What types of hardwoods will you consider for your next project?
There are many types of hardwoods. Hardwoods are milled and sold in a fundamentally different manner than framing lumber and pine boards. This is due to the increased value of hardwoods, and that softwoods are generally used in construction. In construction, there is obviously a large need for uniformly-sized pieces (think studs!)
Hardwoods are used in furniture, fixtures, cabinets, and moldings. There is little uniform sizing between projects in hardwoods. To maximize the yield of the valuable hardwood, each board is cut to yield the maximum amount of usable material. Every piece is sawn as wide and long as the log allows, then trimmed just enough to make the ends square (and generally one edge straight). This production method limits waste and reduces costs in both lost material and extra machining. Therefore, the widths and lengths are random and even the best grades allow for some level of “defect”. No other method could keep the cost at its lowest possible level and maximize yields.
There are many types of hardwoods available for any project that you can dream of.
Determining your “yield” is paramount in project planning and minimizing costs. Oak, cherry, maple, and poplar are readily available in pre-machined board sizes (1×4, 1×6, 1×8, 1×10 and 1×12**). The most common thickness will be “4/4”, netting out to approximately ¾”. A 5/4 thickness is approximately 1⅛” thick, 6/4 is 1⅜” and 8/4 is 1¾”. Many other hardwood species are available in two other ways:
Surfaced 2 Sides (S2S): …meaning individual boards have been planed down to the net 13/16” thickness (other thicknesses available). This enables you to view the entire board for appearance. If requested, the wood can be additionally machined. Remember that each additional machining step will add expense for the milling completed and the “lost” wood to further refine the board(s). Put another way – you’re paying for the work to create a beautiful board and the scraps that you’ll never see. This is the best way to purchase hardwoods for most projects and customers.
Straight Line Ripped (SLR): …meaning that one of the edges has been cut straight so that you can place that edge against your saw fence and rip to whatever exact width you need. Keep in mind that the boards can vary in width from one end to the other.
Rough Sawn: These are boards that have been rough sawn by the mill and shipped. If you order 1” thickness, that’s what you will receive. Although this is the most economical way to buy hardwoods since there hasn’t been additional milling done to the boards; the roughness of the boards can hide both the beauties and the beasts. Obviously, you maximize yield of the wood but end up doing most of the work (planing, straight-line ripping, etc).
Surfaced 4 Sides (S4S): Another variation is S4S boards, which are perfectly machined boards (i.e., 1×6 nominal, net measurement is 5½”). This is the most convenient, but MOST expensive way to purchase hardwoods because you’re indirectly paying for all the work and waste going into making that “perfect” board (you don’t get the trims).
When deciding what types of hardwoods to use, consider the following:
Many types of wood are highly desirable; however, they may only be available in short lengths, narrow pieces, select grades, etc. It’s always advisable to buy more than what you believe you’ll need to ensure enough of the batch to complete your project. You can always make a small toy, box or picture frame from leftover scraps!
If you will want to match pre-made moldings for your project, this may severely restrict your readily available selection to pine, fir, oak, maple, cherry, poplar, knotty alder and walnut. Most hardwoods molding will only be available in shorter lengths – 6’ to 10’. The similar accessibility will apply to plywoods; only a relative few species are available in plywoods. Note that most hardwood plywoods are now made with an MDF core, especially on thinner sizes. MDF fiberboard (particle board) machines like a dream but does create a lot of dust, is heavy and any exposed edges obviously are not for stain-grade appearance. However, edge veneer is available to cover these exposed edges.
Some hardwoods are notorious for their tool-dulling aspects and splitting, chipping or hardness. Many will leave clean sharp machined edges and corners, some fuzzier. A few will cause dermatitis in certain individuals or create excessive dust that may create a hazard. Along with other safety equipment, use dust masks/dust control.
Generally, Front Range Lumber will only offer “first and second” (FAS) grade. This grade maximizes the value you receive while keeping the costs to a minimum. Beware of other grades as they may allow more defects (knots, splits, etc.) that interfere with the look of your project.
No Two Boards Are Alike
Hardwoods and their uses are fundamentally different in many ways from other woods (i.e. Construction). In most cases, customers need or want to pick their particular boards. Because of the uniqueness of a project made with hardwoods, grain patterns, color and other qualities are understandably very important. Just like two trees are not alike, no two pieces of wood look exactly alike. No man-made material can replicate woods variety, strength, low cost, and genuineness. Remember, as with any natural wood item, coloration and other characteristics vary between boards.
Expansion and contraction will occur in wood as the boards take on or release moisture with the prevailing weather and/or site conditions. Your construction should allow for this movement. Using a tabletop application as an example, we suggest elongated screw holes on the underside of the top and then attaching the base through those long holes to allow movement. Install fasteners to the center of that slot taking care not to predrill the hole too deep.
Front Range Lumber has increased the types of hardwoods we stock.
In addition to carrying 1×4 through 1×12 in Red Oak, Maple, Poplar, and Cherry, we now carry domestic hardwoods including White Oak, Ash, Hickory, Alder, Walnut, Sugar Pine and Aromatic Cedar. In more “exotic” species, we have a selection including Wenge, Zebrawood, Lacewood, Padauk, Bubinga, and Mahogany.