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Starting With Rough Lumber


Starting With Rough Lumber

 Most professional woodworkers will buy rough, or unsurfaced lumber. The reasons for doing this are not because they want to extend the time spent with the wood. Some might, but not most. One reason is because it costs less per board foot to buy it this way. (a board foot is 1" x 12"x 12"). A second reason is they might not use it right away, which will give the lumber a chance to warp, if it isn't already. (Usually it is). We pick up our wood at the supplier, to make sure it's what we want, and the moisture content in the wood is between 6 and 8 %. (ideal for use). Actually, there is no need for us to make the trip, as the supplier we use, Hearne Hardwoods, is as least as picky as we are. It's just a fun trip for us, and a chance to chat with these fine folks.


Proper Method To Stack Lumber

When we store lumber, we stack it in the shop using "stickers", between the boards. Stickers are just scraps of wood, of the same thickness. They could be anywhere from 1/4" to 3/4" thick. The purpose of this is to allow air to circulate freely between the boards, letting the boards acclimate to the shop conditions. Moisture content etc...

This helps to ensure the lumber, after being surfaced wont be as likely to warp. We also sticker the surfaced lumber as well. Another thing we do in our shop is to surface the wood down to about 1/16" thicker than the desired finial thickness. We leave it stickered until the next day, and then plane it to the final thickness. While this seems a little extreme, we don't want to work with warped wood.

   Starting with rough lumber, to stickered wood     Stickered lumber

We will generally take a couple passes off of both faces of the wood, using a jointer. We are then able to see the color and grain patterns clearly. That's when we lay out which piece will go where. We do this on the wood, using a lumber crayon, marking the piece with the size and part name. The reasoning here is we wouldn't want to build something that has a light colored piece next to a darker one, or one with very pronounced grain next to a plain one. Or if two doors are side by side, we'll cut the meeting stiles out of the same piece, so when the doors are closed, the grain is continous across both doors. While these are small steps, they make a big difference in the final project.


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Once that's done, we crosscut and rip the pieces to approximate size, leaving it oversized by about a 1/2" in width, and 4" in length, for surfacing. The next step is jointing one edge straight. If it's a long or heavy piece, we'll use a "rip sled", on our table saw to get our first straight edge. We often use the rip sled on the entire stack of lumber first, as this quickly establishes a straight edge to work from. This saves a considerable amount of time on larger projects. It's one pass on the sled, as opposed to 6-8 passes on the jointer. (plans to make your own rip sled are included herein). After establishing one straight edge, the next step is jointing one face of the board to create a square face and edge. It's important to note the grain direction, and joint the board going with the grain. This will prevent tear out, or "chips", on the face of the wood.

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The next step is to use the planner to bring the lumber to the desired finished thickness, or if you wish to 1/16" heavy, as we do. One other thing worth noting is try to take equal amounts off of both sides of the board, if possible. This too, will reduce the likelyhood of warping, as the center of the board will have a higher moisture content, and keeping the amount removed from the faces close, will help keep the moisture content even on both sides.

The final steps are to rip the wood to the finished width, or rip it heavy and take the final passes with the jointer. I personally don't do this if I'm working with a quality table saw and a good sharp blade. Be sure to always use a splitter, or anti kickback device. Rough lumber is no problem, if you go through the proper steps to machine it.

Written by: Lee A. Jesberger © 2006 - 2010
Inventor of:
Ezee-Feed Systems ®

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