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Forum topic by MrRon posted 04-29-2012 05:41 PM 2323 views 1 time favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4764 posts in 3239 days

04-29-2012 05:41 PM

When does construction lumber, 2×4’s, etc become suitable for furniture construction. I’m not talking about fancy hardwood furniture, but common softwood found in any lumber yard. Since not all furniture is made of hardwoods, like walnut, cherry or oak, a lot of furniture has been made using softwoods, mostly pine. I use mostly construction lumber for my furniture projects. Why? because it’s cheap and readily available. Sure, I have to do a lot to work the wood into suitable shapes; working around knots, splits, cracks, rounded corners and warps, etc. To me it’s satisfying to take a lowly 2×4 and transform it into something usefull. I feel the same with pallet wood, although it’s hardwood.

11 replies so far

View Loren's profile (online now)


10380 posts in 3643 days

#1 posted 04-29-2012 05:47 PM

When it is dry and stable. Softwoods don’t have very good
compression strength so mortise and tenon joinery should
be beefed up.

View djwong's profile


176 posts in 3215 days

#2 posted 04-30-2012 02:16 AM

For construction lumber like douglas fir, I think vertical grain is quite beautiful. I am currently doing a project with douglas fir, where I resawed and glued up pieces to make vertical grain panels. I have been doing dado’s, mortises, and tenon joints, primarily with hand tools, but also with a router. The different hardness between the early and late wood growth rings has given me fits. It has been hard to get crisp edges without splintering, or crushing fibers. The surface of the wood is also very easy to dent and scratch. You really have to pay attention to making sure that no small specks of wood are under the piece when you set it down to work on it.

-- David W. Cupertino, CA

View bondogaposis's profile


4723 posts in 2347 days

#3 posted 04-30-2012 02:40 AM

I make projects out of pine from time to time. I like it for a lot of things. It is pretty easy to get quarter sawn pine for smaller projects from home center pine if you know how to look for the right boards and how to cut the parts to maximize the best grain. That can cut wood movement in half right there. See my small table project here. Staining pine can be problematic, I generally apply a clear finish or paint it.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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1730 posts in 3064 days

#4 posted 04-30-2012 03:05 AM

It becomes suitable when it meets the needs of the maker. Almost any wood can make nice furniture as long as you understand its limitations and build accordingly.

We use a pine bedroom set we’ve had for over 35 years. It has a few dings, but it still looks fine and is as sturdy as brand new. Fifteen years ago, I built a vanity for our bedroom to match the bedroom set. I used good old #2 Pine, and it’s still going strong.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3481 days

#5 posted 04-30-2012 03:41 AM

Traditionally Shaker furniture was mostly pine. Naum, of NYW fame seems to have used pine more than anything else. Select grades C and D is beautiful. No telling how many kitchens and floors are built with pine. Dings add character. No big deal really in my book. Lowe’s is selling a premium grade 2×4 that is pretty much dry (probably not kiln dried) but the straightest 2×4s I’ve ever seen, and not many knots. Really, a superior quality 2×4 for under $3. I’m a true picker. I’ll throw anything in the back of my truck I think I can use now….or later. I’m always looking for old boards people have forgot, pitched, or otherwise discarded. The older the better. Most of the time, it is pine.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

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601 posts in 2753 days

#6 posted 04-30-2012 04:19 AM

Sugar Pine makes a nice looking table or hutch. Vert. grain is the cleanest and most stablie which makes it ideal for doors and window casements. Google for door & window mfgr’s in your vicinity and see if you can score some scraps or off pieces.

-- Greg, No. Cal. - "Gaudete in Domino Semper"

View nwbusa's profile


1021 posts in 2282 days

#7 posted 04-30-2012 07:03 AM

I buy kiln dried doug fir 4×4s for dirt cheap, and it’s nice lumber. 2x stuff in my part of the world is mostly spruce, and not of a suitable quality for the projects I like to build.

-- John, BC, Canada

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4001 days

#8 posted 04-30-2012 08:53 AM

As a general rule, slower growing trees kiln dried to careful specifications make better and more stable wood for furniture and fine woodwork. Which explains its higher cost than the faster grown trees harvested for general construction and framing purposes and not so carefully dried.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View wbrisett's profile


203 posts in 2344 days

#9 posted 04-30-2012 10:40 AM

A few years back I built loft beds for college students using standard 2×4s, 2×6’s, and 3/4” plywood. With a bit of sanding, priming, and painting, these looked like furniture you wanted in your dorm/apartment, and wouldn’t mind having in your house either. I would have to dig through the local HD/Lowe’s piles to find wood that wasn’t too green or knotted however.

I’m not sure I try to furnish a house with 2×4 lumber projects, but some projects don’t look too bad.


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Craftsman on the lake

2790 posts in 3433 days

#10 posted 04-30-2012 11:15 AM

Nothing wrong with it at all. I usually use Oak and maple but I’ve done a spruce 2×4 item once and awhile. It’s fun because once you square the wood up it handles easily, glues well, and planes fast, and you can wing it without the danger of messing up some expensive wood. You do get some chipout when planing but that’s the part they’re looking for. The “natural look”. As long as they know upfront then all is fair game. The softwood/knotty look isn’t my cup of tea but it is for some people I’ve found out. It’s that get back to the old days or shabby sheik or whatever the rage is thing. There are a group of people out there who can’t get enough of it.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

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2600 posts in 2993 days

#11 posted 04-30-2012 11:50 AM

It is not so much “What type of wood that is used” as the “Design used to build it”.
I try to aviod “knots” as much as possible, that is getter harder to do these days !
Take a regular 2×4 and trim it down to different size is more “EYE” appealing than leaving it off the shelf size. The stain color, or the paint color will dictate what the people think of your furniture. When someone “MESSES” up the final furniture PEOPLE will ask
“Who built that ?”
sooner than
“who finished that ?”

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

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