I get asked from time to time why I don’t build natural trunk wooden dummies and choose to build out laminated stock. Well the four pictures you see here illustrate why I choose to build out of laminated wood. As you can see in the pictures from a local country club built of oak timber frame, we have a post that is about 10 inches by 10 inches and a picture from each side of it. What do you notice? Cracks on all four sides. Now this is just fine for a timber framed country club, but a definite no go for a wooden dummy. You see with each crack a distortion (warp) also occurs in the wood. This distortion can and will result in a misalignment of the mortices (square holes) … And there is no practical way to prevent the wood of a natural trunk dummy from cracking- Places especially prone to cracking are areas where a hole passes through the timber. A proper wooden dummy has six holes in total (3 arms, one leg, and two for the rails). These are large holes that pass through the entire diameter of the dummy . Each one is quite likely to crack at some point. Wood is a natural material. It’s main purpose in nature is to support a tree and has different cells in the Heartwood then it does in the sap wood. It is uneven drying and shrinking of these cells that cause the trunk to warp and split after the tree has been felled. If someone has a solid log dummy that hasn’t cracked or split, that dummy is an exception. The rule is that it will split. Even ‘100 year old pillars’ are still expanding and contracting with humidity and temperature changes. They will also more than likely crack and split.
So can a laminated dummy crack? Well, yes it can. Sometimes they will develop small cracks, but due to the laminations of various pieces of wood having been used, and manipulation of grain placement when constructed, it is highly unlikely to develop major cracks that will result in cracks that are rarely much more than a 1/16 of an inch wide and are easily repairable. Beyond that, cracked laminated bodies are the exception, not the rule unlike natural log bodies.
Some dealers of wooden dummies are unscrupulous in their approach. They will tell you it is your fault that dummy cracked up to the point of being useless because you didn’t keep the humidity level or temperature at the perfect range. This is nonsense passing of the buck. You do not ever have complete control of the temperature and humidity outside of a controlled scientific environment. Even with the best intentions, weather can change rapidly, you can lose power to your HVAC system, your HVAC system can malfunction.. etc… Etc. If you read their precautions about how to prevent (not stop) your natural log dummy from cracking, you will notice that you are basically catering to a whiney, self centered, diva room mate who can’t even help with the dishes.
Though I could easily (more easily) build a natural log dummy for my own use… Guess what I use… You guessed it, a laminated body wooden dummy that resides happily in my basement training area, and has done so for years without a single crack and has not even once asked me to adjust the heat or the humidity. Now if only it would volunteer to help out with the dishes every once in a while.