What is your definition of "conventional lumber"?

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Forum topic by millzit posted 02-28-2012 01:08 PM 1796 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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111 posts in 1118 days

02-28-2012 01:08 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I have heard this term all my life. I just looked a project here that is made of poplar and the maker says he uses only ’conventional lumber’. That got me to thinking so I searched for a long time on the net for a definition for ’conventional lumber’. So far, I haven’t found one. I found a definition for ‘conventional’ and a definition for ‘lumber’, but the two does not go together! Found lots of references from highly educated people to ’conventional lumber’ but no explanation as to what ‘conventional lumber’ is. Is ‘conventional lumber’ categorized by wood type or usage? Is conventional lumber pine, fir, etc…...or oak, cherry, walnut? Is conventional lumber what you would build a deck from or a vanity? I say there are only two types of lumber, construction/structural lumber and woodworking lumber…......any thoughts on this? I could build a deck from oak and a vanity from pine…, what is ’conventional lumber’?

-- cut that out!

25 replies so far

View SalvageCraft's profile


274 posts in 1342 days

#1 posted 02-28-2012 01:20 PM

Hey, that was my project! (here)
I aspire to use mostly reclaimed and upcycled lumber (hence the name SalvageCraft). So to me, conventional lumber is straight from the tree to the sawyer to the kiln to the lumber dealer, or equivalent. True, this is not a black and white definition, as there are plenty of sustainable milling operations out there that strive to make the best use of urban wood or utilize other more sustainable logging practices that I would consider very near to, if not upcycling. But the wood in question is more generic store bought stuff (though it is domestic!).

I still do take requests for what I call conventional lumber, as I figure if someone wants it and I can’t talk them into going with reclaimed, they’ll just have someone else do it (or worse yet, go to the store and get something chintzy), so I’m not saving the world anyway by turning down that job.

Also, I’m not trying to put down saywers or lumber dealers, I’m just passionate about reusing what I can and love the patinas and time-earned wear marks on reclaimed wood.

I also mill some of my own lumber from storm damaged or sick local trees. The city I’m in has a nasty practice of mulching every bit of wood it takes down – and much of this ends up going into landfills because they can’t find enough uses for it! So, I consider the use of this wood as upcycling too, even though it is straight from the tree.

I’m interested to hear if there are other definitions of “conventional lumber” out there.

-- Jesse --

View bondogaposis's profile


2940 posts in 1167 days

#2 posted 02-28-2012 01:24 PM

It is an imprecise term at best, but generally I think people use it to refer to home center lumber.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View millzit's profile


111 posts in 1118 days

#3 posted 02-28-2012 01:26 PM

...and a nice project it was too! the term just got me to thinking…, now what is ’upcycled’? never heard that term.

-- cut that out!

View canadianchips's profile


1868 posts in 1813 days

#4 posted 02-28-2012 01:28 PM

It could be a term used for common size lumber. 2×4 from lumber yard or sheet goods 3/4” plywood, etc.
Usually when building furniture or cabinets the material is “Milled” (jointed or planed ) to the desired dimensions.
Another example: A carpenter uses conventional lumber…..... A cabinet maker uses Milled lumber.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View SalvageCraft's profile


274 posts in 1342 days

#5 posted 02-28-2012 01:45 PM

@Millzit – Thanks! “upcycled” typically means something along the lines of repurposing something for a greater use (for example, constructing a project in such a way that you can use materials that would normally go straight to the landfill). Thus, using broken furrniture, discarded pallets, lumber from a demolition, etcetera could be considered upcycling.
I also added a broader explanation to my reply above (noting this in case you didn’t see it)

@bondogaposis – I wasn’t referring specifically to home center lumber (i try to steer clear of that stuff!), but it’s definitely conventional to me to!

@canadianchips – That’s a cool definition too! I had never considered that people might use it in that way. Perhaps I need to find a better term to describe “not-reclaimed-or-upcycled-lumber”

-- Jesse --

View ajosephg's profile


1862 posts in 2377 days

#6 posted 02-28-2012 01:59 PM

I think Jesse’s definition makes the most sense.

-- Joe

View millzit's profile


111 posts in 1118 days

#7 posted 02-28-2012 02:45 PM

so….......i have a 300bf stack of american chestnut (certified by a forrester). of course it is old barn lumber…...but wait! when the barn was built back when, we could say it was ‘conventional’ lumber because it was dimensional and came from a sawmill…......but i take it and re-dimensionalize it on my shop tools and make projects from it, it becomes milled lumber…...but, since it was ‘salvaged’ also, that makes it ‘upcycled’ lumber…...! so, now it would be called…... ’conventional-milled-upcycled’ lumber?

getting confused yet? :)

-- cut that out!

View SalvageCraft's profile


274 posts in 1342 days

#8 posted 02-28-2012 02:49 PM

I don’t care what you call it as long as you send me a couple dozen board feet before you’re done with it :)

-- Jesse --

View millzit's profile


111 posts in 1118 days

#9 posted 02-28-2012 02:53 PM

@salvagecraft…..i love it! don’t matter what it’s called as long as it makes sawdust…huh!

-- cut that out!

View SalvageCraft's profile


274 posts in 1342 days

#10 posted 02-28-2012 02:54 PM

True enough!

-- Jesse --

View dbray45's profile


2649 posts in 1592 days

#11 posted 02-28-2012 03:10 PM

For me, it would be common grade, generic lumber. Poplar, pine, what ever is handy, cleaned up 2×4s, common grade plywood, etc…

Millzit – If your reclaimed lumber is really barn lumber and was used as flooring or stall walls, you may want to wet it down with water and see how it smells. Some of this stuff is not really safe or healthy for “in the house” projects, if you know what I mean. If it has been a working barn for 50 years, with all of the things animals “do” on a daily basis – need I say more?

-- David in Damascus, MD

View SalvageCraft's profile


274 posts in 1342 days

#12 posted 02-28-2012 03:13 PM

Good point David. There are hazards to watch out for such as mold, bacteria, insects, chemicals, lead paint… the list goes on!
I like the suggestion of wetting the wood to see how it smells. I also test for lead, inspect for insects and try to be sure of the history of where wood such as pallets were used in their past life. I hope nobody ends up making cutting boards or salad bowls out of chemical or parasite ridden wood!

-- Jesse --

View Greg..the Cajun Wood Artist's profile

Greg..the Cajun Wood Artist

5409 posts in 2124 days

#13 posted 02-28-2012 03:17 PM

conventional lumber is whatever lumber I can afford or whatever is available at the lumberyard.
I am sure the term conventional lumber varies from location to location and country to country. Lumber that is conventional here in the south is not so conventional to another part of the world.

-- Each step of every Wood Art project I design and build is considered my masterpieceā€¦ because I want the finished product to reflect the quality and creativeness of my work

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3664 posts in 2776 days

#14 posted 02-28-2012 03:18 PM

Conventional lumber. n. English for the crap ya find at a borg.


View HorizontalMike's profile


6970 posts in 1730 days

#15 posted 02-28-2012 03:24 PM

Hmm… Do birds crap in trees?...

FWIW, I would imagine that resurfacing old lumber will take care of those concerns. If such bad things do exist on/in the wood then I imagine that particular wood would be decayed to the point of being unusable, or need to be resurfaced ‘deeper’ until clean/good grain is reached. Personally, I would not let the ‘yuk’ factor make me throw out good wood. Just my 2-cents…

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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