Author Topic: pith in walnut - cut it out or leave it in?  (Read 1019 times)

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Offline mrFinpgh

  • Posts: 488
pith in walnut - cut it out or leave it in?
« on: May 29, 2021, 12:26 AM »
I am building a table out of black walnut.  I have a bunch of air dried walnut that is around 10% MC right now.

When buying the wood, I selected for face grain but the end grain was too dark to read from drying outside for the past year or so. Now that I've started cutting some pieces and can see the end grain, I'm seeing I have pith in some of the boards. Sometimes centered, sometimes not.  There isn't significant checking happening and the boards are actually pretty flat/straight for air-dried stock. 

It's all  fat 5/4, and my final thickness is going to be around 1".

Here's the pith I'm dealing with:


I have read different points of view on pith in black walnut. Some say it doesn't crack like it does with oak or cherry, others say it must be removed.  I have about 130 bdft in a storage unit, so if I need to get some more pieces out, I can. 

As i see it, I can think of three choices here:

1. Remove the pith and rejoin the parts.  Loses about 1.5-2" width per board.  I probably will need another board to get to 40" diameter after jointing.
2. Leave the pith in and hope it works out ok.  No material lost.
3. Go get more wood out and use the pith boards for something needing narrower parts.

Here's the current state of the top.  The boards marked 'p' are the ones with pith in them.  Currently it's about 49" wide, but I'm sure I'll lose at least 5" just edge jointing.


What would you do?


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Offline rvieceli

  • Posts: 1521
Re: pith in walnut - cut it out or leave it in?
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2021, 05:59 AM »
@mrFinpgh since you have the stock why not just pull some more and not have to worry about it. Use the ones you have for the apron or something else.

Take a battery powered saw and zip a bit off the end so you see what you're working with as you get them out of storage.


Offline JD2720

  • Posts: 1229
Re: pith in walnut - cut it out or leave it in?
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2021, 07:36 AM »
What would I do?

I would not use the pith.

Offline Crazyraceguy

  • Posts: 695
Re: pith in walnut - cut it out or leave it in?
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2021, 11:58 AM »
Even if the pith is more stable in walnut, I still wouldn't use it on a table top. I would either cut it out entirely and use those pieces on a project needing narrower parts or use them in places where they don't matter so much.
I actually like parts with defects, but only in the right places, never in structural parts like legs or in wide glue-ups where the stability is an issue. I save them up and use them in places like drawer sides in  shop furniture.
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Offline mrFinpgh

  • Posts: 488
Re: pith in walnut - cut it out or leave it in?
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2021, 03:31 PM »
Thanks all.  Points well taken.   I'm going to remove the pith + the first 5 years growth rings just to be safe.  Even though the wood is pretty stable, this should give me more comfort that it won't go wavy in a year or two.

The upside to this is that I should be able to rejoint some of the boards and get pretty straight grain across the board.  As long as I am careful I should be able to disguise those joints fairly well.  The downside is that it will take me a little longer, but as it's my hobby that's only a minor inconvenience.

Of course, when I began ripping, my bandsaw blade snapped about an hour in. Always a stimulating moment.  Right at the weld, and I've resharpened it 2x already, so maybe it was starting to get towards the end of life. While changing the blade I found that the lower bearings are pretty well frozen, so that probably didn't help.  Delayed for a bit, but new bearings on the way.