Picking lumber for projects

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Forum topic by Debora Cadene posted 04-22-2013 02:04 PM 1639 views 1 time favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Debora Cadene

60 posts in 1861 days

04-22-2013 02:04 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I would like to make one of those farmhouse tables for my deck. (by Ana White) I went to Menards and grabbed what I needed, but it had just snowed, and all the 8 footers are located outside. I did pick through the pile pretty good, but there was no getting away from the wet, frozen wood.
I brought it home and its sitting in my basement to dry off. A week and a half later, the 2×8’s STILL weigh a freakin ton and I’ve been flipping them so they can dry, but I think its gonna take till next summer to use these. The 2×10 weighs less, but is still wet too.

My question, after all that blabbing is… Will the lumber be more warped or crooked the longer or wider it is? I ask, because the 10 footers and up, are all inside their buildings out of the elements, so was thinking of getting bigger pieces and having them cut to 8’, at least for the 2×8’s. I had a hard time finding a 2×10 that wasn’t cupped. Is it true, that the wider the lumber the more wonky it will be?

The other question I had was, when you are cutting a sheet of plywood into lengths, is it better to cut with the grain or against the grain. I don’t need anything longer then 2’ and right now the width is going to be less then 18” as well ( to make some wooden signs ) I know I could use 1 x ? lumber, and just cut it to length, but with the plywood, you get exactly the width you want and I’m thinking it might be cheaper..but not sure on that either. And should I be cutting the WRONG side of the piece or the smoother side to prevent the wood splinters. I know a finer saw tooth might help, but in general. Getting the least amount of splinters would be quite nice.

19 replies so far

View MNgary's profile


298 posts in 2416 days

#1 posted 04-22-2013 02:57 PM

Plywood splinters more on the side your saw’s teeth exit. Hence, on a table saw I cut with the finished side up. And if using a handheld electric saw, I have the finished side down.

Re with/against the grain: i do my layouts on plywood so the grain runs in the direction that will be “prettiest” in the finished project. For tabletops I want the grain running legthwise. On cabinet sides, up and down. Drawer fronts horizontal.

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2006 days

#2 posted 04-22-2013 03:09 PM

In and of itself, plywood doesn’t HAVE a grain. Because it’s made of multiple layers which are orientated crossways with each layer. So you can just cut it with the finished side grain going in the direction you want to look at.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29226 posts in 2337 days

#3 posted 04-23-2013 12:17 AM

For plywood I run the visible grain as if it were solid wood.

Ana White rocks. Wish you could convince her to join us.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View AandCstyle's profile


3052 posts in 2256 days

#4 posted 04-23-2013 12:20 AM

Regarding using ply for signs, if they will be outdoors, be certain to seal the edges very well to help prevent delamination. Generally speaking, the various borgs aren’t known for the quality of their lumber.

I would suggest for future projects using a real lumber store. The price may be higher, but you will get better value, i.e. more usable product.

-- Art

View mbs's profile


1656 posts in 2939 days

#5 posted 04-25-2013 04:19 AM

You can minimize tear out / splintering with a good blade made for the material that it’s cutting. You also need a good saw that doesn’t have arbor runout. Runout causes the blade to wobble and when the blade wobbles it causes tearout and a poor surface.

Blades can be very specialized. However, you can get a good general purpose blade that will cut well overall. Knotscott – a fellow LJ member, has done a lot of testing on blades and gives good recommendations in various price ranges. I like the following blades: Forest woodworker II and Tenyru gold series but they’re expensive.

When wood is wet it moves unpredictably. And after you cut dry wood it will still warp, twist, cup…. because the wood has stress in it and the cutting process can induce or relieve stress. Therefore, if you need flat, straight wood there are a few tips to follow. 1) only use dry wood. 2) sneak up on the final dimension to allow the wood to stress relief. In other words, cut the wood oversized then wait 24 hours to cut to final dimensions. 3) start with wood that has very straight grain without knots.

I hope this helps

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View Debora Cadene's profile

Debora Cadene

60 posts in 1861 days

#6 posted 04-25-2013 12:20 PM

thank you for the reply’s and tips on getting the most visual out of a sheet of plywood. The signs I’d like to make are mostly for decorative purposes, and more then likely wouldn’t go out side, but I never thought about the separation of layers if it did, so two thumbs up for reminding me to seal the edges for that purpose. I do use plywood when making my No Trespassing signs, and never thought about sealing it. I just painted the sheet white, cut it into 12”squares and sprayed a big red polka dot on it.

I’ve been reading about the lumber stores vs big box places that sell wood, and I think that depending on the project you are doing and the quality you are seeking for an end product, would make the extra expense in the lumber well worth it. I believe you get what you pay for. For me, that would include a better blade or tool. It would be safer i think as well.

