The quality of lumber

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I have a little project in mind, but I need a bit of 1 X 4 to do it with. So yesterday I stopped by the nearest home supply to get one. They had the rattiest selection of 1 X 4s I have ever seen. They were #3 S4S (square four sides), but I don't think a one of them had all 4 corners the full length. They did have some 1 X 8s that were fairly clean looking so I got one of those. I suppose I could have gone on over to Lowes, but I don't have much faith they would have had anything any better. I'll have to rip the 1 X 8s down, but I would have had to rip the 1 X 4s too, so that isn't a big problem.
Of course the first problem will be to clean up the shop so I can work out there. I have done a number of small projects that didn't need much space, so I have just been shoving things out of the way. To do a proper job I really need to do a complete clean up.
Bill
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On 2/24/2014 9:09 AM, Bill Gill wrote:

I am always hearing from people that lumber was better in the 'old days' where 'old days' is only vaguely defined. I just had the opportunity (necessity) to become more familiar with the internal structure of my smallest bathroom, stripping it back to studs and joists, including removing the damned mud bed floor. I can say from that experience that 1964 was definitely not the 'old days' of superior lumber quality. There was some real crap buried in that tiny 38 square foot space. At first I was confused by the number of studs that had slices almost all the way through them until I realized that they were somebodies idea to de-crown bent wood. Other studs had knots taking up at least half the width of the stock and at least one had a waney edge that took away a third of the stock. I took the opportunity to glue and screw splints on the compromised studs but left the waney one alone because I couldn't get to it well enough without causing possible damage to the wall in an adjacent bath. The wood I'm putting in is regular borg-grade stuff but at least I've been able to select the least crappy stock off the shelf.
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On 2/24/2014 8:31 AM, BenignBodger wrote:

...

...

As always, depended on where the purchaser went in large part...
OTOH, I can confirm that stuff from back in the '10s - '20s was in general "much more better"... :)
The barn here was begun just after rationing was lifted after the WWI armistice (Nov '18) and is open construction. There are 2x6 wall studs, 2x8 haymow floor joists and builtup 2x6 beams (3 or 4 together) and columns from 12 to 16-ft in length. A large number of them are clear and very few aren't full dimension all sides. And, of course, the surfaceed dimensions are nominal -3/8" instead of -9/16" or more (ie, they're 1-5/8" thick, not 1-1/2 or 1-7/16).
As far as the '60s, we built a set of grain bins in the haymow for a little feed mill around then and there's some leftover material from that still stored. Included are some 20-ft 2x10 and 2x12 Doug fir that are also almost clear and several of which are. I hate to guess what one might pay for one of those if one could even find a 20-footer at all.
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I need to find out where a local "historical society" bought the wood for a "railroad storehouse" that they were building. I was walking through a local park with my wife and we came upon a small building that was under construction. There was a couple inside taking some measurements. Curious, I stuck my head in, said hi, and we got to talking. It turns out that the county was paying the historical society to have replica building erected on the original site of a storage facility that used to be near the RR tracks that ran through the park. It was a small building that would contain public restrooms and could be used for meetings and small gatherings. A lot of the work was being done by volunteers, Boy Scouts for Eagle projects, etc.
The 1 by material that was piled up inside the building was the clearest, straightest, most beautiful pine I had ever seen. Everything from 1x2's all the way up to 1x10's. I mentioned it to the couple and they told me that it sure was nice to work with. They said some of it was going to be stained, but a lot of it was going to be painted. It was decided early on that it was easier to buy stain quality wood for everything instead of trying to figure out what was to be painted and what was to be stained. That way they could grab whatever they needed at any time and use it.
After talking to the couple for a while, and offering some suggestions for dealing with a door trim issue that they were having, they asked me if I wanted to put a few hours helping out. They were nearing the end of the project and had a deadline for completion and the opening ceremonies with some county big-wigs in a couple of weeks. I showed up a couple of times and put in a few hours trimming doors and hanging wainscoting and chair rails. It was a lot of fun and now I can say I had a part in building a pretty cool building.
I really need to call them and find out where the wood was purchased.

