Need advice on lumber purchasing

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Forum topic by asl547 posted 04-06-2013 08:56 AM 992 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 2488 days

04-06-2013 08:56 AM

Topic tags/keywords: thickness purchasing

I needed 3/4” white oak for a project (plans for which appear in a woodworking magazine). I went to a lumber yard that carries hardwoods and asked for 4/4. They said it was planed 2 sides to 13/16. I bought it, but it turned out to be only 3/4. Because of a slight bow in the boards, when I flattened it on a jointer I wound up with 5/8. What should I have purchased? Rough 4/4? Surfaced 5/4?

7 replies so far

View sprucegum's profile


324 posts in 1992 days

#1 posted 04-06-2013 11:40 AM

I always purchase hardwood in the rough that way you will have enough extra wood to joint and plane out the warp and twist. It is common practice for many mills to saw 4/4 hardwood 1/8” over size so you end up with a good solid 1” after drying. We have a hardwood specialty store in the area they will straiten and flatten your boards for you but they are pretty pricey. I keep watch in the local trade and swap paper and on craigs list to find local wood. In most cases 4/4 should be plenty to wind up with a finished surface that is 3/4 but sometimes I purchase 5/4 just because it is local and not too pricey.

-- A tube of calk and a gallon of paint will make a carpenter what he ain't

View WDHLT15's profile


1741 posts in 2471 days

#2 posted 04-06-2013 12:12 PM

I saw my white oak at 1 1/8” thick. Most times, it will plane to 1”, but 100% of the time it will plane to 3/4”. I would always buy rough sawn and mill the boards yourself to target size, that way, you can get the boards perfectly flat right before you use them. It is hard to get perfectly flat boards that have already been planed by the lumber yard and have been setting on the rack for months.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View jmos's profile


827 posts in 2364 days

#3 posted 04-06-2013 12:17 PM

This is an issue for me as well. My best local source (OK selection and they deliver!) does not carry rough lumber except for one or two species, everything else is S2S, and not jointed flat, just planed. So, after I get a face jointed I almost never actually yield 3/4”.

A couple of workarounds;
-Find another supplier, which isn’t a good option for me.
-Buy 5/4 stock. You’ll get your thickness, but you’ll pay extra.
-What I usually do is work with what I get. There is no magic to 3/4”. A lot of projects will work perfectly with 5/8” with no significant loss of strength. In fact, a lot of projects will benefit visually from thinner components. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

If they have rough, and you’ve got the ability to mill it, go for it. I would if I could. Otherwise, don’t worry too much.

-- John

View Don W's profile

Don W

18707 posts in 2562 days

#4 posted 04-06-2013 12:21 PM

Unfortunately its different from place to place. Don’t be afraid to ask what finish dimension you can expect. Rough sawn should be whatever the dimension is, minus a little for drying.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View bannerpond1's profile


397 posts in 1893 days

#5 posted 04-06-2013 12:41 PM

I saw lumber from my property, and I’ve been cutting everything to 5/4. When I was buying sugar pine for New Mexico territorial furniture reproductions, I bought 5/4 and planed that to 4/4. A full one inch looks better to me for reproductions. If you really want the 3/4 finished boards, you should be able to flatten any bows or twists in a 4/4 rough sawn board.

One way to keep from losing so much wood due to movement is to buy quartersawn wood. Yes, it’s more expensive, but you lose less to waste because it doesn’t move nearly so much. Plus, it looks better in any species, not just white oak. Quarter sawn cherry and sycamore (looks somewhat like lacewood) are fantastic. My sawyer and I learned to quarter saw my logs from a schematic I found on line. Here it is above.

Cut the three boards first, the middle one including the pith. These will be quarter sawn. You will have two “half moons left. Put them face to face and stand them on the saw so you can saw cut the number 2 pieces from both half moons at once. That will be quarter sawn, too. With what you have left, you can saw four 3×3’s or 4×4’s, depending on the size of the log. They are rift sawn, with the growth rings at 45 degrees to the faces all around. This is what you want for table legs. They will hardly move at all, and you’ll have plenty of surplus to joint out any bows.

I have a huge cherry tree that is dying and is coming down this Spring. It’s about 30 inches in diameter at the ground, and rises 20 feet before branching. I’ll get three big logs and a few from the secondary limbs. All will be quarter sawn until it’s not worth the time any more. Then it’s firewood.

-- --Dale Page

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3280 days

#6 posted 04-06-2013 12:53 PM


You’re not the only one that’s run into that problem before; I was lucky and found a lumber supplier that sold what they advertised. If they said it was surfaced S2S to 13/16ths I can count on it.

I used to carry my calipers with me and if I was buying lumber already surfaced, I would check to make sure it was at least 13/16’s.

Another trick that helped me when flattening, straightening and sizing my lumber before I started building was to rough cut to length most of my pieces before I worried about flattening or straightening. Since I very seldon built anything that was 6, 8 or 10ft long or needed any lumber any where’s near that length, I found it a lot easier to flatten a 36” length of board than a 6 or 8 ft. length of board. (and usually don’t have to take near as much off to get it flat or straight.

What may be a substantial bow in a 8ft. board is not near as bad @ 24” or 30”.

One last thing; when or if you go back to the lumber supplier, I would mention that the last lumber you bought was suppose to be 13/16’s and when you got it home you discovered it was only 3/4”.
If they don’t realize they are dimensioning their lumber wrong, they will never correct it….........then again, they may not care, in which case you need to find another supplier.

BTW. Good luck with your project.

-- John @

View sprucegum's profile


324 posts in 1992 days

#7 posted 04-06-2013 01:59 PM

Buy local from land owners and small mill operators whenever possible. A land owner who owns his own mill just does not need the same price as a retailer. I have sawed some pretty nice lumber from logs that would be considered extremely low value because of size or defects. As a for instance a 8” X 12’ cherry log with a seam and a couple of poor faces would be considered pallet grade and would be worth under .20/bdft delivered to a mill or buying yard, it would scale around 32 bdft depending on the scaler and rule being used. This log would bring the land owner a whopping $6.40 provided he did his own harvest and trucking. The same log sawed on a band mill would yield at least 35 bdft with at least a couple FAS grade boards and some poorer boards with a lot of good usable wood in them. If the land owner sawyer can get $1.00/ ft the same log will bring him over 5 times as much. You will find most land owner sawyers willing to negotiate on price if you buy the whole pile or at least a good amount; I know I am always open to offers. If you don’t need it all split it with a buddy or sell some of the surplus your self.

-- A tube of calk and a gallon of paint will make a carpenter what he ain't

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