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Thread: End grain glue joints versus side grain

  1. #1
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    End grain glue joints versus side grain

    Here's a video that might be interesting if you build wooden cameras. It compares three wood joints, side grain to side grain, end grain to side grain, and end grain to end grain.

    Yes, the results are surprising.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7HxBa9WVis

    End grain joint don't fail because the capillaries of the wood starve the joint of glue. End grain joints fail because they are usually small surface area joints relative to the size of the piece of wood.
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
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    Re: End grain glue joints versus side grain

    Side to side is always best if not augmented in some other way. End to end should always be augmented by either creating finger joints (which, in effect, creates a side to side attachment), or reenforcing with metal angles and screws.

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    Ron (Netherlands)'s Avatar
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    Re: End grain glue joints versus side grain

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter De Smidt View Post
    Here's a video that might be interesting if you build wooden cameras. It compares three wood joints, side grain to side grain, end grain to side grain, and end grain to end grain.

    Yes, the results are surprising.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7HxBa9WVis

    End grain joint don't fail because the capillaries of the wood starve the joint of glue. End grain joints fail because they are usually small surface area joints relative to the size of the piece of wood.
    thanks, the difference should be known by all beginning woodworkers :-) There are a lot of different wood joints to work with - in the old days dovetails were the standard, more in Europe than in the US where there was an early use of finger or box joints. Especially the cabinetmakers in and around London applied the finest type of joints in order to show their mastery....
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    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: End grain glue joints versus side grain

    Quote Originally Posted by John Layton View Post
    Side to side is always best if not augmented in some other way.
    That's not what the video shows.
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
    ― Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing You Don't Already Know

  5. #5
    (Shrek)
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    Re: End grain glue joints versus side grain

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter De Smidt View Post
    That's not what the video shows.
    If you're testing freshly cut blocks of wood, sure. The issue I have with end-to-end is that wood expands and shrinks differently, readily seen by looking at an end cut that has suffered shrinkage. Your end-to-end joint might have identical surface area to glue the day you glue it, but after going through a few wet and dry seasons, your joint might end up with only 30% of the surface area of a joint going with the grain.

  6. #6
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: End grain glue joints versus side grain

    Not so simple. Depends of both the specific cut and species of wood involved, whether its been properly cured or not, and the nature of the prep prior to the glue, and the kind of glue itself. But no serious small joint is made in either way, or with a more attractive mitre joint either, without some kind of supplementary reinforcement, be it a glued spline or mechanical fastener. There are also cosmetic decisions. Some woods like red oak have open pores, while more moisture resistant woods like white oak do not. Only the latter is used for wine barrels, for example.

    That web video starts with cheap ordinary pine and makes potentially misleading generalizations from that, not exactly a decent camera material. Then it goes into other types of wood, some potentially appropriate for a camera IF properly cut and cured. But no serious furniture or cabinetmaker would stick to just one category of glue, but tailor the type and application to the specific material involved. And any high-end cabinet shop I dealt with would eat that guy alive. He's not the real deal, but conspicuously more at the hobbyist end of the spectrum. Nothing wrong with that. But he's just way out of his league making these kinds of blanket assessments to begin with, and then claiming the glue manufacturers don't know what they're talking about.

    A lot has to do with the specific method of prep too. As the old saying goes, a little knowledge is dangerous, like in this case replacing "old myths" with new web-based myths. Did he even bother to note that rock strong, highly moisture-resistant solid maple countertops are mainly edge-glued? I did a big teak one a couple years ago. NO - I didn't use Titebond. There is actually a variety of Titebond products and they tend to be excellent; but none are intended for oily tropical woods (other than their so-so clone of hydroscopic Gorilla Glue). Glue is a whole topic unto itself; there is no silver bullet option. It all depends. Even the nature of the specific sandpaper you use counts. Wrong kind and nothing adheres properly. What works well for auto paint might be atrocious for woodworking. And I could mention entire home center brands of abrasives that are problematic due to stearate coatings.