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On 2/24/2014 12:10 PM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

Probably thru the local full-service lumber yard on special order or, if you're in a larger metro area there may well be a "real" hardwoods dealer who'll also handle clear pine and other furniture-grade softwoods. Be prepared for sticker shock, however, in wider dimensions 4/4 roughsawn clear can go for as much as $4.50/bf in retail quantities.
When doing the barn restoration about 10 yr ago, tried to get some 5/4 for the windows and it was essentially unobtainable at the time--all was being used by Pella, Andersen and friends. Market isn't _quite_ so tight now since the big housing crash...
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wrote:

Just goes to show you that back in 1964 there were "bodgers" in the trades, just like there is now. And guys who are too cheap or lazy to make firewood out of inferior materials.
Since all the "old growth" wood is gone, and the price of wood has gone up, the temptation to use inferior wood has gotten a lot stronger - and while back then you COULD get good wood (usually) today it is more difficult. The availability of "rough" wood has not changed (much).
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On 2/24/2014 1:01 PM, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

My folks lived in a house in PA which originally was part of a company town. Theirs used to be the mine manager's. A simple house but everything in the town had been built in the mid 1870s from local standing trees. The story goes that the company hauled a steam-powered sawmill in on their railroad siding, cut the local trees, turned everything into lumber and mine timbers, and then took the sawmill away. The house in question was built from an assortment of full-dimension green hardwood. I don't know if it was old growth at that late date but it was definitely of good quality. You wouldn't believe how difficult it was to do a few modifications on that house -- the wood could destroy saw blades in no time. I'm pretty sure that some of the more gnarly wood was elm and some was certainly cherry and walnut from the color and smell. What they found they used. The house even had the original hundred-year-old slate roof and it was pretty much intact.
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On 2/24/2014 6:39 PM, BenignBodger wrote:

That reminds me of my brother John. He was a master carpenter who worked mostly alone and hired casual labor when he needed help lifting something. Any way in the 1960s he spent a year or more building a house up in NE Oklahoma. The owner liked his work so much that he provided housing for him all the time he was building the house. The owner was also a good scrounger. He found a man who was clearing some land and had a saw mill. So he bought almost all the lumber for the house from him. The owner bought a planer a had John finish the lumber. It turned out that most of the wood was oak. By the time John finished the wood he was getting it for about 40 cents a foot. Even then that was an astounding price. When I visited there was an oak plank that was being used as a walkway up to the door of the house. John said a friend of the owners saw that and was really envious about them using what would cost him a relative fortune as a walkway.
Bill
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On Monday, February 24, 2014 6:09:53 AM UTC-8, Bill Gill wrote:

S4S is "Surfaced 4 Sides", i.e. planed smooth to industrial standard thickness and width.
The "old days" were, in many cases, working with old growth timber so of course the quality is better.
My old man and I both worked in lumber mills back in the 50s. Grading standards have gone down. What is "Common" now, would grade "Cull" back then.
Harry K
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On 2/24/2014 9:21 AM, Harry K wrote: ...

I don't think it's so much standards themselves have changed for a given grade so much but that with the lower availability and higher cost the use of lower grades for equivalent purposes is inevitable.
Back when lumber was (comparatively) dirt cheap and plentiful there wasn't any demand for the lesser grades for other than pulp or other low-level uses or it was simply discarded. Now, it all has value so even the sawdust is used in most mills.
--


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On 2/24/2014 11:52 AM, dpb wrote:

