Sawdust Addict

Tips for Buying and Using Rough Lumber

Tips for Buying and Using Rough Lumber

Buy smart to get the best deals and the best wood.
By Tim Johnson

Start out thick
Rough lumber thicknesses are measured in 1/4-in. increments.
The thinnest rough-cut boards, labeled 4/4, and called four quarter, are 1-in. thick.

It’s tough to get surfaced stock thicker than 13/16-in. from 1-in. rough stock. Plan to lose 3/16-in. (1/4-in.on thicker stock) when you plane a roughsawn board smooth.

Hardwood lumberyards commonly stock species in 4/4 and 8/4 thicknesses, with additional sizes available based on supply and demand.


Be prepared
Take a tape measure and calculator with you when you go to the lumberyard so you can measure the boards you choose and figure out how much they’ll cost. Because rough-sawn boards come in random widths and lengths (no two are alike) they’re measured by volume,which can be calculated by using a simple

The standard unit, a board foot (bd. ft.), measures 12-in. x 12-in. x 1-in.-thick, or 144 cubic inches.


Because bd. ft. is a measure of volume, any combination of thickness (minimum 1 in.),width and length that equals 144 cubic inches also equals one bd. ft.

Rough lumber is sold based on its cost per bd. ft. Some species are more pricey than others, and thicker boards cost more per bd. ft. than thin ones. To determine cost, simply multiply the total number of bd. ft. in the boards you’ve selected by the bd. ft. price.


Buy long


Don’t expect to get an 8-ft. length out of an 8-ft. rough board.Even though rough-sawn boards are regularly cut a couple of inches long, they usually contain checks, knots or wild grain that must be cut off.

If you need finished 8-ft. lengths, you’ll probably have to buy 9- or even 10-ft.- long boards.

Check out No. 1 common
No. 1 Common (1C) lumber is always worth considering. It sits only one notch below Selects and Better (S/B), the best grade most lumberyards carry, but costs up to 40 percent less.

In general, 1C grade has more defects,and boards usually contain more waste. This reduces its cost advantage somewhat.On the other hand, some 1C boards are perfect, but too narrow or short to make S/B grade. In fact, there’s a large gray area between the low end of S/B lumber and the top end of 1C lumber.

It’s not hard to find 1C boards that look just as good, if not better, than S/B boards.

Buying 1C lumber is a great way to stretch your woodworking dollars.





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