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How to Deal with Knots Byhalia MS

A spike knot is formed when a board is cut right through the lengthof a branch. A spike knot may be tight at its base (the intergrownportion) and loose at its end (the encased portion).

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How to Deal with Knots

How to Deal with Knots



Knots are usually considered defects in wood. They're cut out of boards and thrown on a scrap heap. But take a closer look at a knot. In a hardwood, it's surrounded by stunning grain. Why not make it the focal point of your next project? The best knots crop up on some of the least expensive, lowest grade boards available. Dealing with knots can add extra work to a project, but you don't need any special equipment. You just have to know what you're up against. To begin, take a look at where the three basic types of knots come from in the photos at right.

An intergrown knot is the base of a living branch within a tree.It's surrounded by a halo of circular growth rings. An intergrown knot is also called a “tight” knot because it's tightly bound to the wood around it.

An encased knot is formed when a tree grows around a dead branch. It's surrounded by a dark ring of bark, and its center is often decayed. An encased knot is also called a "loose" knot, because the bark prevents the knot from tightly binding to the wood around it.

A spike knot is formed when a board is cut right through the lengthof a branch. A spike knot may be tight at its base (the intergrown portion) and loose at its end (the encased portion).

Use knots for drama. Here's an opportunity to have fun with unusual patterns, as in this spalted-maple kitchen table. It has a comet-shaped pairing of a huge inter grown knot and a very long spike knot. Showing off the incredible swirling grain around a knot turns an inexpensive, lower grade board into a beautiful example of nature's art.

Resawing can be spectacular! A board with knots near an edge yields the most interesting mirror-image patterns, as shown in this piece of aromatic red cedar. Before you cut a board down its length on a bandsaw, hold the board on edge against a mirror. The outside of the board and its reflected image give you a pretty good idea of the book-matched pattern you'll get after resawing.

Keep your distance from knots when you're cutting them out. It'stempting to get the last inch out of every clear piece, but often it'snot worth it. The wood fibers around a knot have a very steep slope.(Right next to the knot, they run almost vertically, the same directionas the branch grew on the tree.) Wood fibers with a steep slope arecalled “short grain.” Short grain weakens the end of a board, making itunsuitable for rails and legs. Short grain may also cause the end tochip out when you joint or plane the board.

The Way Wood Works 

Pound out an encased knot before ripping a board on the tablesaw. Ifa saw blade were to catch this knot, it would launch it like a missile!The best tool to drive out a knot is a large dowel, rather than aslender metal punch. A punch can get stuck inside a decayed knot, but...

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