...
As an extreme example, shortly after moved to Virginia (Lynchburg), Campbell County condemned and salvaged for sale an old school. The earliest parts of the building dated to about 1880 or thereabouts. In that portion of it the structural beams, floor joists and wall studs were black walnut because at the time it walnut was considered "junk" wood, of no other value than for construction timber.
Story re: this I've told before on the r.woodworking site -- they did a complete salvage and had everything sorted and stacked on site before opening the site for sales. Rather than a public open auction, it was a "make an offer, we'll consider it" kind of a deal. I went down the Saturday after the sale opened with the intent of just buying a slate blackboard section for the kids to put in the basement for them. Wandering around, the piles of beams and other structural wood caught my eye being a budding woodworker (having come from SW KS, the reality of there actually being useful lumber trees growing everywhere was still rather novel at the time :) ) I thought this might be a way to pick up some old native pine or other similar wood fairly inexpensively. So, looking I began to realize this was _not_ pine and carefully shaved the dirt and saw marks down to verify it was indeed mostly if not all walnut.
I had just made an acquaintance of a local young fellow just out of high school who was making the decoupage plaques of the current rage and selling them through the Davis Paint store downtown. Mr Davis had furnished him a shop area in the basement and I had met him answering his add for a small shaper when he had upgraded to a larger one. Anyway, with his access to a large storage area and also interest, we immediately went back down and placed a bid for the entire stack of structural lumber of $4000 which was a huge amount of money in 1969. The offer was accepted and we hauled two semi loads totaling almost 40,000 bd-ft of walnut...
There was a smattering of oak (red and white, hickory, and various other things in the pile but the vast majority was walnut, most of which would grade at 1C or better with quite a lot that was clear.
There were some 16- and 18-ft beams that were 3x12 and a few 3x16.
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trees used to grow slowly over many years, creating much better quality lumber.
Trees now are grown FAST, and replanted. produced in farm like fashion.
these trees arent nearly as good
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I've never seen anyone selling #3 pine. Why didn't you go to a lumber yard?
Lowes and HD both have decent, but slightly inferior, wood. It used to be standard that pine was sold as clear or #2. The former had no knots. With the latter I think the requirement was only coherent knots (that won't pop out) and not over 1" diameter. Lowes and HD use different terms because their lumber is not actually up to spec. On the other hand, you can usually pick over a large selection and can often find nearly clear lower grade boards. A more subtle problem is species and trees. I don't know much about specific species but I do know that much of what Lowes and HD sell is not the standard spruce one used to always get. Some of it is very sappy.
If you want the wood for interior finish, poplar is usually a better choice and may be even cheaper than clear pine. It's slightly harder, but is always clear, with small-celled, tight, smooth grain that takes paint beautifully. And it's not so hard that you have to pre-drill for nails if you're careful to hammer very straight. :)
Avoid pre-primed if possible. In some cases pre-primed wood is actually glued-up pieces that will separate later. Also, the primer is junk. Exterior wood should be primed with oil primer. (The good stuff, that smells like linseed oil.) You might get away with water-base primer in a dry, warm climate, but it doesn't stand up tro moisture. I did a job recently where another contractor had not finished doing some gutters. He'd left pre-primed moldings behind that had been sitting outside for a couple of months. The primer was actually sliding off the moldings in sheets. And of course the moldings were just glued-up junk, anyway. So I bought new, unprimed moldings.
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|I have a little project in mind, but I need a bit of | 1 X 4 to do it with. So yesterday I stopped by the nearest | home supply to get one. They had the rattiest selection of | 1 X 4s I have ever seen. They were #3 S4S (square four sides), | but I don't think a one of them had all 4 corners the full length. | They did have some 1 X 8s that were fairly clean looking | so I got one of those. I suppose I could have gone on over | to Lowes, but I don't have much faith they would have had | anything any better. I'll have to rip the 1 X 8s down, but | I would have had to rip the 1 X 4s too, so that isn't a big | problem. | | Of course the first problem will be to clean up the shop so | I can work out there. I have done a number of small projects | that didn't need much space, so I have just been shoving | things out of the way. To do a proper job I really need | to do a complete clean up. | | Bill
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On Mon, 24 Feb 2014 10:51:20 -0500, "Mayayana"

