per different sources:
- they don't make real two by fours anymore, now two by four is what they
set they saw blades (plus a little wiggle error?) at in the mill, so the
lumber winds up being less than two by four
- in the old days, they used to make actual two by four lumber
It seems the lumber at the warehouse building material retailers is not real
two by four (though the signs say it is).
Is this pervaisve and widespread deception?
They haven't made a fully dressed 2x4 for many decades, if ever. The
original 2 x 4 was rough cut. The milled or dressed 2 x 4 has been getting
smaller, it used to be 1 7/8 x 3 7/8 in the 1940's, now it has shrunk down
to 1 1/2 x 3 3/8. Other sizes have done the same.
...and if you buy a veneer plywood they've perfected the process of
applying the veneer exactly one molecule thick. Don't even think of
light sanding it.
On Tue, 30 Nov 2004 19:45:19 -0500, Jeff Wisnia
Find an old farmer with a sawmill, and you can get REAL 2x4's. I
needed to match up to some existing construction, and they were all
TRUE 2' X 4" (old house). It was either a matter to get a bunch of
1/2" thick strips custom cut and nail them to store bought 2x4's, or
cut a bunch of strips from 1/2" plywood to nail on, or just get
someone to make me the actual 2x4. I decided to save time and hassle
to just get the right size 2x4. A local demolition/recycler had a few
of them, of which one was even thicker than 2x4. He didn't have
enough either way. I bought what he had anyhow, since they were
cheap, but decided to talk to a friend who farms. He knew of a guy
who has a sawmill, and I went there. The farmer said I could bring my
own logs, or pay for his. We used his. He didn't have any pine or
fir, but he used poplar which worked well. He just said not to use
poplar where exposed to the weather. I guess it rots fast.
Anyhow, anyone with a sawmill can make an actual 2x4, or anything you
want. It's just the stores that dont sell them anymore. Pricewise, I
was ahead having this guy make them for me too. They would have cost
me about $1.00 more per 2x4 in the store, plus I got some slabwood
with the bark, which I want to use for trim in my rec room. I like
that rustic look.
By the way, I dont mind the 1.5 X 3.5 measurements of store bought
2x4's. But I really find it irritating that plywood is not the actual
measurements it claims. That's just wrong !!!!
Reminds me of my neighbor down the road aways. He was over 40 and a
country boy from way back, did some home building jobs (at least he
called it that, I called it very crude). Came up when I was running
my radial and asked me to split some 1x4 in half so he could use it as
trim...no prolem, done. Comes back in a few complaining that the
pieces were way under 2" wide. Educated hime about lumber sizes and
also explained that he would have had to at least account for saw kerf
in any case.
My son bought a home in the Chicago area which was 95 years or so old.
The roof joists on the 45 degree slope are 2x6s, and to my surprise,
they are really 2x6 ... maybe even a bit larger. They are rough cut. I
don't think I've ever seen this, even in some 75 year old houses!
Harry K wrote:
Rough cut will vary considerably from over size to undersize. I tore
down several buildings built with that stuff and no two were alike. I
did manage to match up enough 2x4 to buil one 18' long wall in my
addition out of it but that was it. That was by sorting through piles
of it that came out of an old schoolhouse.
Final sizing of all lumber is done in the planer mills not at the
Saw on a TV show: apparently in the UK a 2 x 4 and other 2 x framing
"timbers" are actually 2 x4 and 2 x dimensions AFTER they dress the wood. It
appears that their laws don't allow for our North American slimmed down
I'm over 60 and have always understood that lumber sizes were "nominal"
and/or that they were the size before whatever finishing operation was
On 12/01/04 10:49 pm Tony Hwang tossed the following ingredients into
the ever-growing pot of cybersoup:
Our barn was built (my grandfather) starting after the lumber rationing
was lifted at the end of WWI (1918). Most of it is dressed, they are
typically at the nominal-3/8 dimension (2x4 --> 1-5/8 x 3-5/8). Larger
beams and columns were rough full-dimension (but still dimension lumber,
not solid post/beam), most being 2x8 and 2x10, 3- and/or 4- nailed
together for columns, for example.
Actually the -1/2" is much handier than the -3/8" for working with,
despite the extra heft of the old stock...Of course, it's all old
Southern yellow pine, now as hard as a rock and there are 20-footers w/
<maybe> a single knot in the whole piece...
We're currently restoring it to it's near-original
conditon...fortunately there was enough old lumber in the haymow from
years ago to avoid the need for much new framing lumber. Did replace a
portion of the sill plate in the old dairy milking parlor that had
suffered dearly from all the manure over the years...went with treated
for cost/durability there. Had about 4000 linear feet of fir 3-1/4"
tongue and groove siding milled to match original. Could find nominal 5"
but not the narrow 3".
I think most of the responders have little experience or certainly
don't live where conifers are logged and milled. I built the frame of
a playhouse/storage building with rough 2x6s about 1980. I got the
stuff fairly cheap because the dimensions were not consistent and some
of the lumber was under sized. Most, however, measured 6-3/8 to 6-1/2
by 2-1/4 to 2-3/8. Just prior to that in another state I bought
smooth pine from a large mill that was either the nominal or 1/8 under
the nominal size. My father worked on and off as a carpenter since he
was a sophomore in highschool, and I remember him complaining about
the change in the size of finished 2x4s and other lumber (early 50s).
At that time finished 2x4s were either 1/8 or 1/4 under the nominal
size. So put to bed the idea that rough cut lumber was the nominal
size, because no one would try to plane the lumber just 1/16 or even
1/8 inch under the rough cut dimension. Heck the height of the
roughness on dried conifer wood is often nearly 1/8 thick, so it needs
to be planed a minimum of 1/8 inch on all sides to be smooth. I
remember distinctly when a 2x4 was 1-3/4 by 3-3/4, when it went to
1-5/8 by 3-5/8 and current 2x4s are 1-1/2 by 3-3/8.
If you look at old building where the walls were made of 1 inch rough
cut board, two layers, 1 vertical and 1 horizontal, you will often
find that those board are really 1-1/4 inch thick.
That's my experience with coniferous wood. Planed wood was often the
nominal dimension and rough cut was more than the nominal dimension.
This is a real issue for me, whenever I try to match the existing timbers on
my 150-year old house. Some of these are actually oversized i.e. a 2X4 is 2
1/4 by 4 3/8.
Over the years, I've saved any reusable timbers I could, and have had a
little success at finding rough-cut timbers at a local lumber yard, but you
have to take a tape measure as these are far from uniform. In the meantime,
I try to separate my patch jobs from new structures, to minimize the amount
It constantly amazes me that there isn't more public outcry about this, but
to be realistic it would REALLY throw a monkeywrench in the works if all of
a sudden the industry sold dressed, full-sized lumber.
Some day I guess this will all be solved by going to metric measurements
like the automotive industry but that will take a long time in North
American construction. But in theory it's not a bad fix. For example, 5cm by
10cm is 1 31/32 by 3 15/16.
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