Buying Hardwoods

Jeff Vandenberg
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Buying Hardwoods

I think the biggest trick to buying hardwood is to take your time. A process; it’s like a beauty pageant — except the contestants are pieces of lumber.

For the preliminary round, each piece is quickly judged for color, grain, and lack of warp. The best of these are set aside as semi finalists. Then the semi finalists are looked over carefully.

Each piece is scrutinized for sapwood, knots, stains, checks, snipe, and chipout. This helps bring the board count down even further. Finally, make your final selections based on color match and grain pattern.

Although this sounds like a lot of work, it’s not. And besides, you’ll enjoy rummaging through lumber. Who know what you’ll find? The guys at the lumber store should know you’ll go through the entire stack, but they shouldn’t mind. They know you’ll carefully restack the lumber after your done sorting. Right! There’s nothing wrong with being finicky about lumber. It’ll pay off in the long run — you’ll see it in the finished project.

SIX STEPS FOR BUYING LUMBER (copy write handyman magazine this point forward)
1) The first step to buying lumber is to quickly sort for the flattest, straightest, and nicest-looking boards.

2) Once you have about twice the amount of lumber you’ll actually need, check the stack for boards containing sapwood.

3) When shuffling through your stack, also sort carefully for knots, stains, checks, and chipout.

4) After the field has been narrowed, compare each board to the others and select the best color match.

5) If you still have more lumber than you’ll need, sort the stack one more time for the boards with the straightest grain.

6) After making your final selections, tally up the board footage (thickness x width x length — all in inches — and divide by 144) to make sure you have enough lumber.(end of copy right)
Note: I always get 15% to 20% more than what the project calls for. This gives room for waste and to make a mistake or two. It also lets you be a little more picky in matching color and grain when your actually building the project.
Hope this helps!

Jeff Vandenberg aka "Woodsconsin"

Some good info Jeff,

I found myself wishing I had help to go through the stack, especilly on the longer board ( 12’ and up) also the thicker lumber 8/4 etc…
I have a flaky back:

To tally up, I usually put my boards (same species) side by side and measure the entire width that way I only have 2 measurement to deal with.

Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

Thanks for great info Jeff.