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Arm your self with an excellent plan (or two) and your shopping for journey shall be a hit.

I have a 10″-wide piece of 8/Four purpleheart sitting on my lumber rack. I purchased it eight years in the past after I visited the lumberyard. I nonetheless haven’t used it.

The humorous factor is, I went to purchase cherry for a blanket chest. What’s worse is that after I bought house I nonetheless didn’t have all the cherry I wanted to construct that chest…however I had a very cool purpleheart impulse purchase.

Now don’t get me mistaken. I work for a lumber firm – we love impulse buys. The woodworker in me additionally acknowledges when to leap on a novel board or deal for that yet-to-be-realized dream venture. In the top, nevertheless, and not using a recreation plan in place earlier than you go to the lumberyard, you’ll by no means get the boards you really must construct your present venture.

Contrary to common perception, poor planning not often leaves you brief on lumber. We all know to purchase additional boards; that mantra has been overwhelmed into us. Usually poor planning leaves us with an excessive amount of lumber that isn’t helpful. Follow the following pointers, and your subsequent journey to the lumberyard shall be extra profitable.

Start With a Wish List

Blanket chest. mannequin or drawing is the start line for determining what lumber you want for any venture.

I get very excited originally of a venture and used to hurry to purchase my materials. I’ve proven up on the lumberyard with no plan and a sketch in my hand. It’s in all probability no shock that I ended up having to make one other journey to get the boards I wanted. What’s extra, I puzzled later why all my components have been completely different colours!

I generally arrived on the lumberyard stuffed with myself as a result of I had a board foot whole in my hand. I had even added 20 p.c to the overall, as is commonly directed. So what might go mistaken? That was the purpleheart journey.

In each circumstances, although, I had achieved little or no precise planning. A sketch and/or a board foot whole is simply half the story; it’s good to spend a while planning to develop your want checklist of supplies. Simply put, that is your components checklist. In addition to the sizes, a plan particulars the colour matches and grain patterns that you just need to obtain your imaginative and prescient. This begins with an excellent have a look at your design.

The purpose is to create a slicing checklist. Think of these plywood diagrams that present all of the venture components neatly stacked on a 4′ x 8′ sheet. I like to fireside up SketchUp and draw a bunch of rectangles to signify the boards I would like to purchase. You can do that simply as simply on paper.

Plan A. This diagram exhibits my want checklist for the blanket chest – a illustration of 4 superb boards with the components laid out.

Just ensure you take note of scale so that you aren’t placing extra components than are potential right into a board. And don’t overlook to go away a little bit room for the noticed kerf.

This visible illustration of your venture is useful as a reference whenever you begin to write down every half and its approximate measurement.

But don’t get actual right here. In truth, I spherical the whole lot up an inch and solely work in entire numbers.

Also, don’t fear about what sizes of boards you assume you will get at your native seller. This is a want checklist. Let your design be the information and assume an ideal world the place all of the boards are vast and lengthy.

I’m presently constructing one other blanket chest for my college students on the Hand Tool School (handtoolschool.web); I’ll stroll by means of that design for instance.

I need to make a daring assertion by utilizing curly cherry for the case. Ideally I need to get the whole 16″ x 32″ x 15″ case and drawer entrance from the identical vast board so I can guarantee one of the best colour and grain match. Plus, how cool would single-board entrance, aspect and again panels look? Not to say the time saved by not having to attach up vast panels. Above is the want checklist I created in SketchUp.

It’s fairly easy whenever you have a look at it this fashion – 4 particular boards with notes on the scale, determine and grain sample for every. Color match can be vital, however as a result of every factor of the chest is (ideally) coming from a single board, colour match shall be simple to attain.

Certainly, I need the highest and the case boards to be comparable in colour, nevertheless it isn’t crucial that they be excellent. Even the mouldings will naturally distinction (that’s what mouldings do) in opposition to the figured cherry case, so their colour could be barely completely different.

The case is crucial a part of this design. Wide curly cherry boards, dovetailed on the nook, shall be beautiful. Getting a determine and colour match round the entire case (or no less than the entrance, drawers and sides) is an absolute should. I plan, due to this fact, for all 4 case components and drawers to return from the identical board.

