|I think the biggest trick to buying
hardwood is to take your time. A friend of mine says the process we use to select
hardwood is 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, we make our final
selections based on color match and grain pattern.
Although this sounds like a lot of work, it's not. And besides, we enjoy rummaging
through lumber. Who know what we'll find? The guys are the lumber store know we'll
go through the entire stack, but they don't mind. They know we'll carefully restack
the lumber after we're done sorting. 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
1) The first step to buying lumber is to quickly sort
for the flattest, straightest, and nicest-looking boards.
Note: We always get 15% to 20% more than
what the project calls for. This gives us room for waste and to make a mistake
or two. It also lets us be a little more picky in matching color and grain when
we're actually building the project.
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,
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
Go to Tip #7