MOST wood today is not sold as pine, or spruce. It is spec's as SPF (Sprice, pine or fir) and sometimes even includes tamarak

Most often sold as "american white wood" at the "borg"

Sold as "finger jointed"

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| > If you want the wood for interior finish, poplar is usually | >a better choice and may be even cheaper than clear pine. | >It's slightly harder, but is always clear, with small-celled, | >tight, smooth grain that takes paint beautifully. And it's | >not so hard that you have to pre-drill for nails if you're | >careful to hammer very straight. :) | > | | Most often sold as "american white wood" at the "borg"
Interesting. That must be a Canadian usage. I looked up "american white wood", which I've never heard before. (I also don't know what "borg" is.) I found the term referring to basswood/linden, as well as tupelo. In Britain it seems to be a name for tupil tree wood. It seems odd that anyone would refer to poplar as "white wood", given that it mainly ranges from gray to an ugly, dull greenish color.
I live in Boston, where poplar is always called poplar. In fact, I can't think of any wood that's known by a non-species "folk" name. (Unless you count the "fake" species, like "Phillipine mahogany".) It may just be that a lot of hardwoods are used routinely in building here, so people are familiar with the different varieties. And poplar is used here a lot for interior trim, since pine is no longer a bargain.
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If you DAGS for "borg" you will find references like this:
Borg (Star Trek) or "the Borg Collective," in the Star Trek media franchise; a cybernetically-enhanced race which forcibly assimilates other sentient species into its structure and hive-mind.
In a.h.r "borg" is used to refer to the home centers such as Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, etc. where every store is virtually the same and what you find at one e.g. Lowe's is exactly the same as you'll find at every other Lowe's.

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On Mon, 24 Feb 2014 19:19:15 +0000 (UTC), DerbyDad03

Big Orange Retailing Giant, generally Home Depot.
I was walking around there today and I found wood ranging from the cheapest white pine, nasty cuts only suitable for furring strips, then "white wood" with a lot of knots in it, suitable for shelving to a select grade that looked like SYP and pretty much clear and then you got to the premium woods like the red oak and poplar. They were cabinet grade if you picked them over.
There were also a few grades of 2x stud and framing lumber.
You get what you pay for.
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If you have a real lumber yard nearby I would suggest you go there for anything that you really want to look good. You can still pick and choose, but - at least where I go - you always get someone to help you because they want their stock kept neat. They don't want customers crawling on their racks messing stuff up. One lumber yard I go to has racks up so high that they have a cat walk. The guy climbs up and hands you down the wood. The guys won't even bother handing down the bad stuff because they know you'll just hand it back up for them to put away.
In general, the vast majority of the wood is much better than the stuff at the borgs so picking and choosing is much faster.
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On Mon, 24 Feb 2014 21:44:19 +0000 (UTC), DerbyDad03

My wife built over 100 houses and she will tell you plenty of horror stories about what a "real lumber yard" will send you. Most I have seen are not really interested in letting people back in the lumber and they cite insurance issues.
The reality is they all get the same lumber.. As long as your BORG turns it over fast enough that it doesn't warp on the rack and you are careful picking out what you want, you will do as well as you can anywhere.
Where the BORG falls down is when you want PT lumber. The stuff they sell is usually the lowest concentration they make, in a generally lousy grade of lumber to start with and CCA is out of the question. For that sort of thing, you need to go to a marine contractor supply.
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Your/your wife's experience is certainly not the same as mine, but then I never had a house worth's of lumber delivered.
The 2 lumber yards in my area have never prevented me from going into the yard. In fact, one yard has a storefront where you tell them what you want, they write it up and you drive around the back, get out and walk into the storage area, hand the receipt to the worker and between the two of you, you pick out your boards. If you want something cut, you stand right next to the saw while the guy cuts it.
The wood might be the same, but I have never had to sift through board after board after board, by myself, to get to the good boards. I've never seen the warped, curved and twisted boards that I see at the borgs.
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