Furniture from construction grade lumber..?

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Forum topic by opalko posted 08-01-2011 06:24 PM 22337 views 4 times favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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148 posts in 3276 days

08-01-2011 06:24 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question lumber

Looking for pictures of table styles recently I came across this site:

Apparently the site has inspired a number of women (& men too: ) to make their own furniture.

I wonder what the general take on it here is. Is it woodworking? What about using construction grade lumber for projects? Seems risky?


44 replies so far

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3121 days

#1 posted 08-01-2011 06:39 PM

Of coarse its woodworking. I checked the links out and I think those tables look really neat. Construction grade lumber is not the most attractive choice for furniture but in this case these people have made it look rather nice.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View MrRon's profile


5277 posts in 3484 days

#2 posted 08-01-2011 06:49 PM

Yes it is woodworking. Why do you ask if it is risky? I use construction grade lumber for many of my projects; even furniture. I’m not a fine furniture maker, so it really doesn’t matter what wood I use. In fact it’s more of a challenge to make something from a lowly 2×4. Once it’s painted, no one will know. Construction grade lumber can have some interesting grain patterns that once finished with varnish can be quite attractive. Why do we use hardwoods in the first place, given their high cost? Because of grain and color. This is a valid reason as long as the finish is clear; but if a project is painted, any softwood will fit the bill.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3721 days

#3 posted 08-01-2011 07:29 PM

I use construction grade pine a lot. I love to make anitque looking pieces and theres nothing better than construction grade with all the knots etc. The country cabinet and wood box in my gallery was made from construction grade pine.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View reimer's profile


3 posts in 2785 days

#4 posted 08-01-2011 07:40 PM

My daughter bought a house recently but has very little furniture and my son is living in an unfurnished house with a couple other guys at college. They both needed some furniture so I have adapted several of the designs from Anna White. I have made beds, tables, entertainment centers, etc. for them and it hasn’t cost an arm and a leg. I am working with wood so to me it is wood working. It’s not fine furniture, but it serves the purpose and helps the kids get started.

View jerkylips's profile


483 posts in 2811 days

#5 posted 08-01-2011 07:47 PM

this is just a guess, but are you thinking that it’s risky in terms of chemically treated wood? If so, pressure treated & construction grade are two different things. construction lumber isn’t necessarily treated with chemicals..

View will delaney's profile

will delaney

326 posts in 2876 days

#6 posted 08-01-2011 08:13 PM

I think it’s great, that’s how most people get started in woodworking.Once you build a few projects and get the confidence you start looking at the options. Tools and materials.Its a great feeling when you find out that the construction grade lumber you were using is harder to work with the the nicer lumber.

View opalko's profile


148 posts in 3276 days

#7 posted 08-01-2011 08:28 PM

Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply it was not woodworking – I think all of the tables look great. What I meant by “risky” was whether the wood is dry enough for making furniture. Also – wouldn’t pine/spruce/fir be rather soft for a tabletop?

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3121 days

#8 posted 08-01-2011 08:48 PM

The wood is all kiln dried. Some say you should let it adapt to the temp in your shop for a little bit before using but I don’t know how important that is.

As far as being soft for a table top I would say if its strong enough to build a deck out of where its being walked on by many people then its strong enough for a table top. A lot of guys use pine for their work bench tops.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3399 days

#9 posted 08-01-2011 08:54 PM

Lots if table tops are made with soft woods. Over time, they develop what we call “character.”

Hardwoods are certainly better from a durability standpoint, but it’s not like you couldn’t scratch them either. In fact, anything with a film finish can look pretty nasty when damaged.

A good film finish can provide nice protection against everyday wear, but it’s the accidents that can damage a table…and when those happen, you’ve got a problem. Not so with something like unfinished pine. The great thing about a pine table top (with just wax) is that if you do want to refinish it, it’s a slam dunk. Honestly, I think this has more value than my varnished oak dining table…it needs refinishing and I’m not looking forward to it.

As for construction lumber, I think it’s an untapped resource for many of us. It’s cheap and can still be milled down to whatever dimension you need. Once you saw off the rounded corners, a 2×4 can look pretty darn good. As far as moisture content, I’ve never measured it, but I’ve never gotten something that was in the least bit green. Just make sure you are picky about the boards you choose.

-- jay,

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3511 days

#10 posted 08-01-2011 08:59 PM

Construction grade wood can be very tastefully used in building furniture….basically it is just softwood cut to a few simple sizes….2X4, 2X6…etc. I use it alot for doing prototypes….it is also great for outdoor funiture and flatwork. It is inexpensive (compared to hardwoods) and very forgiving…great for beginners to work with….especially ones without milling tools like a planer or jointer. The only down side is the softness (easy to dent or ding), the sap content (most construction grades are pine with can have significant pockets of sap), and the knots – which can make the piece unstable or hard to drill/cut.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View TheDane's profile


5576 posts in 3904 days

#11 posted 08-01-2011 09:57 PM

I have used ‘construction grade’ lumber in quite a few furniture projects, both for the shop in inside the house.

The 2×10 and 2×12 stock my local Menards carries is kiln-dried Douglas Fir. I buy 2×12’s, rip them to the rough width I want, then joint/plane them to finished size. Works like a charm, and if I choose carefully while I am rummaging around in the lumber rack, I get pretty decent looking stock and a decent result.

I stay away from their 2×4’s, 2×6’s, and 2×8’s … they are spruce or hemlock and don’t mill as well as the Douglas Fir does.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View opalko's profile


148 posts in 3276 days

#12 posted 08-01-2011 10:01 PM

This brings up an interesting question I’ve always wondered: is there a way to identify spruce vs. pine vs. fir when eyeballing a stack? Most of the time I just see “SPF” stamped on the side of boards.

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2805 days

#13 posted 08-02-2011 03:10 AM

Being new to woodworking I often times reach for construction grade materials, finding that with a little bit of work you can make them quite nice. I am currently doing a big renovation job for work and have found that many of the old boards have quite a bit of character compared to the newer SPF or many finer lumbers that I see. Most of what I find it comes down to is finding things that have a good character to them, but still be free of defects (hate when you start machining something and a knot falls out of your board.

I recently found a set of books all based on furniture and home furnishings built entirely from construction grade lumber. I think the authors were Henderson and Baldwin. I picked like five of them off of for less than $15. I haven’t had a chance to build anything out of these books yet, but I can’t wait to do so since I really enjoy putting a hundred dollar shine on a three dollar pair of boots.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View Keith Fenton's profile

Keith Fenton

328 posts in 3161 days

#14 posted 08-02-2011 03:57 AM

I am lucky in that I have access to a great sawmill that doesn’t advertise to the public but will sell to anybody. I get birch, maple, oak, and ash for cheaper than I can get SPF anywhere around here. Oftentimes they don’t even bother to sort out the curly stock and I get it for the same price… Even if they do sort it out, curly is only ~$3/BF. Last time I went I got curly birch and EXTREMELY CURLY maple, prime grade fiddleback maple for $2.10/BF. I ain’t using no pine :D

-- Scroll saw patterns @

View rum's profile


148 posts in 2827 days

#15 posted 08-02-2011 04:23 AM

Keith – nice stealth gloat :P

I do find that the local construction grade stuff is more apt to move than nicer pieces. Some of it is “kiln dried” but still so wet its pretty heavy, and will warp pretty badly. With a little picking around though you can find enough to make some decent pieces. I agree its (mostly – heh) not heirloom quality, but a nice pine/doug fir cabinet is still very nice (personally i actually prefer the pine to the doug fir, it seems to split less and I generally like the appearance more – granted the doug fir is “cleaner” looking so ymmv).

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