Not having much luck with oak

Hi,
I'm new to woodworking and I have been purchasing red oak "shorts" from a local mill. This is kiln dried rough lumber and I don't have a planer/jointer so I have to get the mill to do this for me. The problem I am having is that the wood looks fine before planing, but after it is full of splits, cracks, knots, etc. I find it very difficult to determine if wood has defects in its rough state. Is this normal? Is it caused by the planing operation? Is it because "shorts" are actually rejects? I would really like to know as I am wasting alot of money.
Thanks for your help.
Jack
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Shorts are very often shorts because of defects. Most often the ends of boards have splits. Planing can cause tear out on wild grain but does not cause splitting, cracks or knots. Carry a small hand plane with you and smooth the surface of the pieces that you are considering before committing.
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I have bought shorts and been happy with them.
You just have to look more carefully. Sometimes I underestimate how bad a defect will be, but knots and cracks are certainly visible before planing.
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That depends upon how much is usable for a particular project and what you paid. Typically when buying rough lumber from a mill you need an experienced eye, and even then the waste factor can be quite high.
.... AND, you almost always should own a jointer and a planer!
To find out whether you are wasting your time and money you need to figure how much of what you buy is actually usable in a project.
IOW, if you paid $200 for 100 bf ($2/bf) of red oak, and only 50 bf is usable, your cost for that 50 bf was actually $4/bf .... on the high side for FAS red oak in most locales today (which is obviously NOT what you're paying for).
However, if you only paid $75 for 100 bf ($.75/bf), then you may be getting a good deal, even with a waste factor of 50%.
Sounds as if you need to be stepping up to a next higher grade of lumber ... that said, you can pay for jointer and planer pretty quick if you do a lot of woodworking and get mill prices on rough lumber.
Your best bet may be, sans jointer and planer, to find a hardwood dealer in your area that will let you pick and choose from the various categories of surfaced lumber.
Might want to read through this:
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.woodworking/browse_frm/thread/f775daaae8e80069/cb6fbaf04e689e8c?lnk=st&q=&rnum0&hl=en#cb6fbaf04e689e8c
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I use System 1 Epoxy to fill voids in a piece of wood I want to save. This is a common practice with mesquite. I've used it with mesquite, cherry and white oak. Use clear shipping tape if the split goes through the wood to dam up the epoxy. Then you come back the next day and plane or scrape the wood. You never know where a wind check will show up in oak, and sometimes you have enough time and money in a piece, your justified in filling the void.
Maybe that's what woodworkers do, work the wood. :-)
A $20 Ebay #4 Bailey hand plane, all tuned up will make short work fixing the blemish.
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Red oak is sort of dicey to dry properly. It's prone to "honeycomb" faults which don't mean much if you're making flooring out of it. If you're paying #2 common prices, don't bellyache. If you're paying selects prices, demand grade lumber for your money.
Most oak hereabout is skip planed to reveal such faults prior to sale.
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Thanks for all the replies. I am paying $3 bf for the shorts with regular stock ranging from 5.50 to 7 bf - These are "select" grade red oak. The prices are in CDN dollars. I live in Richmond Hill, ON, Canada - Anybody know if these prices are reasonable and if not where else I could try? I would prefer to be able to sort through S2S, S3S or S4S stock, but the only place i know of that carries this is Home Depot. I will eventually buy a planer and jointer but don't want to invest too much money before I know if I like the hobby!
Jack
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The 5.50 to 7 bf is about right for 8/4 (U.S. dollars). 4/4 stock is about 3 bf. These prices are for 1 st and 2 nds in the Gulf Coast area.
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That sounds very high considering that they are Cut Offs. A few miles North of Houston M&G Sawmill sells 8'-9' lengths 4"-10" wide FAS/SEL for $1.75 BF Kiln Dried, Band Saw cut.
He ships, you may want to check him out.
http://www.mgsawmill.com/product.htm
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You might try to see who local cabinet shops are buying from. Just a few phone calls or dropping in will likely get you some good intel. Not all but some suppliers will sell via will call and others even let you pick. Maybe you can't select the boards but you will probably pay half of what you are paying now.
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

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Select, in lumberman parlance doesn't really allow "shorts.' It's part of the grade description. What you have most likely are relatively clear cuts taken between defects which would normally lower the grade of the board. Six-foot by 4 inch is the minimum cut for select, if memory serves.
Sounds like the kiln operator is the source of your problems. Consider buying green if you can stand the smell the first few weeks. Sticker in the basement for the winter and it'll be usable next spring. Call some sawmills.
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Give him a call. You may also want to try Peacock lumber in Oshawa but I would try Dale first. Hope this helps. Jim
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On 22 Nov 2006 06:07:39 -0800, " snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com"

Hi Jack,
Without knowing exactly what you're dealing with, I'd be willing to guess that those "shorts" are the pieces the sawmill cuts off the ends of the finished planks to remove the checking (cracks caused while drying).
I know wood is kind of expensive, but you'll probably be happier buying full lengths. I don't know what kind of quantities the mill will sell you, but there is usually a hardwood dealer in most areas that will sell you as little as a single plank at a time.
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