Worm holes in Butternut

Tom M

Well-known member
I'm building a stepback hutch out of old air-dried butternut.  Some of the wider boards have worm holes which became noticeable after planing the boards.  I would like to use them full width, and one of the sides of the lower cabinet has a lot of worm holes (left side of picture).  On a sample board I mixed some hyde glue with butternut filings and filled the worm holes. After drying I planed and shellacked the board (see picture).  I'm not sure I like this, [/size]and I'm wondering if anyone has a suggestion on how to deal with the worm holes?


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I'm not sure what happened to the text in my post, but something certainly went wrong.

In any case I filled the worm holes on a scrap piece using hide glue and wood filings.  I planed and shellecked it - see picture (I'm not crazy about it).  I would be interested if anyone has a suggestion.  I may need to just scrap my plan of only using full width boards for this one side.
I had some sycamore with the same problem.  I tried to fill them with a sanding dust and finish mixture, but I didn't like the results.  I finally decided to work them into the design by filling them with a mixture of cyanoacrylate glue and ebony dust.  A little unusual, but attractive.  -Howard
I have never worked with any wormy wood but I always thought that the worm holes were part of the appeal.
I'm curious to see how you made out with this.

One of the wide lower side boards had just too many worm holes, so I had to rip about 4" and glue a piece to it.  All the wood is from the same tree, and I was able to match the grain such that I have a hard time finding the glue line.  All the boards have some worm holes which is fine.  One of the upper sides has more than I would prefer, but it has a nice crotch detail which matches the other side. My wife likes it so it stays.  I'm not going to try filling them.  I think that just draws attention to them.  The close-up picture show the wood with alcohol on it.  I think the worm holes actually give it some character.

I was hoping to have to have this project complete for Christmas, but we recently got a puppy which requires a lot of attention. She is a wood chomper - anything on the floor is fair game.


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Wow, that is some beautiful material, wormholes and all. Definitely follow the wife's intuition on such matters. My wife had a sixth sense when it came to colors and patterns.
Very nice. 

I really liked it when there used to be several posts at the Forum daily.  So to try and get thing moving, I'm going to start posting about the Pennsylvania German Stepback Hutch I'm building.  However I will only post if there is a reply to my last one!

So to start off I'll give some background.  Gene Landon taught a class at Olde Mill on this stepback about 15 years ago. I did not take the class, but spent a day a couple years ago measuring Gene's.  I also had Gene's handout from the class, as eventually I will be doing a drawing of this for Olde Mill.

Nine years ago we gutted our kitchen, and in our redesign I left a space for this stepback hutch.

After we got our Springer Spaniel puppy at the beginning of August, I took some time off from work to allow my wife a break, and Abby slept a lot, so I decided to start working on my drawing for the hutch with a puppy sleeping on my feet.  I use a program called TurboCAD Pro Platinum 2019.  Attached is a rendered model. 

In September a couple friends met me in PA to get the wood.  I think I grabbed something like 18 boards.  They were all from the same tree and have air dried for decades.  We got them home and one of the guys ran them through his kiln to kill any bugs.

For the base of the cabinet, I hand thickness planed the boards as they were too wide for my planer.  If they went through the planer they were still hand planed. All the dados for the shelfs were sawn then chiseled out and finished with a Stanley router plane. To layout the through mortises on the top, I clamped a straight-edge to the board then clamped a stop board to the side of the top. The side board was then pushed against both stops and clamped. This made knifing the tenon profile easy.

If you want me to continue, I will need to see some responses!


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Thanks for your reply!
I haven't decided about wedging the tenons.  The fit is very good, and you get long grain to long grain glue surfaces. I had considered it to make sure the top pulls down flat, but I can do that with clamps.  What are your thoughts?  And if they were wedged how would you go about doing it?

And as promised I will continue...

I've started the face frames.  I was able to salvage quarter sawn wood from boards that had the pith in the center.  I think they’ll look good - all straight grain, and since the wide vertical pieces have molding details, I thought it would be easier to work. I spent quite a bit of time finding good sections of QS for the face frame, doors and moldings. Full boards were laid out all over my shop.

A couple days ago I cut them down to manageable sizes, then planed and jointed to final size.  I also identified a board to use for the raised panels, and sections on some cut-off pieces with tight knots in the center that I'll be using for the drawer fronts. That leaves me with four full boards left.  I'll need three of these for the backs.

