If you go down to your neighborhood hard wood dealer and asked them to pull
you 50 Bd Ft of say, 5/4 rough cut oak, you will find that it is sold in
random widths and lengths and will be somewhere around 1 1/4" thick (5,
1/4's of an inch). This is the nominal size or, the size before the wood has
been S2S (surfaced two sides).
If you buy the wood S2S it will be thinner since the work of surfacing has
been done. Just how much thinner depends on it's nominal size. There are
charts for that. S2S costs more then in the rough and less then what it
would cost you at Lowes, Home Depot, etc.. In most cases rough cut stock is
half the cost of stock bought at a home store.
If you do buy stock from a hardwood dealer pick it out yourself. If the
dealer does it, unless you are a very very good customer, you will get a
wide variety of widths and lengths with no regard to matched grain, end
checks, twists, warps, cupping, etc. After sorting through and picking out
you stock, DO leave the stacks in nice shape if you intend on doing more
business with the dealer.
S2S means surfaced two sides NOT sanded and ready to have a finish applied.
It will almost certainly need further work. Some hardwood dealers may, for a
price, do all the milling work, to your spec's, for you though I have never
found one. But, then again, I don't look all that hard for one that does.
Buying stock, rough cut or S2S is cheaper then buying your stock from a home
store where it is sold by the linier foot and all the milling work is pretty
much done for you. However the initial investment in the tools necessary to
accurately mill your own stock from rough cut lumber (jointer and planer or
a lot of skill with a hand plane, something you should learn in any case) is
usually out of the reach for the budget of a newbie woodworker and the extra
cost of buying from a home store or having the milling done for you is
usually a better way to go when first starting out.
Further, while milling the stock so it is true (the stock is the same
thickness and width along it's entire length and all sides are at 90
degrees to each other) is essential in avoiding frustrations when building
something, the process is a time consuming and boring.
In short, if stretching the budget too include the tools and or time
available to build things is in short supply pre milled stock is probably
not a good way to start out.
Construction lumber, 2 X, 1X, stock from the home store is usually has too
high a moisture content for building furniture type pieces. There are charts
that explains the grading of stock and you will find furniture grade pine at
a home store but it is more expensive then the construction stuff.
Final note, whatever stock you buy for building something the various rules
for acclimation should be followed to avoid or at least mitigate extreme
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