I was wondering if anyone has ever seen furniture pieces separate at the joints after a move from one climate to another? It was rather humid and warm at the original climate and drier at the final destination. I suspect that it would be possible for glue joints to soften and separate when subject to enough warm moisture and vibration, such as in a moving van/truck. Does anyone out there think this is possible or has anyone seen this happen? Thanks
Just the change in humidity without the vibration etc would be sufficient if the pieces were not completely sealed and if some effort had not been put into handling the dimensional changes from moisture level changes.
I used to live in New Orleans and had a friend that moved to Alaska. When he got there all his furniture fell apart, so he bought new. When he moved back his furniture all swole up and split.
Bottom line is all wood will absorb moisture from the air and swell, it will loose that moisture durning dry periods or change in locations and shrink. If a joint takes all this into consideration it is not much of a problem..
If a chair say absorbs moisture and and swells and there is no room for it to expand it crushes the fibers in the wood and then when it drys out and shrinks it is now loose in the joints and will split wide boards.
I'd like to see more specifics on the two locations that you are talking about.
If you were in a highly humid climate and the wood was not properly dried and moved to a drier climate. the joints will definately separate. As the wood dries, it contracts in size and literally breakes the joints. Military personnel returning from the pacific have had a lot of problems with furniture doing this.
'Cause GOOD antique furniture, the kind that's stood the test of time like up here in New England where the summers are humid as heck but the winters are cracklin' dry, the GOOD antique furniture was built right... taking wood movement fully into consideration.
POOR antique furniture just didn't survive the ages, so it ain't around much.
Even GOOD antique furniture sometimes has issues, though, in that the old hide glue can crystallize with age & make for furniture that acts like a drunk's knees. The parts're good after the years, but they sometimes need a reglue job.
John, it sounds like that furniture needed just a tad more attention to wood movement. The glue, unless it was subjected to some really HIGH temperatures inside that van, shouldn't have softened enough to make the joints fall apart - and if the joints were together on arrival and cooled again before the furniture was moved, that glue SHOULD have reset itself on cooling.
When you look at the joints that came apart, are the joints actually DAMAGED (like with shredded wood) or are they simply separated? If they're just separated, examine 'em to see if there's evidence of glue FULLY covering the parts - which would be evidence of a true gluejoint failure, caused by failure of the glue itself.
If there's only a little glue here & there on the pieces, especially if the glue is at ONE place on one piece and in ANOTHER spot on the mating piece (like maybe at the top of a mortise and the bottom of the mating tenon), then you have a classic glue-starved joint that was destined for failure anyway.
If the grain is torn or shredded or broken at the joint, then the problem was wood movement (or design failure) and NOT the glue's fault. The glue, if decent stuff applied well, should meet or beat the wood's own strength.
Here in (old) England we have a very damp climate compared with most of the USA but our modern central heating systems result in the air becoming very much drier than in past centuries, especially in winter. This can play havoc with house joinery and antique furniture as panels split, boards shrink, veneer lifts etc.
My father who is now very frail and elderly now likes to have his heating turned right up and have a fire on, even in summer. His walnut veneered secretaire, which has survived since about 1690 has in recent years warped, split and shed several pieces of moulding and veneer - so much so that I persuaded him that I should move it to a cooler room in the house. Humidifiers can help but few houses in the UK have air conditioning.
Veneered antiques are especially vulnerable as many incorporated flat panels made using solid wood held together with mortices and tenons. These can move and shrink, causing the veneer on top to buckle or split. Modern plywoods and similar are much more stable.
Antiques, being generally quite valuable, will tend to get restored if they are not junked, so the signs of trauma suffered when they encountered a differently humid climate often go unnoticed.
Old-fashioned hide glue (which I still use for some of my projects and which should always be used if restoring an antique) is susceptible to damp and heat, but if kept dry and cool it should last a very long time and if used properly is very strong.
Things have been a bit busy lately. I lost my job (as did my wife)and have been busy hunting for a new one and trying to finish restoring my house in case I had to sell it, including teaching myself how to plaster. I have found a new job now so the pressure is off!