How do I choose the proper size boards?

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Forum topic by Dave posted 08-16-2011 07:36 AM 1090 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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37 posts in 3037 days

08-16-2011 07:36 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tip question milling resource

I am fairly new to woodworking and am picking it up pretty fast. The one thing I struggle with is starting out the project, primarily shoosing what lumber to buy. I have the normal big box stores around which don’t have a very extensive selection of wood( Poplar,oak,pine,cedar). I found one exotic hardwood supplier locally but with the tools I currently have I am stuck. I don’t have a band saw for resawing to size, I don’t have a planer or a jointer yet so I can’t buy rough lumber either. I am hoping to get a jointer and planer soon though.

How do you choose your lumber and how would you size your selection if I need to make lets say… some slats for plantation shutters at 3/4” X 3”? I love this website and love the family of woodworkers that always seem to want to help other fellow woodworkers. Thanks for helping.

8 replies so far

View bluepaulsky's profile


34 posts in 2499 days

#1 posted 08-16-2011 08:16 AM

i would search the net you would need to ask for prepared or par not rough cut or sometimes they say sawn

-- pgray

View ShaneA's profile


6954 posts in 2621 days

#2 posted 08-16-2011 04:32 PM

When I select a board for a specific project I try to think in terms of maximum yield. If you want to end up with 1×3, boards that are 6+ or 9+ inches could yield two or three strips with less waiste. You also may consider length and defects into your choice. Will knots or checks be in the way? Always try to buy extra, we all make mistakes, plus after a while you will start to build an inventory. Plus there is a chance with notice, your supplier could dimension it for you.

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2587 days

#3 posted 08-17-2011 05:06 AM

Dave, Shane seems to begin to make a point, but I don’t know if it is fully explained for a novice such as yourself to understand. Lumber at a place such as a box store is sold in something called nominal sizes. Lumber from lumber yards are more likely (though not always) sold in actual sizes.

A 2×4 is actually 1 1/2” by 3 1/2”. Therefore on your project a 1×4 will give you a 3/4” by 3 1/2” piece which would be fine for one piece of what you need. A 1×6 will still only give you one piece. To get two pieces you would actually need a 1×8. The better way to save lumber is going to buy as long lengths as you can possibly handle so that you don’t have lots of short drop off sections.

On the other hand if you were looking to cut strips that are 1 3/4” wide then a 1×4 would only yield one section (you have to account for the saw kerf when you are cutting down lumber). A 1×6 though will give you 3 pieces.

It is a lot of organization and math, and takes quite a bit of practice to get it right. I always start planning projects on paper not just coming up with cut lists but sometimes going as far to draw up boards and actually show how I will get each piece. Good luck.

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

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2587 days

#4 posted 08-17-2011 06:00 AM

I also should add if your shutters are going to be going outside you might want to be particular about your woods and look into things such as cedar or cypress and stay away from poplar, oak, or pine.

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

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2662 days

#5 posted 08-17-2011 06:08 AM

FWIW, our local HD also has maple boards. also, the HD select pine is beautiful, yet the Lowe’s Select pine looks a grade or two worse than the HD. IDK why, but it’s a fact.

If you will determine your longest lengths needed for the project, you might find that you will have MORE waste in buying a longer board than needed. It goes both ways. I only sketch enough of the project to get my cuts list so that I can buy the materials nearly exact. I, too draw up boards and actually show how I will get each piece from them.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3091 days

#6 posted 08-17-2011 06:16 AM

For me, it’s all about minimizing waste. For your shutters, I would get 1×4 stock which is actually 3/4” x 3.5” (Don’t even think about asking why, ok!! – lol). Rip to 3” and toss the skinny strip of waste.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Dave's profile


37 posts in 3037 days

#7 posted 08-17-2011 07:17 AM

Wow! This is great stuff. I knew I could get some help. Thank you so much. I do a lot of pricing and finding how to get the most out of my boards and the most economical way. The shutters are for indoor and I am probably gonna use poplar or prototype one out of mdf. Thanks again.

View ksSlim's profile


1276 posts in 2912 days

#8 posted 08-17-2011 07:35 AM

per your example; needed 3/4×3” slats, a 1×10 is about 3/4×9 1/2”, rip 3” widths, depending on your saw kerf, not much waste. when purcahsing material, take a measuring device with you as well as a “cut list’ of rough and finished dimensions.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

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