Now I like figured wooden as a lot as the following woodworker, however I additionally consider that it ought to be used sparingly. Knowing that I’ll have a big 16″ x 32″ assertion made with this figured field, I’m going to make use of straight-grained materials for the highest and breadboards to distinction that. Additionally, the steadiness gained with a quartersawn high will guarantee the highest gained’t cup over time, and vertical-grain wooden is straightforward to match collectively right into a multi-board panel.

The high is 17″ x 34″, and, even in an ideal world I’ll by no means discover quartersawn cherry that’s 17″ vast. This means I’ll have to attach up no less than a two-board high. The high boards and the 2 breadboards ought to be an excellent colour match, so I’ve grouped all of them into the identical board similar to the case.

Likewise, I need straight grain within the mouldings so that they distinction the figured case with out interfering with the assertion. (Plus, I’ll use moulding planes to chop the moulding; for that, straight grain is a should.) A quartersawn or rift-sawn board will give me good, straight grain and make sticking the profiles a lot simpler. Each profile wraps three sides of the chest, so I would like a single board that’s vast sufficient to tear into 2″ strips and lengthy sufficient for 7 linear ft of moulding.

The bracket ft don’t have to be particular – simply no sap wooden and they need to all be from the identical board for an excellent colour match. While an actual match to the case isn’t crucial, I goal for one thing shut.

The remaining components are inside components, so there isn’t a lot preparation wanted right here. This is secondary lumber, so no particular traits wanted; tallying up the board footage will suffice.

For the aim of this instance, I gained’t checklist every however, after including up the components, 12 bf of run-of-the mill “first and seconds” (FAS) cherry will cowl it with one additional board for the “oops” issue. I’ll let the FAS grade dictate the sizes (extra about that in a minute).

This is my want checklist. Notice that it’s each a components checklist and a board-foot tally. It can be an in depth diagram of which components will come from which boards. It tells me what measurement boards I would like to seek out but additionally particulars the significance of colour and grain match. I can print this out and, at a look, I can inform precisely what I would like after I buy groceries.

Lumber Grades

Grade Percent Clear Minimum Size Clear Yield

FAS 83.Three 6″ x 8′ 4″ x 5′ or 3″ x 7′

#1 Common 66.6 3″ x 4′ 4″ x 2′ or 3″ x 3′

#2 Common 50 3″ x 4′ 3″ x 2′

*Defects are knots, checks and worm holes; Sap wooden, gum pockets and mineral stain are usually not thought of defects in any grade.

Take a Reality Check

So what occurs whenever you get to the lumberyard and you’ll’t discover any boards to match your want checklist? Suddenly you’re scrambling to seek out boards that you could glue collectively to make vast panels, and within the warmth of the second you don’t purchase sufficient otherwise you make foolish choices.

I keep in mind one occasion after I was searching for 9′-long boards however couldn’t discover them. Instead, I purchased 8′-long boards. Later, again on the store, I had a complete bunch of 10″-12″ lengthy offcuts from all of my boards. My smallest half was 15″ lengthy, so each a kind of items was ineffective. I feel I had eight or 10 board ft of lumber in these scraps. I didn’t have a plan for not discovering the 9′-long boards on my want checklist and ended up brief (and with plenty of waste).

So a actuality verify is crucial. Are the boards in your want checklist even in the stores? I feel the foremost purpose many people head to the lumberyard unprepared is we don’t know what to anticipate after we get there. Why spend time planning for sure measurement boards when the lumberyard could not even have them? So we wing it.

Lumber Cuts

Flat-sawn or Plain-sawn

Grab a log and noticed it straight throughout the thickness. This yields a board the place the grain runs parallel-ish to the width of the board. These boards will transfer probably the most as a result of they broaden and contract alongside the grain traces. They can cup and twist, and it’s good to plan for seasonal motion probably the most when constructing with them.

Sometimes you’ll find the time period “through and through sawn”; this can be a flat-sawn board the whole width of the log, so it has two stay edges. An total log that’s sawn this fashion and stored so as is known as a “boule.” A “flitch” is a part of a boule (normally three to 4 consecutive items from the log).


Here the expansion rings run perpendicular to the vast face of the board. The official specs state the expansion rings ought to intersect the face between 60° and 90°. Most discerning prospects are searching for one thing extra like 80° to 90°. This produces a secure board the place the seasonal motion is throughout the thickness, which ends up in little to no cupping or twisting. These boards are nice for transferring components the place growth might freeze a drawer or bind a lock in a chest lid. Quartersawn boards even have a stunning look with straight, parallel grain traces on the face and, in some species, placing medullary ray determine.


