I like clear, unblemished wood as much as the next guy – most fine furniture projects demand it – but I also like the natural look of knots.
While large-scale defects, rifts and gnarly wood can sometimes be the center of attention in some pieces (think Nakashima), it isn’t often that a project can incorporate the random knots that occur in some wood species. Usually, we cut out workpieces to eliminate them, but when the wood in question is white pine, unless you’ve opted for more expensive clear lumber, knots are part of the package.
I’d hate to have a lot of that in my home – the knotty-pine cabinets in the kitchen on the 1960s-based TV show “Mad Men” are anachronistically awful – but for some projects I like to have them in there because they can add visual interest to the piece. For some furniture the placement of the knots, especially in book-matched stock, can be extremely attractive. Of course, for primitive stuff I make for reenacting use, they’re perfectly acceptable no matter where they occur – unless they get in the way of milling, which is the point of this blog.
Whenever I work with wood containing knots, I inspect them carefully. If they’re perfectly solid and as strong as the surrounding wood, I leave them as is. But if they’ve fissured or even look like they’re beginning to separate or loosen even slightly I always stabilize them with CA (“super”) glue before proceeding.
Must’ve missed one over the weekend, however, when ripping a piece of pine sent one flying across the shop. I was wearing these (tap-tap) safety glasses, though, and the knot in question was very small, so it had very little mass or velocity and landed on the floor a few feet away. Finished with the cut I retrieved the knot, CA-glued it back in place in my workpiece, and then trimmed it flush.
In all, no harm done and it was a good reminder for stronger vigilance in lumber inspection.
Till next time,