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Basics of Lumber Selection

Basics of Lumber Selection

This video and blog are sponsored by Titebond.

Bruce Ulrich

Walking into a lumberyard can be overwhelming for both seasoned woodworkers and novices. The vast array of wood species, sizes, and cuts can make it challenging to choose the right lumber for your project. However, with a bit of knowledge and guidance, navigating the lumberyard can become an enjoyable and rewarding experience. In this blog post and video, we will explore everything you need to know about lumber selection for your woodworking projects. How to select and purchase from a lumber store, what do lumber sizes mean, wood moisture and storing your lumber before your project, and even glue types for the project you are doing. Our Instructor Bruce Ulrich did a wonderful video to explain his process from wood selection to milling and preparing for a glue up.

Understanding Lumber Sizes

Board feet is a fundamental unit of measurement in the lumber industry, representing the volume of wood in a board. It's calculated based on the length, width, and thickness of the board, with one board foot equivalent to a board that is one foot long, one foot wide, and one inch thick. This measurement is essential for estimating the quantity of lumber required for a project and determining costs accurately. Here is a board foot calculator to help next time you go shop for lumber.

Another useful scale in lumber measurement is the 1/4 board scale, which breaks down a board into quarters based on its width. For example, a board marked as 4/4 signifies that it is one inch thick, while 5/4 indicates a thickness of 1¼ inches. This scale provides a straightforward way to understand the thickness of a board relative to its nominal size, helping woodworkers select the appropriate materials for their projects with ease.

Buying from the Lumber Store

When purchasing lumber from a store, it's essential to inspect each board carefully. If you are planning to use the lumber for a cutting board, look for straight, flat boards with minimal knots, cracks, or other defects. Avoid boards with excessive warping or twisting, as these can cause issues during assembly. If possible, hand-select each board to ensure they meet your quality standards.

Board Selection

Consider the following factors when selecting boards for your project:

  1. Wood Species: Different wood species have unique characteristics in terms of grain pattern, color, and hardness. Choose a species that suits the aesthetic and functional requirements of your project.

  2. Grain Orientation: Pay attention to the direction of the wood grain, especially if you're planning to glue multiple boards together. Matching the grain direction can help prevent warping and ensure a stronger bond.

Differences in board surface finishes from a lumber store:

  1. Rough Sawn Lumber: Rough sawn means that the boards come right off the sawmill and are not milled down for any square or parallel faces.

  2. S2S: This type of lumber is planed on two opposing faces, leaving the remaining two faces rough-sawn. S2S lumber is suitable for projects where a smooth finish is needed on only two sides or you can finish the milling process at home.

  3. S3: This lumber is surfaced on 3 sides and has 2 parallel surfaces and one perpendicular surface.

  4. S4S: S4S lumber is planed on all four faces, resulting in a smooth and uniform surface on all sides. This type of lumber should be perfectly square to all surfaces and great for woodworkers who don't have the equipment to mill lumber to square.

Board Moisture and Storage

Moisture content is a crucial factor in lumber selection, as it can affect the stability and integrity of your project. You can get some inexpensive wood moisture meters online or at your lumber supplier. Prices and quality of meters can vary.

There are several different types of moisture meters:

  1. Pin-Type Moisture Meters: These meters have two sharp pins that are inserted into the wood to measure its moisture content. The pins measure the electrical resistance between them, which varies with the moisture content of the wood. Pin-type meters are accurate and suitable for measuring moisture at different depths within the wood.

  2. Pinless Moisture Meters: Pinless meters use electromagnetic waves to penetrate the surface of the wood and measure its moisture content without causing damage. They typically have a scanning plate that is placed flat against the wood surface. Pinless meters are convenient for quickly scanning large areas of wood but may not provide as precise measurements as pin-type meters.

  3. Electrical Resistance Moisture Meters: These meters measure the electrical resistance of the wood, which changes with moisture content. They typically use two electrodes that are pressed against the wood surface to make the measurement. Electrical resistance meters are often accurate and reliable for measuring moisture content.

Lumber storage is important when it comes to keeping lumber dry and ready for projects. Lumber should be stored in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent excessive moisture absorption or drying. Use stickers or spacers to allow air circulation between boards and stack them horizontally to prevent warping.

A project ends well when it starts well. Taking care throughout the process to select the right lumber, keep an eye on its moisture level, and put it through the appropriate milling process will allow you to get to the best part: the glue-up!

There are several types of glue out there in the woodworking community. The most commonly used is Titebond.  Titebond 2 and Titebond 3 are the most popular glues they offer. Titebond II is a water resistant glue used for most woodworking projects. Titebond III is a true waterproof glue, which can be used for your outdoor projects. Both glues can be used for cutting boards and most woodworking projects you can come up with. If you use a lot of glue, grab a gallon to save some money and a pump like this one so you can simply refill smaller glue bottles. Dollar store condiment bottles work so well for this!

Set a reminder to come back here next week so you can watch Part 2 of this lesson to dive deeper into the milling process and learn a thing or two about how to complete a successful cutting board glue-up with less mess and less stress!

If you want to learn more about how to grow your creative abilities, market yourself, or to start making more money, consider joining TMCU today.  Check out our enroll page and invest in yourself… besides, it’s a write-off! We’ll be here to help you create, learn, & connect.


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