Milling Lumber - Need Some Advice - Thickness to Buy

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Forum topic by Kurt T. Kneller posted 01-25-2017 01:34 AM 782 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Kurt T. Kneller

126 posts in 1570 days

01-25-2017 01:34 AM

Hi All,
I am planning to build the hanging tool cabinet by Mike P. from FWW.
I have made some modifications to the plans and have my design finished and have been working out a cut/purchase list for the rough sawn lumber. My goal is to purchase everything rough and mill it all myself using both my hand and power tools. I have finished stock thicknesses at 7/8, 3/4 and 5/8.
Granted, a lot will be determined on the quality of the lumber, but do you feel 5/4 rough stock would be good enough to yield the 7/8 finish thickness? Should I go for 6/4?
What over-sized stock do you normally start with before you mill your projects?
I was going to try to make it out of beech like plans show. However, I have been having difficulty finding stock wide enough locally. I need to be able to have a 10”+ board width yield and I would like to not have to glue up and panels for this project. I started looking at flat-sawn white oak (cheaper than qtr and rift), but that started to get a little pricey (starting with the 6/4). I am seeing better prices for red oak or hard maple.
I am trying to keep the cost down on the cabinet (but I still want it to be something nice and lasting) since I am going to build a version of Matt’s monster work bench and that’s going to need a few bucks for all that lumber and hardware.
Any suggestions for wood types, and starting stock thicknesses would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance.

-- Start with ten, end with ten.......

7 replies so far

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3574 days

#1 posted 01-25-2017 04:09 AM

I buy 4/4 for 3/4” finished lumber, 5/4 for 7/8”-1” finished, 6/4 for 1 1/4” and 8/4 for 1 1/2”-1 3/4” For a shop cabinet I would use Poplar, readily available in wide boards and fairly cheap. It works well with hand or power tools. It works well with hand or power tools. It takes stains well if you don’t like the looks of it.

View rwe2156's profile


3174 posts in 1686 days

#2 posted 01-25-2017 02:19 PM


Yes, for 7/8” finished you would do best to start with 5/4, although is it possible to get 7/8 from a 4/4+ board if its nice and straight and behaves during milling ;-). 3/4 and 5/8 obviously you would start with 4/4.

You could save the beech for the workbench and go with oak for the tool cab, I would suggest splurge and go with quartersawn if its available to you. Your case will look nicer and the wood in the doors will behave better. I wouldn’t let a panel glue up stand in the way if you really want the beech.

For cost savings, poplar, pine or good quality hardwood ply would good alternatives. You can also keep your eye out for someone selling off lumber at a good price.

I based mine off Pekovitch’s design with slight modifications. (PS. Don’t make the mistake I did and build the doors separate from the carcase. It was a major PITA adjusting the fit. Build as one unit and then cut the doors off). I used QSWO glued up from 5-6” wide boards. I bought these off a guy who was milling his own flooring and they were seconds I bought for $2.00/BF:

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View pmayer's profile


1032 posts in 3271 days

#3 posted 01-25-2017 02:27 PM

For a smaller project like that, you shouldn’t have any problem getting 7/8” from 4/4 stock. With larger projects its harder to maintain 7/8” thickness because the slightest variance in your lumber requires removing more stock to flatten it. If you go with 5/4 you will waste a lot of wood.

-- PaulMayer,

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1126 days

#4 posted 01-25-2017 03:32 PM

Kurt T. Kneller,

I am reluctant to recommend a hardwood for your project since this is a personal choice. When I select a wood for a project I consider the cost (which is driven in part by the lumber grade required for the project) and availability of the wood, safety and ease of milling, and the finish that will be applied to the project to produce the final look.

The National Hardwood Lumber Association has developed standards for domestic hardwoods and is an overall enlightening read related to selecting, buying and milling hardwood. Page 6 in “RULES FOR THE MEASUREMENT & INSPECTION OF HARDWOOD & CYPRESS Plus NHLA Sales Code & Inspection Regulations”, Effective January 1, 2011 specifies the thickness of rough lumber that is expected to yield S2S thicknesses. As I read the standards the yield standards on page 6 apply to green lumber. Page 56 addresses kiln dried lumber finished thicknesses.

One option for selecting lumber for your project is to consider lower grades than FAS and Select. No. 1 Common and even No. 2 Common could yield enough clear wood for the project at a lower cost.

View Kurt T. Kneller's profile

Kurt T. Kneller

126 posts in 1570 days

#5 posted 01-25-2017 04:36 PM

Thanks for all the comments.

I see you went with piano hinges. I was planning on doing the same. I have added about 12 to the cabinet height and a little concerned about the weight of the doors over the long haul.
@$2 bf that is a steal.

-- Start with ten, end with ten.......

View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3019 days

#6 posted 01-25-2017 05:59 PM

I start with 5/4 for almost all my projects. If it was stacked and dried carefully, it will yield 1” thick stock. Of course lumber wants to warp at knot locations, so an 8’ board might need to be cut into 5’ and 3’ lengths before milling.

The problem I have encountered with 4/4 stock, especially white oak, is it tends to warp. I have had 4/4 warp so bad that it wouldn’t yield boards longer than 2-3’ long (improperly stacked). 4/4 is supposed to yield 3/4”, but sometimes 4/4 is only 7/8” actual thickness when dry.

So I say go for 5/4, and you will have choices on your thickness.

As far as lumber species, I like QS white oak best, and QS red oak is okay. I really dislike flat sawn red oak though. Alder might look nice if you don’t want to spend as much (although finish it like you would cherry, with blotch control in mind).

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Woodknack's profile


12431 posts in 2586 days

#7 posted 01-25-2017 06:42 PM

I would buy 4/4 and not get worried whether it was exactly 7/8. You won’t need much so be choosy. Wood choice is up to you. European beech is common and cheap here and decent to work.

-- Rick M,

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