Woodworking Tips
Woodworking Tips Index
Buying Hardwoods
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.

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.
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.

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