Three tips for juniper woodworking projects
So you want to work with juniper? Good idea. This remarkable wood promises incredible durability in outdoor settings, as well as an organic, natural, and rich wabi-sabi aesthetic for pieces both indoors and out.
We recommend learning about, and then working with, juniper's unique properties. This wood has very different characteristics than other common species, so adjust your plans and technique to accommodate, and then enjoy the results!
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Elasticity: One of juniper's unique attributes is the elasticity of the wood. There is a great deal more tension present in the cut lumber than in other common softwoods. It is not uncommon for juniper, especially smaller or thinner dimensions, to bend or warp slightly, even after careful kiln-drying.
But unlike fir, cedar, or hardwoods, juniper can be flexed back into a straight line. For glue-up installations such as tables, be sure to plan for this movement (i.e., use biscuit joints in addition to glue, or keep the pieces clamped until fully dry).
Kiln-drying: All of our 1x6 and live-edge slabs of juniper are kiln-dried. This aids with stability and with pest control. Kiln-drying is the only way to ensure that juniper beetles, which live harmlessly in all juniper trees and pose no threat to other species of tree, are eliminated from the finished piece.
Larger dimensions of juniper are not kiln-dried, unless kiln-drying is specified at the time of order and the dimensions of the lumber are small enough to yield good results in the kiln. Anything thicker than 3" generally is not kiln-dried due to the amount of time required in the kiln to get the wood dry (many months, depending on the size of the beam). This means that for these larger pieces of juniper, it is possible, although unlikely, for live insects to be present in the wood.
Dimensions: We stock 1x6, 2x6, and 4x4 rough juniper lumber, as well as live-edge slabs of a variety of widths and lengths. We can custom-order larger sizes for special projects. However, be sure to plan for juniper's inherent size limitations.
Unlike fir trees, which can grow to 300' or higher and yield lumber lengths of 20' and more, juniper lumber's maximum length is much shorter as the trees generally only get to 20' or 30'. We have successfully provided large beams measuring 12" wide by 15' long, but the supply of such large logs is very limited. Please contact us for current availability.
Photo below: This juniper slat wall, built by Green Furniture Solutions, was built on plywood first so the juniper lumber could be manually straightened and then screwed down, ensuring a finished piece with perfectly straight lines. Photo by James Lohman.