    Otherwise, start with a good illustrated handbook on hardwoods from an actual Woodworking store or dedicated web outlet. You also have to be choosy where you buy the wood itself.

    Gosh all the joinery machinery I've sold! The gear counts too.

    All this kind of thing is fairly elementary. Try standing between a contractor building a new home with all this glued-together neo wood siding and the buyer just about to sue him into bankruptcy as all those joints start coming apart due to differential expansion/contraction rates, and giving that look into the eyes of the contractor implying, You should have bought that $200 moisture meter from me to begin with, and primed and painted the job before it was too late. In another case, it was a custom hardwood doormaker that lost both his business and wife over a single analogous error. Having learned that lesson the hard way, he got back up on his feet, got a new wife, started a new business, and began cranking out some of the most expensive Zen style hardwood furniture in the country, with two lavish showrooms. That fellow certainly had some nice toys, like a two hundred thousand dollar precision jointer that would do all four sides at once. Name three of the five richest men in the world, and they have all bought hardwood furnishings from him, maybe the other two by now too.

    Even any serious hardwood floor pro knows to leave the oak strips in the given room and cross stack them for air circulation long enough to completely equalize with the ambient humidity, and monitor the process with a moisture meter. But every client wants it done yesterday, and done cheaply; so they don't get what they don't pay for. Headaches afterwards come free.
    Last edited by Drew Wiley; 12-Sep-2021 at 18:34.

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    Re: End grain glue joints versus side grain

    A well made wood joint made with hand tools and no glue whatsoever can last hundreds of years. It's what I call low tec high tec. No billionaires involved.If you do put glue on end joints, you should watch to see if it has been drawn up into the pores, adding more glue ,if needed, to keep it from being a glue starved joint

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    Ron (Netherlands)'s Avatar
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    Re: End grain glue joints versus side grain

    wood is like a bundle of straws: try to glue them end to end, and it will be very hard to get a lasting .... let alone strong joint
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    Drew Wiley
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    Re: End grain glue joints versus side grain

    Lloyd - a close friend of mine had a PBS Nova TV special made about him a few years ago. He was making scale models of buildings in the Imperial Forbidden City in Beijing with reference to scientifically discovering how why were so extremely earthquake resistant long before structural steel. Last time I visited him he was making a small replica model - some power tools, but mostly by hand, but no glue or screws, entirely interlocking puzzle-like joints, just like the Ming Dynasty originally did it. He actually spent a year working over there in the Forbidden City with its official maintenance team to learn the exact details. The replica structure used for the actual seismic tests was much larger, around 1/10 scale, so about the size of a typical house.

    Then they built a giant shaker machine to place that on, and kept ramping up the shaking action higher and higher, clear to where it wouldn't go any higher - equivalent to about 11 on the Richter scale, and the structure still held! Severe earthquakes have been common in that part of China for centuries, and long ago they came up for a remarkable solution using wood alone - not even foundations. Unfortunately, fire was still a risk, and is what actually destroyed some buildings.

    Won't go into the joinery details here. But at one time I had several customers who had lived in Japan in order to study nailless temple joinery. Makita made special goover machines for this specific purpose, and I'd supply them with the dedicated cutters and so forth. That kind of work could really fetch high money around here. In one instance, an entire small teak temple was actually built inside an especially well equipped big local cabinet shop, then put on a very large truck (like those which carry houses) and transported north to a Buddhist monastery.

    And Ron - what I use for rock-solid end joints is the Festool Domino system, which is obviously available in Europe too. But less convenient ways of doing it strong have been around for centuries. End grain joining is competently done every day, one way or another, and was routinely done well before power tools were ever invented.

  10. #10
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: End grain glue joints versus side grain

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron (Netherlands) View Post
    wood is like a bundle of straws: try to glue them end to end, and it will be very hard to get a lasting .... let alone strong joint
    Did you watch the video?
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
    ― Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing You Don't Already Know

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