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
Thanks for your help.
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.
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
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
Might want to read through this:
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
On 22 Nov 2006 06:07:39 -0800, " firstname.lastname@example.org"
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
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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