I’m still wondering about the longer lumber vs shorter stuff when it comes to quality though. Would a 2×8 in an 16’ length have a tenancy to be more warped or crooked over a shorter 8’ piece, or would it be a better cut of wood. what about the 2×10’ it true that they are more likely to be cupped because of the wider width and would a longer piece cut to equal 2 – x 10’s be better then buying 2 pieces at 8’.

View mbs's profile


1656 posts in 2939 days

#7 posted 04-28-2013 12:32 AM

I’ll try to answer your question about longer lumber. There is no simple answer because it depends on many variables. The more important variables are: The type of wood, how the lumber was cut (quarter sawn, flat sawn…), the straightness of the grain, the number and location of knots, how the lumber was stacked and how the lumber was dried. You can see some of these variables for by looking at a stack of lumber in the store. Some of the boards are straight and some aren’t.

If you’re buying wood like 2×8” fir from the box stores it is typically very wet and will likely change shape when it dries.

Your best bet is to find the wood that is straight and flat and dry regardless of length and width. If you settle for less you will need to machine it flat and straight.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View Domer's profile


252 posts in 3366 days

#8 posted 04-29-2013 02:11 AM

I agree with mbs. I would look for a lumber wholesaler in your area. Big box wood is in my experience not very good quality and costs as much or sometimes more than wood that is much better quality wood from someone who deals in better quality wood.

The drawback to most wholesales is that you cannot pick through the wood and have to take what they send you. I have only had a few pieces of wood from our wholesales in Kansas City that I was unhappy with and they let me exchange it.

Some of the wholesalers have retail outlets as well where you can pick through the wood but the cost is quite a bit more. If you are only buying a few pieces, it makes sense to go to a place like this.

Regardless, I would be very uncomfortable buying wet wood from out door storage. Who knows how long it will take to dry and what sort of movement you will get. At lest Home Depot stores theirs indoors.

My 2cents worth.

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2675 days

#9 posted 04-29-2013 02:25 AM

Do you have a dehumidifier in your basement. That would help speed the process. I buy my woods from a local lumber yard that deals in such things. My big box stores don’t even handle oak and maple. go figure. They have a kid that directs you to the local lumber yard. I think the wider boards just show the cupping more because of the width. The narrow boards are cupped the same amount but it is less apparent. Like stated above it all depends on how the board is cut.

According to the APA (American Plywood Association) plywood DOES have grain and it is the same as the surface grain. This is a mute point when you are making small things like sing that don’t need strength. I was like Joe and thought there was no grain but these people should know. They say that more of the interior wood is oriented in one direction so the surface grain is SUPPOSED to be going int hat direction. who knows how well the Chinese read English.

View Debora Cadene's profile

Debora Cadene

60 posts in 1861 days

#10 posted 04-29-2013 11:25 AM

A dehumidifier….never even thought of that. Yeah, I even moved it upstairs and its a slow process. I did cut all of it in half though. Not sure if that was intelligent or not, but you can actually see the wet marks right into the center of the wood. There is a place in town called “The Fix It Club”. Mostly retired gentlemen, but of course not all. Its 20 bucks to join for the year, then 10 every year after that. You can go and do your building and painting or what ever there, and they have a planer. I am going to go and meet them today and was thinking of bringing my wet wood down there to get planed so its all the same size before I start putting pocket holes into it. Good idea or bad??

View Debora Cadene's profile

Debora Cadene

60 posts in 1861 days

#11 posted 04-29-2013 11:47 AM

There is an indoor lumber yard, but I’ve not been to it yet and as I mentioned, Menards had the longer wood under a roof, but its not a heated indoors like Home depot. I was in a HD a few weeks ago, and wasn’t really impressed with the wood. Tons of banged up stuff on the outside piles and the wider stuff was up top, so I couldn’t even pick through it. I am leary about putting this table top together now. Will it still move if its been pocket holed together and also pocket holed to the table base?

View mbs's profile


1656 posts in 2939 days

#12 posted 04-29-2013 03:02 PM

I sent you a message.

The short answer is you should consider joining the club. I wouldn’t plane the wet wood. I would let it dry before I did ANYTHING to it. Wood always moves with changes in humidity – even “dry” wood.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View levan's profile


472 posts in 2979 days

#13 posted 04-29-2013 03:25 PM

I’m wondering what type of wood are you using? Is it treated for out door use? If so it is always wet and will remain so for a very long time. I would not use treated for a table top, that I planned on eating at. Just my opinion. I would not pocket hole the boards together. The best bet would be to put cleats on bottom and leave a space between each board for movement.

-- "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right". Henry Ford

View Debora Cadene's profile

Debora Cadene

60 posts in 1861 days

#14 posted 04-29-2013 04:07 PM

Not sure what type of wood it is, what ever Menards sells, but it is pressure treated and will be going outdoors. I do plan on staining it and sealing it once its done.

View levan's profile


472 posts in 2979 days

#15 posted 04-30-2013 07:18 PM This link might give you some ideas.

-- "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right". Henry Ford

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