Is there any type of wood that is sold as per its dimension anymore?
I tried to buy some cedar that was as advertised, nope even something as
simple as a 1x2 cedar strip is actually 5/8x 1 1/2. It sucks because I have
to buy a 1x4 board to fill a 2" gap or actually I have to buy a 2x4 board
and rip it 2 ways with a tablesaw to fit a 1x2 gap. This has to be a ploy
to sell more lumber, can't this be attacked as a "truth in advertising" or
false claims angle?
The dimension of lumber is the dimension before it is planed to make
It's like the quarter pound burger is a quarter pound before cooking.
If you want the true dimension of the lumber you need to buy it rough
The dimensions are before planing. I can buy 4/4 hardwood, but, by the time
I get done preparing it, the actual dimension will be 3/4". Boards are
rough cut, dried, then dimensioned. If you want a true 1" thick board, you
must start out with at least an extra 1/4 to 1/2" when cut from the tree.
Just the way lumber dries.
All 1x lumber is finished 3/4". Boards are, IIRC 1/2" less on the width up
to 6", but over that, they are 3/4" less. Been that way for about 100 years
Same thought here. Although I did experience the same disbelief from
my neighbor when he was trimming out his new addition. He had no
table saw and needed some stock ripped for window trim. Handed me a
batch of 1x4 and asked for it to be ripped 2". I did. He was shocked
to find a stack of 2" plus a stack of 1x1/2 (minus kerf). I had to
explain the facts of life to him.
Of course he was also the guy who grew up on a farm and didn't believe
me when I told him he had wasted his money planting all those seedling
trees in his pasture without fenceing them off. He never heard of
cattle being browswers. I don't think any of them got as far as
putting out the first leaf.
I'm not sure why this part bothers you so much. You gave one example
where you have to buy a bigger board and rip it. But if the lumber
was exactly 2x4, and the gap you needed to fill was 2 1/2 or 3 inches,
you would still have to buy something bigger than that and rip it.
Only a few gaps are actually the size of lumber, as long as lumber
only comes in a limited number of sizes.
AIUI, 2x4's etc. were sold as 2 by 4 and the buyer had to smooth them.
Now they do this for us, much more efficiently than all but a few
customers could do it. It's usually considered worth it to pay less
for such extras than it would cost to do it oneself, like getting
one's milk pasteurized, one's corn already shucked and cooked, or
one's bread presliced.
Anyone who has every tryied to build with rough cut or remodel a house
that was built with it is _very_ familiar with the problems. I have
done both. To build new with it you start with a stack of rough cut
and sort through to find the ones that match dimensions. Even knowing
the problems I tried to use lumber I salvaged off a schoolhouse to
build my 18x30 addition. Did manage to use it for floor joists but
only by shimming or trimming the ends of every one to match height.
Did build one 18' wall with the studs but only after lots of sorting.
I gave it up at that point, bit the bullet and bought new lumber.
Just a note...
Wasn't as much a problem until the advent of drywall -- with lath and
plaster, wall surfaces were much more readily finished to accomodate
some irregularity than with drywall where the finish surface plane is
the board itself. Of course, as anyone who has remodeled old houses
knows, rarely, if ever, are walls straight or corners square... :)
I regularly salvage old material, but generally would go to the
trouble of cleaning it up and dimensioning it before beginning a major
project with it. Of course, it helps to have a large industrial-
strength jointer and planer, of course... :)
In VA years ago, they salvaged material from an early schoolhouse and
stacked it for sale. Went for the purpose of getting one of the old
slate blackboards for the kids. Wandering around looking through
piles of joists and other framing lumber and noticed it was all quite
dark in color. Hmmm, me says...let's look at this. Scrape a little
corner off a 3x12 18-footer and yep! -- just what I thought:
virtually the whole thing was framed w/ walnut.
Placed a bid of $3000 for the entire stack of lumber and came away
with something under 8000 bd-ft of #1C and better walnut.
Naw, they have to measure it that way. It is not possible to measure
it any other way. I have a small saw-mill and have found that wood
shrinks a lot after it is cut. The dimensions quoted are alway called
nominal since it is assumed that a woodworker knows that no exact
dimension can be given.
Here's an example: I cut 2/4 stock on my mill. That is the nominal
size. It just gives us a name to call it even though we know the
dimension will be changing from the moment the board is cut and starts
to dry. I cut my "two inch" stock to 2 1/8" knowing that after it
shrinks I will have a board that may only be 1 15/16".
Only when the stock is totally dry can the dimensions become stable
enough to be able to plane and joint it and an relatively accurate
measurment be given. This is a moisture level less that 10%, hopefully
7 or 8% Then it is the final user who finds out that his "two-by"
stock is 1 3/4". It is still called a two-by.
Even after the wood has been dried and is in it's final use it still
gain and loses a bit of size due to fluctuations in temp and
humidity. So, 2x4 is just a name to call it. It tells you enough to
know what size board to expect. No exact measurement can ever be
Wow, that was quite possibly the best explanation I've heard on this
subject. And I was sincerely hoping I could piss and moan about it for a
few days. Actually my heartburn has ended seeing how the job is done and
the results worked out after ripping a 1x3 to the needed dimensions.
Its even worst than what you think.
My house is sided in 3/4" x7 1/2" redwood boards. A normal person
would call it a 1 x 8.
The house has stood here for 50 years with nary a problem but last
year a squirrel decides to gnaw through the siding. So I walk into
the local lumber yard and say I'd like to buy a couple 1 x 8 clear
redwood boards. The clerk says he has to special order them, I say OK
A few days later the boards arrive, I go to pick them up and low and
behold, within the last 50 years the definition of a 1 x8 has changed
to be 5/8" x 7 1/2"! So the replacement board sits 1/8" shallower
than all the rest of the siding.. I had to buy a sheet of 1/8"
masonite and use it as a backing to my new 1 x 8 board to make
Here's a question: What do all you Canadians out there do when all
the old houses are built to Imperial measures, but all the repair
parts you can buy are Metric. It must be a nightmare to do any
That's owing to the material being redwood -- what with the demand for
redwood combined with the difficulties from environmental, etc. on
logging redwood and the subsequent high prices, in the last 20-30
years there is tremendous pressure on stretching particularly clear
material to the limit. "Full" dimension 1x redwood is still available
but would require ordering architectural material rather than
dimension lumber to ensure it -- and the price would probably go up
50% or more not simply the ratio of thicknesses...
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