Top-grade boards aren’t always pretty
Spectacular boards cost no more than ordinary ones,because lumber grades depend on yield, not aesthetics. The presence of off-color sapwood and funny-looking figure isn’t a factor.
Buy more than enough
It’s a big mistake to buy the exact amount of wood your project requires. If you do, you’re gonna come up short, because rough lumber isn’t perfect, not even top-grade boards.
A common rule of thumb is to buy 15 to 20 percent more than you need. Some species, like red oak, consistently contain few defects, so you
don’t have to over-buy as much. Other species, like black walnut, require more insurance than the average.
I usually don’t bother with percentages, I just buy extra pieces. For example, if I’m going to build a table, I’ll choose enough stock to make an extra leg. If the top requires seven boards, I’ll buy eight.
Look for hit-and-miss
The landscape at the lumberyard is changing because stock surfaced hit-and-miss (H/M) is becoming common, and may eventually replace rough lumber altogether.
H/M planing skins the board’s rough surfaces.This makes choosing good-looking boards easier because you can see what they look like, without having to guess.
Even though I’ve been buying rough lumber for years, I still get fooled. It’s just plain hard to see the figure pattern and color in a roughsawn board. H/M planing keeps you from buying ugly boards.
H/M boards are also easier on your tools, because the rough top layer, which often contains dirt and other junk, has been removed.
Here’s the bad news. First, you’ve got less thickness to work with. H/M-surfaced boards are 1/16-in. thinner than the rough thickness (4/4 H/M stock is 15/16-in. thick). Second,H/M boards still need to be finish-planed. Their surfaces are coarse and usually contain portions that are still rough (hence the name). And third, H/M planing doesn’t flatten warped boards.
Tame warped lumber
Common sense tells you to choose flat boards and avoid the pretzels.
Unfortunately, flat rough-sawn boards are sometimes hard to find. Lots of boards end up warped as a result of the drying process. In lumber lingo,warp is defined as any deflection from a flat, planar surface.
Warped boards can be cupped, bowed, crooked or twisted. A single board can contain a combination of warps. Luckily,most warped boards can be flattened, if the deflection isn’t too severe.
Knowing how to identify and deal with boards that aren’t perfectly flat will give you many more choices as you look through the stack.