Terms to Know Before a Trip to the Lumberyard

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Imagine stopping by a pet store and simply asking for a dog.  Instead of just sending you on your merry way with the first dog they see, the clerk’s going to likely do some probing to see whether you’re looking for an indoor or outdoor pet, if you have a preference between shedding & non-shedding breeds and how big of an animal you’re looking to adopt.  Similarly, if you were to go to a lumberyard and request some wood, the specialist you speak with is going to want to know more about your specific needs.  To save yourself time and frustration, here’s some of the basic lingo you’ll want to understand.

Hardwoods vs Softwoods: All wood fall into one of these two categories.  Hardwoods come from trees that lose their leaves in the fall and softwoods come from evergreens.  Common types of hardwoods are cherry, maple, ash and oak.  Popular softwoods are spruce, cedar, fir and pine.

Grading: As you look through the different types of wood, you’ll notice that some have more physical blemishes than others.  Depending on the type of project you need the wood for, this may or may not be of concern.  The National Hardwood Lumber Association uses the below grading systems to allow a consumer to understand the quality of wood they are purchasing.  The rankings are listed best to worst.

Hardwood Grading

Grade Name

Abbreviation

Minimum Board Size

% Usable Material On One Face

First and Seconds

FAS

6-in x 8-in

83

Select

Sel

4-in x 6-in

83

#1 Common

#1 Com

3-in x 4-in

66

#2 Common

#2 Com

3-in x 4-in

50

 

Softwood Grading

Grade

What It Means

C Select

Almost completely clear of defects. Widely used for interior trim and cabinets.

D Select

Fine appearance, similar to C Select. May have dime-sized knots.

1 Common

Best material for high quality pine with a knotty look. Knots will be tight, meaning they won’t fall out, and are generally small.

2 Common

Tight knots, but larger than found in 1 Common. Often used for paneling and shelving. Very suitable for general woodworking projects.

3 Common

Knots larger than in 2 Common. Also used for paneling and shelving, but especially well-suited for fences, boxes and crates.

 Other Terms You’re Bound to Hear around the Lumberyard Include:

Luster: This term relates to the amount of light a wood will reflect.  Luster can improve by applying a glossy finish to the wood, though some species will have higher than natural luster.

Wood Grain: Wood grain is the direction in which the wood cell fibers mature.  Much like your fingerprints, each tree has its own unique wood grain markings.  This means that two pieces of wood from identical species can look entirely different.

 Density: This measures weight per unit volume.  The denser a wood is, the more likely it is to fend off indentations and scratches.

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