Five of the face frame stiles have a complex molding in the center. I cut away some of the wood with a dado cutter.  I then ground and filed a scraper for the ogee profile and made a holder for it.  I built it so the blade depth can be easily adjusted up and down without losing its centerline. I also made fences to keep the tool aligned.  This worked very well. I adjusted the depth five times. Figuring out how to make the molding, then making the tool and making the table saw cuts took about as long as scraping the ogees.

Pictures attached show:
- Face frame and door parts cut down to size
[/size]- Drawing of molding- Scraper tool- Final pass- Finished boardThat's it for now. Someone replies and I'll keep going![size=small]


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    I think I would wedge the tenons...you only have long grain to long grain on the short sides of the tenon. I would put two wedges for each tenon, near their ends..a contrasting wood like walnut in a saw-kerf,......no one will see on the top ......but.......just because.........
    The scraped molded profile came out nice! I always get a lot of "fuzz" when using butternut......
More, More, More.  This is great stuff.  I been at this for a long time and see posts like this make me realize I need to up my game!  Very informative and I appreciate your sharing with us wannabes.
I find your post of 12/4 interesting on many levels. First of all, what a great project and interesting that you chose a Pennsylvania German piece. I don't recall seeing much of that style being discussed here. Do you know anything about the history of the piece?

Although the Queen Anne style is what my wife and I preferred, many of the Pennsylvania German pieces appeal to me probably because of my mother's roots to those people. She grew up in Harrisburg (99 and still going strong) but she can recall as a young girl visiting grandma and grandpa Gruber's farm in Annville, Pa. I wouldn't be surprised if a stepback hutch similar to yours didn't stand in their kitchen. Unfortunately we have long ago lost touch with that branch of the tree.

As someone who retired after 45 years in the Drafting/Engineering field, I can appreciate the fine job you did modeling that hutch. While most people use Sketchup for this task you used TurboCad. That's some high powered software and not necessarily designed for the woodworking community (although the software doesn't care:)).
I suspect you use TurboCad professionally.

And then you mentioned Gene Landon, one of my heros. It was one of Mr. Landon's projects that sparked my desire to build period furniture. Even though it took twenty years for that to come to fruition, I never forgot his article in FW magazine.

Enough jibber jabber. The project is proceeding nicely. It helps to be able to pull out those cross-sections, doesn't it? Regarding those through tenons: mechanically I'm sure they would be fine, but to my eye that joint should be wedged. Gene doesn't mention anything about that in his notes?

Keep up the good work, Christmas is right around the corner. Keep posting and keep that puppy out of the shop. No "Dog-on-its" for that little guy.

I like both project and choice of dog. We have two Springer Spaniel puppies and I am looking forward to having shop dogs once the new shop is complete. Keep up the good work.
I wrote a long note yesterday with several pictures, but when I went to post it an error page came up.  Not sure what happened, but I’ll try and summarize.

I decided I should glue-up the cabinets before making the face frames.  Normally I would just oversize the face frame a little and plane it flush to the case.  But I can’t do that as the top overhangs the sides.  Then there is the side bead on the stiles.  By gluing up the cabinets first I can scribe the face frames to them, then plane to fit before forming the side bead.

I disassembled the dry-fit cabinets and made a punch list of things required before assembly.  This included planing a side bead on the back edge of the sides (Gene’s doesn’t have this), dadoing the sides and top for the backs, cutting the shelves to final width, etc.  I also decided to wedge the tenons. I used a plunge router for the dados (I hate that thing!).

Glue-up: first came the top and sides (through tenons), then the shelves were set in place (these will be pegged later) and last the dovetailed bottom.  Once everything was together, I went to work on wedging the tenons.

My practice wedge went together great. I cut the kerfs 1/8” from each end and made the wedges with a chisel.  However, the glue had started to gel, and the wedges took more force and most of them snapped before doing any real “wedging”.  I’m sure this will be fine (what other choice do I have?) as some of the wedges do press the tenon outward, and all but the front tenons will be covered with the upper cabinet. I was physically and mentally shot after the glue-up and quit for the day. On a positive note everything went together nice and square.

Some additional comments: I molded the lower cabinet’s top by cutting a 1/8” x 3/8” fillet with my Stanley 78, then used a block plane, a gouge and a scraper to finish it.  I will probably hit it with sandpaper before finishing. I used pegs on the unsupported ends of the bottom.  I  made these with a dowel plate.  I figured the bottom should have pegs because of the direction of the dovetails.
Pictures: Molded top, Side bead and dado, Making pegs, Practise wedge, Glue-up

Next will be the upper cabinet assembly.  Remember to reply!