The development rings in a rift-sawn board will intersect the face between 30° and 60°. A rift-sawn board is sort of secure, although a bit much less so than a quartersawn board. However, these boards are extra about look than stability. Often referred to as “vertical grain,” with the diagonal grain traces you get beautiful parallel grain on all 4 faces of the board, making it excellent for desk and chair legs or rails and stiles in frames. However, rift-sawing produces probably the most waste, so these would be the most costly boards…if yow will discover them in any respect.

Flat-sawn boards are the most typical as a result of they produce probably the most yield per log. Next is quartersawn, then rift-sawn – however it’s uncommon that you’ll find quartersawn or rift-sawn boards in any species apart from oak. Specialty lumberyards or small operations that customized noticed will produce these cuts in different species, however normally you need to glean your rift and quartered boards from a stack of largely flat-sawn boards. Keep this in thoughts whenever you buy groceries. It doesn’t damage to ask if a seller has lumber sorted this fashion, however don’t be stunned if the reply is not any, adopted by amusing.

— SR

Lumberyard Tips

Below are only a few attention-grabbing notes and a few issues to remember when trying to find the right lumber.

Don’t be afraid of “wholesale only” sellers. Current market developments have even business patrons buying in a lot smaller tons, as fewer and fewer builders preserve a list of lumber. Call forward to your wholesaler and ask them if they’ve any packs of lumber close to your board whole footage in stock – you may be capable to get deal pricing for taking the entire pack as a substitute of forcing them to interrupt it and preserve a small pack of leftover inventory.

Market calls for imply that 80 p.c of the inventory at your native lumberyard shall be grade FAS or higher. But in case your venture components are usually not very large, you may be capable to save large bucks by particularly seeking out widespread grade lumber. Just remember that extra waste will consequence and colour and grain match could be tough.

Wholesalers will typically have returned materials that has been milled S4S, generally with moulded profiles. You can get nice offers on this materials if it matches your wants. While you’re at it, ask if the seller has packs of brief and slim lumber (lower than 8′ in size and narrower than 6″). This materials is normally culled from packs for business jobs and could be had for a tune by the inquisitive woodworker

Did you already know that almost all lumber we purchase has been ripped all the way down to a narrower measurement? Its not that vast lumber isn’t out there as a result of the logs are small, however that there’s little business demand for wider lumber. Therefore, sawmills rip materials to fulfill the minimal sizes as dictated by the grades.

Finding quartersawn and rift-sawn lumber is tough as a result of not often will a seller type lumber this fashion (white oak is the exception). But vast, flat-sawn boards normally embrace smaller rift-sawn and quartersawn areas. So don’t overlook these. — SR

Look to the Grades

Buried treasure. If the lumberyard permits entry to the stacks, don’t be afraid to decide on the right board, even when it’s buried. That’s what forklifts are for.

What if I inform you there’s a strategy to assure what sizes of boards you’ll find? You must look no additional than the lumber grading system.

National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) lumber grades point out a share of the board be away from defects, and every grade could have a minimal board measurement in addition to a minimal slicing measurement that shall be 100 p.c freed from defects. This implies that whenever you purchase FAS lumber you may depend on no less than a 6″x 8′ board that’s 83 p.c clear and it is possible for you to to get a 4″ x 5′ or 3″ x 7′ space completely freed from defects. And these are the minimums to fulfill the grade, so you’ll doubtless discover clearer, wider and longer boards.

In truth, a lot of the market calls for a lot larger grades than this. You see, when NHLA developed these grades, the furnishings trade was king. Today, hardwoods are consumed largely for millwork, the place clear, lengthy boards are important. Though FAS is taken into account the highest grade, it’s widespread to seek out boards effectively above that. Armed with this information, you may construct a second diagram assuming that your whole boards would be the minimal 6″ x 8′ that FAS grade calls for. We’ll name that Plan B (above).

Immediately, you may see that I’ve to make fairly just a few compromises. I’ll should make the case components by gluing up three-board panels. This will make colour and grain matches harder, so I make each effort to get every half from a single board. The entrance and two sides of the case shall be from curly cherry; I’ll use extra pedestrian cherry for the again panel, as a result of will probably be in opposition to a wall and largely unseen.

