Straightening a part for assembly

“The Gable Front for my dollhouse is warped … what should I do”
Almost every front opening Gable Front panel gets springy when it is painted, but I can’t remember the last time I had to replace one for warpage. If it is twisted or if the shape has a kink in it, then it should be replaced – but if it’s a straight curl, it is probably just confused by moisture. Wood is a reactive material and the moisture in paint or the inequality of being on the table with one side aimed to the free air and one side faced down makes it react. When I’m handling a part that won’t get glued and nailed flat I always try to treat both faces the same, and that helps. If it curls up from laying on the counter, I turn it over the day (or half day) before I will use it. If I paint it, I give the other side a coat of paint too and let it stand up to dry. Ultimately, I try to get it flat for the moment of attaching the windows, the trim, the hinges, and a magnet. Those things give gentle but relentless pressure to help keep the front in line, and once the front is installed on the house, the moisture balance will be more likely to stay equal.

If a part has shape at the start of a building session in which I want it straight, I dampen a towel and squeeze it out, then lay it flat (no wrinkles!) on a flat countertop. I put on a few pieces of painted trimstrips or a zig-zag of thin extension cord for spacing (I don’t want the part to touch the towel, even when it changes shape – so I put spacers where it is now and where it will be if the curve goes the other way). Then I put the part over the towel with the concave side down. I keep an eye on the piece and I’m all ready to do the assembly when it’s straight (usually an hour or two). Too much time in the straightener will make it go the other way and my situation won’t be improved (I have turned the piece over to get it to go back, but I’m never pleased when I have done that … too many forces at work). It’s even faster to lay the part concave-side-down on green grass in the summer sun, but it’s harder to keep an eye on it too. I do not put weights on top or add any other force to the mix. I try to keep it simple, keep it gentle, and work with the natural behavior of the wood.

wring out the towel      lay the part concave-side-down


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