I recently started getting into more DIY projects around the house and decided to make a fairly straight forward desk for my computers and monitors. This is a 3x6' desk with black metal pipes for legs.

Being my first hands on project like this, I've made plenty of mistakes and gleaned some valuable lessons from the process. However, I've noticed that the wood seems to sweat a sticky substance. I can only assume it's some sort of sap or pitch.

The desk is made of Douglas Fir planks I picked up at Home Depot. I used the desk before doing more with it and I noticed this early on but thought that sanding it down, staining, and sealing it would resolve the problem. So far, it hasn't.

  1. Is this normal for the type of wood I picked?
  2. Can I prevent the sweating without scraping the entire top of the desk? If so, how?
  3. What's a better alternative to Douglas Fur for a project like this?

Additional information:

  • 2
    This question would be a good fit for Woodworking.SE. That being said a picture would help but I would think that you are describing sap. Sap can stay in wood nearly forever but I think what made it happen for you is when the wood began to acclimatize in your house/ environment. How long between you purchased it and started working it? Wood dried in a kiln would usually have sap set. – Matt Apr 20 '16 at 12:44
  • Thanks @Matt. I toyed with the idea of putting it in Woodworking but I figured it might be a more involved subject than what I was asking about. I never thought of kiln drying the wood. I would say that the wood started to sweat sap after about a week. Since then it's been in various environments for staining and sealing (indoor vs garage). – fujiiface Apr 20 '16 at 14:34
  • You might consider a glass top for your desk, which I imagine is very attractive. 1/4" tempered glass with silicone pads would jazz it up nicely, and then the seeping sap isn't such an issue. – isherwood Apr 20 '16 at 17:40
  • @isherwood That's a good idea but I am staying away from glass. I feel like it smudges more than I would like. – fujiiface Apr 24 '16 at 16:59

Yes it's normal to hit pitch pockets in douglas fir. You can remove it by wiping it with mineral spirits but that's only going to clear the surface and more will weep out; you could be fighting it for years. Because of the pitch (among other reasons), doug fir is not the best choice for furniture. If the wood is prepped correctly by sufficient kiln drying it is fine, but sufficient is often an unknown quantity. You are better off choosing hardwoods like oak or maple ( among others).

I do not know how mineral spirits will interact with your finish. Also mineral spirits can be harsh and if you are sensitive to chemicals you can look into odorless mineral spirits which might help.

  • Thanks for the answer @jqning. I picked Douglas Fir because the guide I was loosely following said to use that. Again, it's one of those lessons learned. I think I might just scrap what I've got and build again since there are flaws I want to fix. Sweating sap is definitely something I don't want to deal with. – fujiiface Apr 20 '16 at 14:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.