There is no “perfect” wood. It isn’t uniform, consistent or predictable. Even the best examples will have idiosyncrasies. Reversing grain, sap pockets, knots and voids abound. When you come to one of these reminders of “imperfection” you have a few choices.
- Cut around it if possible
- hide it
- celebrate it
- accept it, stabilize it and move on
I generally look for wood where I can take the first tack. I understand that not every piece of wood that comes into my shop will be clean and clear of all voids but I look for material that has the best potential to be processed in such a way that will yield void free stock in the lengths and widths I require.
If I can’t do that I look for ways to prepare my stock where the inconsistencies are hidden or mitigated in some way by the design.
There are moments when the imperfection can be celebrated and there are masters of this practice. I am not one of them. This guy is. I haven’t learned to have this kind of patience or tolerance for risk yet. Maybe someday.
The last path seems the most imminently practical to me, and I am nothing if not practical. This includes inlaid bow ties to stabilize cracks, infusing knots and sap pockets with cyanoacrylate or epoxy, and the like. These are good solutions for show surfaces, but not every surface needs something fancy, so here’s another option.
When I run into a void or loose knot that needs to be filled to touch but not to sight I often use a Forstner bit to drill out the imperfection, and then I cut a plug to match. Most of the time I’ll look for similar grain on an off-cut of the same board, but sometimes it’s fun to use a contrasting grain or wood as I did here.
This void is on the underside of a shelf so I cut a 5/8″ plug, drilled out the void and set the plug with epoxy. After the epoxy cured I sawed it flush and finished preparing the wood with a smoothing plane and scraper. It was at a place that I couldn’t reach with the drill press so I used a piece of scrap to make a guide for the bit.