I’ve an identical concern with the highest, the place I’m pressured to make a three-board panel as a substitute of my authentic two-board want checklist plan. Still, if I make the panel from items which are all from the identical board, my possibilities of a colour match are a lot improved.

In this situation, I’ll pull my breadboard ends from one other board and stack these items to the sides. In a typical flat-sawn board the place the cathedral grain is centered, the sides shall be straighter grain, and if you happen to search for it yow will discover rift-sawn and even quartersawn sections on the edges. Because the breadboards are solely 18″ lengthy, I’ll have the remainder of the board left over. From that, I can simply get my bracket ft components with loads of inventory to keep away from any defects.

I’ll get my moulding components from one other board and search for a middle cathedral board with straight grain on the edges. That method I can stack every strip of moulding to the sting for one of the best grain. Just look out for sapwood right here and verify each faces. You could not have sap on one face, however when you begin slicing the moulding profile, some sapwood from the bottom may emerge.

The excellent news is that, regardless of just a few compromises with the case components, a lot of my authentic plan isn’t actually affected with Plan B. I do have some clear targets in thoughts for the straight-grain items, however many of the colour matching process is solved for me by grouping all of the multi-board panels from a single board. I do want to seek out comparable colours between the boards that make up the case entrance and case sides however, with solely two boards wanted, that ought to be simple to attain.

Time to Call the Lumberyard

Now you need to develop your recreation plan for the lumberyard. Every yard is a little bit bit completely different, however usually they’re organized in considered one of two methods.

1. The lumber is in accessible bins the place you may pull out the boards by yourself.

2. The lumber requires a forklift to entry a pack so that you can type by means of.

But you’ll find one widespread factor in nearly each yard. Wood shall be sorted by thickness first, width second and size normally by no means.

Many yards simply have random width/random size (RW/RL) bins or packs. That’s the place most of us get a little bit misplaced and our plan goes off the rails. Call it sensory overload, however the common woodworker confronted with partitions of attractive wooden tends to lose his or her thoughts.

If the lumberyard isn’t going to type out completely different widths, then it positively gained’t type by colour or grain. This implies that to comprehend your grand design, you’ll should dig by means of some boards to seek out the colour and grain match you want. Add up the board footage in your checklist by thickness – similar to the lumberyard will do it – so you have got a complete footage for all of the 4/4, 8/4, and so forth. boards per species.

Don’t get choosy right here; simply spherical up. The rule of thumb I comply with is {that a} 4/Four x 6″ x 8′ board is 4 board ft. I don’t attain for a calculator or an app to get extra actual; I simply estimate off that 4 board foot common per piece. When I get my closing whole, I double it and even triple it. Don’t panic – anticipate to type by means of boards to get the precise ones on your venture.

Call forward to the lumberyard to verify it has readily available your inflated footage totals per thickness. If crucial, have the yard pull the fabric so you may entry it whenever you arrive. If you have got particular wants, equivalent to figured cherry or vast boards (something greater than 10″ is taken into account vast), it’s a good suggestion to ask first if they’ve it.

Armed along with your two diagrams, you may arrive on the lumberyard figuring out precisely what number of items of a sure measurement are wanted and the place it’s good to be choosy about grain and colour and the place you don’t. This means that you can ease the confusion with all the small secondary components. By choosing out the inventory you want for these components immediately, you may then give attention to the essential components the place measurement, grain and colour are crucial.

Lumberyard anxiousness is brought on by a giant checklist of board ft and being not sure of what sizes you actually need. Your diagrams ease that anxiousness and the whole lot turns into rather a lot less complicated – for each you and the lumberyard staff.

With my lumber purchased, I now simply have to verify I don’t screw it up within the store…possibly I ought to go forward and purchase just a few extra boards simply in case.

Ooh and there’s a chunk of bocote with a knot within the form of Roy Underhill’s face – it may well preserve my purpleheart firm. 

Product Recommendations

Here are some provides and instruments we discover important in our on a regular basis work across the store. We could obtain a fee from gross sales referred by our hyperlinks; nevertheless, now we have fastidiously chosen these merchandise for his or her usefulness and high quality.

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