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I'm fixing up a wooden table that has sat in a warm attic for about 10 years. It's got pretty substantial bow and twist across the planks. I'm a beginner and want some advice on how best to get rid of the warp.

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There were three pieces of wood perpendicular to the main planks across the underside holding them together. Before I took them off, I noticed the staples holding them to the planks were partially out, i.e. the warping of the main planks was strong enough to pull them out.

There are also these thin, wavy pieces of metal (what are these called?) hammered across each plank pair (see photo below), holding the them close together. Some of the planks are offset vertically from each other, and hammering hard with a mallet I can't shift these back to being level. The warping has also been strong enough that on one edge the wood around where a wavy metal piece was present has broken under the force of the warp. This has meant the edge plank is no longer flush against its neighbour, and the wavy metal piece is now holding it in a new location. Should I just use a hammer or strong clamp to "crush" this metal piece slightly to make the plank flush again, or must I remove it and reinsert it or replace it?

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What I plan to try next, unless someone has better advice, is to replace the staples I removed from the three perpendicular planks with proper screws and drill them in tightly to the underside of the main planks. I hope this will have enough force to undo the bow across the planks. Then attaching the leg structure (left of the first photo) with the same screws I hope the remaining twist will come out. I have not considered using water, steam or other techniques yet - I have no experience with those - but any ideas would be appreciated.

Photo of the whole setup. The three perpendicular planks and staples I removed are visible at the top.

  • Those "wavy pieces of metal" are called "corrugated fasteners". They are inserted with a nail/staple gun type of tool powered by compressed air. You cannot hammer them in. The problem here, however, is that the warping is generating more force than the fasteners can withstand. I don't think there is any fixing this. – jwh20 Aug 13 at 13:27
  • Hmm, what about applying water to the worst warped planks and letting it dry with something heavy on it? I read that somewhere. Also, I can stand on the table top and it flattens out, so (naively) I could believe a few strong screws could hold the warp out. – Sean Aug 13 at 13:36
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Have a bonfire and go buy some straight 2x4's (those certainly appear to be 2x4's)

Or possibly some nicer wood, depending what you intend for this table. My eyeball assessment is that this is ordinary framing lumber ("studs") which is commonly "spruce, pine or fir" and nothing special to look at.

Salvaging what you have will be tedious frustrating and largely pointless, IMHO unless this particular collection of wood has huge sentimental value.

The only "get rid of the twist" method I can recommend is to remove wood until the boards are thinner, but flat. That is a somewhat challenging prospect if you have limited experience with woodworking. Wetting generally only makes a difference while it's wet, and when it dries out it goes right back where it was. Steaming is a huge operation, then you need to move the wood somewhat beyond where you need it to end up, as it "springs back," and clamp it there until it cools and dries. If you have correctly guessed the amount to overcompensate for the current twist and bow you might end up close to straight.

Meanwhile, you could have had that bonfire and gotten some straight dry wood...

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  • Hah, fair enough. If they're 2x4s they will be easy to replace. What though about my idea to use strong screws to reattach the three perpendicular cross-planks on the underside? I could probably ignore the other problem with the corrugated fastener. I guess given your answer that you think this isn't going to work, but I am curious why exactly not - in my head it seems like it could work: the planks would be forced by the screws to take on the unwarped profile of the cross-planks, leaving only a bow across the top which could maybe be fixed by strong screws into the leg structure. – Sean Aug 13 at 13:44
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    @Sean A warping board can pull out a screw , especially in old, dried wood. – JACK Aug 13 at 13:47
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    Trying to force wood to be flat when it does not want to be flat is a losing proposition unless you have some MAJOR force in play. You already have a section that was in your words, "broken by the force of the warp." – Ecnerwal Aug 13 at 13:56

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