and for the most part, does not generally factor into the construction of a piece of furniture.
Balancing Aesthetics and Movement
Within its organic make up, we discover that even after wood has been cured, dried, and built into furniture that will last a lifetime, the cells within the wood continue to expand and contract throughout seasonal changes. This makes designing solid wood furniture even more complex, but for us, the challenge is well worth the effort.
Each piece of furniture has its own individual set of accommodations for movement which is inherent to its unique design. When our engineering department begins to develop a piece of furniture, the expansion and contraction of the wood are taken into consideration. The mechanics of these measurements are visibly evident in the traditional woodworking techniques we employ when building the furniture. For example, floating panel construction, which works by adding space for the wood panel to slide and float, unattached, within the rails, and stiles of the frame creates functional beauty on the back of our cases. The finesse of traditional joinery that holds our furniture together, allows the piece to move gracefully through seasonal changes, and adds depth to the character and craftsmanship of our work.
Caring for your Furniture
We do our best to ensure that your furniture will continue to function well in any environment, all year long. But there are a few things you can do to keep your furniture working well for you. When caring for your furniture, every effort should be made to keep your wooden furniture away from direct heat sources such as radiators, hot air outlets, baseboard heating elements, and vents as this can cause the piece to dry rapidly and split the wood.
Made for LIfe
When a craftsman takes to constructing a piece for life, he does so with and understanding of the material. That the material used in that piece of furniture is still very much alive, and that his creation will live on for years to come, particularly when the piece is designed and built with the movement of wood in mind.