|Still waiting for the good stuff.|
To summarize, I made two nearly identical panels out of home-center construction lumber for demonstration purposes. They were about the same size, and used cross battens screwed with three screws each for stability.
The only difference was on one of the panels I also applied glue to the cross-grain battens.
OK, there were a couple other differences, too. I got lazy after planing all of the rough stock for the first panel by hand. The second panel didn't wind up quite as flat due to my lack of diligence. I glued the first panel, the good one. The cross battens actually flattened the second panel a bit. I do not expect this to have much of an effect on the results.
So, here is some photographic evidence after only seven days:
|The glued and screwed panel. Notice the daylight under either end.|
|Glued panel on the left.|
|The non-glued panel still looks pretty straight.|
Interestingly enough, the cup goes the opposite direction it should: i.e. it is cupping toward the center of the tree. Normally, lumber left on it's own will cup the other way. This panel is showing the stunning strength of the long-grain battens. They are staying the same length, while the panel is shrinking and drying out along the width. Because it is glued on, the panel can not cup the normal way. But, it also can not shrink in width where it is in contact with the battens. Therefore, the battens are forcing the panel to cup to the other side.
Notice the non-glued panel. This batten with only three screws is plenty strong to keep everything where it should be. While the panel shrinks, the screws give a little due to the elongated pilot holes that were drilled in the battens, preventing the kind of stresses seen on the other panel. Also of note, the battens are made of the same 7/8" spruce that the panels are. Not known for being the world's strongest wood, it nevertheless is plenty strong to keep this panel mostly flat.
Amazing, considering that this is crappy construction lumber from the home center.
I'll keep posting the results of this test until something spectacular happens. I would think over the course of a month or two that I should get some interesting splits or other wood breakage. I can't wait.
I would expect the non-glued panel to remain looking exactly as it does now. In fact, I have some examples from previous builds that should prove this point.
First, is the underside of the panel on a coffee table I built about five years ago. This panel was constructed exactly in the same manner as the panels in this experiment.
|Maple and glass coffee table.|
The second shows the lid of a blanket chest that is more than ten years old.
|Walnut blanket chest.|
The moral of the story? Don't be afraid of wide panels for table tops or the like. Keeping them flat is easy. There are many ways to join battens to the panel, such as with sliding dovetails, breadboard ends, etc. If this panel can stay flat with only three screws, any other method should also work.
As long as it isn't glued.