What to do if wood is warped

If you work with wood, you will eventually encounter a warped sheet. It's the nature of the beast when working with a natural product like wood*. Thankfully, it's easy to fix! 

Which woods are most prone to warping?

Any wood can warp, but wood thickness and variety have a huge influence on how readily a sheet will develop a bit of a bend. As far as thickness, thinner sheets will warp more readily than thicker sheets. In other words, 1/16" and 1/8" woods are generally more likely to warp/more likely to develop a larger warp than 1/4" or 1/2" woods. With our plywoods, aromatic cedar, hickory, and maple tend to warp the most readily. We store all of our wood flat with weight on top. Nothing leaves our shop warped, but these varieties occasionally warp in transit, particularly 1. if the order is small (i.e., there is not a lot of weight holding the sheets down or 2. it is a time of year where weather patterns are al over the place, like in early fall and spring. These fluctuations in temperatures (especially on a non-climate controlled UPS/FedEx/USPS truck) can cause the wood to react.  

How do I flatten a warped sheet?

Often times, a warp is small enough that the sheet can still be pinned down (either with traditional pin downs or magnets) and cut. Sometimes, however, the warp will be too pronounced and will need a little bit of work. Some common methods for flattening a warped sheet include:

  • Simply let the sheet acclimate with weight on top. If you open your package to find a sheet warped in transit, give it some time to acclimate to your temperature/humidity. Place an even amount of weight on top of the sheet and let it sit for a day. If that doesn't help, try one of the other methods below.
  • Steam the sheet. An easy way to do this is to take the sheet into the bathroom with you the next time you take a hot shower. Close the door and let the room get nice and steamy. When finished, remove the sheet from the bathroom and place an even amount of weight on top. I like to suggest putting a baking sheet with a cast iron pan or books on top. You can't add too much weight. Allow this to sit at least overnight--the more time though, the better. 
  • Heat Press. Some woodworkers prefer to give a warped sheet a quick pop in a heat press to flatten out the warp. Give it a light spritz with water and press for a few seconds, flipping if necessary. For good measure, add some weight on top of the sheet after pressing, just like in the methods outlined above. 
  • Iron. Don't have heat press? Some woodworkers will use the same process for the heat press but with an iron instead. Spritz, iron, and place weight on top. 

How do I prevent warping?

1. Open your order as soon as you receive it and store the woods flat with weight on top. If you are ordering one of the varieties most likely to warp (I see you, maple!) particularly during the fall and spring (where temperatures and humidities fluctuate greatly day to day, region to region), order your wood a week before you need to use it for your project. This will give it time to acclimate and settle out *if* any sheet warped in transit. Just remember to keep weight on top of all sheets during this time. 

2. Store your wood in a temperature controlled room. If you keep your laser in a non temperature controlled garage or outbuilding, do not store your wood with the laser. Instead, keep it inside the house or other temperature controlled area. Again, remember to store the wood flat with weight on top. 



*If you don't have the time or desire to occasionally flatten a warped sheet but still want the look of wood, we recommend using our EcoBirch or any of our faux wood PatternPly options. These are much more stable but still have that wood look you love!

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