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The upper case went together easily once I made some plywood 90° clamp blocks to align the dovetailed top to the sides.  Prior to making these I was having a difficult time keeping the top and sides square. At this stage the only glue joint is the dovetail at the top.  Later I will peg the shelves.

To complete the top, I needed to round-over the front edge of the upper shelf (block plane and files) then form the molding on the middle “spoon” shelf.  This detail for hanging spoons took a lot of work for a feature which will never be used for its intended purpose – but it looks so cool!

When I was modeling the cabinet in CAD, the spoon shelf caused me the most problems – mainly because it took a while to figure out how it was made.  Once I was able to figure it out, I came up with a way to model it (which was easy once understood).  Breaking it down into steps made the work straight forward, but a little time consuming.

I started by planing the fillet on the bottom of the shelf.  This was ¾” x 1/8”. I then used a block plane to round the bottom elliptical shape finishing with a shoulder plane. Next up was the router table with a ½” cove bit.  (I don’t really hate the router when table mounted.) I then used my block plane and files to round over the front edge.

To lay out the spacing for the “dovetail” cuts I used two dividers.  One set at 3/8” and one at 1 ½”. Because there is not much material left to pencil a visual cut line, I decided to make a little saw guide. This worked better than expected. There were 40 cuts to be made!  After sawing I chiseled out the waste, and then spent almost 2 hours paring and filing all the curving edges.To complete the shelves, I routed the 3/8” coves for the plate grooves.

Next up? The face frames get mortise and tenons.

It took FOUR DAYS to get a reply to my last post… Come on people!


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I can’t believe this has not generated more posts. I know it takes a lot of time to document your progress with this level of detail and it is greatly appreciated.  The pictures tell a thousand words.  I read this very quickly over lunch without logging in so I did not see the pictures until I got home from work. I can imagine it was a very tedious process to chisel out the waste for the spoons.  Looks like it will be awesome once finished.  Good idea with the 90 degree brackets. I am also liking the character of the wormy wood. 
SAPFM members - this deserves your attention. POST!
Yes, I used butternut for the wedge, and I can see that a harder wood for the wedges would have been smart.

No update on the project for today as I've transitioned into last minute make a Christmas gift mode!

But I will address a couple items from earlier...

I have no formal CAD training, but am a mechanical engineer.  I've messed around in NX at work - mostly for design analysis. I asked for training for years but never got it.  We have dedicated designers so why train the engineer?  I purchased TurboCAD about 20 years ago and have upgraded three times.  It is a complicated program and I have a love/hate relationship with it. Most of the hate comes from no training, and poor documentation (there is a 2000+ page manual...).  I used my personal copy at work for years and would then send a STP file to my designer to start him off.  I would be willing to bet many of your cars/truck have evap canisters that started life in a TurboCAD model!

I actually had the puppy in the shop for an hour today.  She just laid on the floor a couple feet from the table saw chomping on some butternut plane shavings. She stuck around with the dust collector and table saw running!

Someone asked if Gene had defined if the tenons were wedged in his notes.  (That person never met Gene or took one of his classes!)  Gene's handouts were very light on info.  There might be a sketch with some dimensions, and tracings of moldings, but not much else.  You would get all the other knowledge from the classes he taught.

There was also a question about the original.  I think Gene based the design off an original walnut stepback upper cabinet he had (picture). I'm attaching a picture of Gene's in-process, and competed.



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First of all, nice "Dog on it" shot of Abby. Just don't leave her alone in the shop with that hutch!
Speaking of shops, in one of your future posts you have to tell us about those benches I see in the background.

The hutch is progressing nicely. I'm very impressed with your scratch stock results. I've only recently gained enough confidence to use that process on one of my projects. I too hate routers. They scare the bejeebers out of me. I own two of them (inherited) and all the bits I suppose you would ever want, but I never use them.

That was me asking all the questions about your modelling software and Gene Landon. Thanks for the pictures of Gene's version of the hutch. I smiled when I saw how he finished his with wear marks around the doors and drawers. From what I understand he liked to his finish his projects so they looked like they were 100 years old. I remember reading that he would even scrub the bottoms of the foot on his cabriole legs with a brick to make them look like they had been dragged around. Don't know if that's true or just urban legend.
Much of the German furniture was painted like Gene's, but I can't imagine you have any intentions of painting yours.

I'm enjoying your build and appreciate your efforts in posting.