Cutting Your Own Boards

Buying Lumber from a local supplier is the norm for most woodworkers. But more and more woodworkers are cutting their own lumber. Where do they get the logs? ... mostly from urban trees that are cut down or blown down by wind storms. Getting logs is often easy. Getting them to a manageable size and in a place that you can cut them can be bit more tricky. Not every neighbor is willing to put up with the sound of someone next door milling hundreds of board feet of lumber ... but, for many, it is still an alternative.

Very often you can find trees that are diseased or that simply get too large for the area they are in and they need to be taken down. Rather than have the wood cut into firewood, it is possible to cut the tree in to manageable size logs and then into borads that you can use ... and if you are a wood turner, you can find some fantastic wood patterns in where limbs and roots attach that can make some stunning turning projects.

You will need some sort of a mill, but for a small investment a good chain saw and with somehting called an Alaskan Chainsaw Mill, you can go about cutting your own lumber.

Copyright - Colin Knecht

Plywood Grading - Types of plywood

Plywood GradingWhen buying plywood from your local Home Depot, Rona, Lowes or other wood supplier, you might have noticed that all the plywood is "graded". The most common plywood grading scheme is from A to D, with A being the highest quality with zero blemishes and great sanding, and D being the worst with the greatest number of blemishes (allowed).

Grading also typically comes in pairs where each grade addresses a different side or “face” of the stock piece, ie one letter will address the quality issues of the front face and the second, the side opposite to the face. So for instance, an A-C plywood sheet would be highly finished on the front face with a relatively poorer finish on the back. Similarly, construction grade C-D (referred to as CDX) plywood, is great for structural use but not for projects requiring a high quality finish.

Bonding Types

Along with the plywood grading system, plywood comes in different bonding where each type is differentiated by the glue used to bind the layers (aka plies) of plywood. We’ll cover each in turn.

Interior Plywood
This type is made for interior use only, from hardwood and softwood species and is generally used in places where exposure to moisture is minimal, e.g. furniture, wall sheathing, cabinetry, etc. Interior plywood is available in most grades and comes in a variety of hardwood species like birch, oak and cherry.

Exterior Plywood
By far, much more sturdier and moisture-resistant than interior plywood, this type can be used outdoors and is easily available from local suppliers. Like its interior counterpart, it also comes in various grades—A-C, B-C and CDX are widely available—and hardwood species.

Marine Plywood
If you’re really looking for highly moisture-resistant plywood, look no further than Marine Plywood, which is both manufactured in top quality and uses the highest adhesives. And though commonly graded A-A for two highly placed faces, hardwood choices for exterior use (where the type would be most useful) are limited.

Structural Plywood
If you’re looking for beauty over brawn, this type is ideal although it is rarely found in a grade higher than C-D and is atypically used in construction sites (as concrete forms). Special resins are used to adhere the layers together and they are designed in such a way that the plies are less likely to separate.

Plywood Sizing
Just like hardwood and softwood sizes, plywood sizes can be just as confusing if not more. Although sheets are usually sold as 4’ wide, they may sometimes be found in 2’ and 5’ widths. Similarly, just as a typical plywood sheet’s length is 8’ they can also be found in 4’ and 12’ sizes as well as metric sizes. The variety can easily confuse the best of us.

And that’s just the beginning; the variation of sizes above will be a walk in the park compared to the thickness dimensions. Common sizes on the US market are ¼”, ½” and ¾”. That said, a ¼” plywood sheet is really 7/32”; ½” a 15/32” and ¾”, a 23/32”.

And though the 1/32” doesn’t seem like much, it can make all the difference when working with plywood. Consider this: a wood craftsman is constructing a bookshelf where a ¾” shelf is inserted into a dado cut into the shelf standards; the 1/32” gap will not only be noticeable, the dado will feel sloppy and unprofessionally handled. To counteract such a situation, the dado will need to be cut at 23/32”, ensuring a snug fit.


The Difference in Wood Sizes

 woodwork wood sizesOn a trip to your local home depot or woodworking supplier you might notice the different wood sizes on display, and be scratching your head wondering what it all means. There are a couple important things to remember when purchasing stock.

2x4 vs 1 ½”x3 ½”

The first is that 1 inch doesn’t always mean “1 inch”, so while the label might read 2x4 it actually translates to 1 ½” x 3 ½”, because of dryness and milling methods. Wood tends to shrink when it’s dried and lumber mills make adjustments accordingly. That said, the length of a piece is generally not affected so a piece “measuring” 8’ is usually very close to 96 inches.

Read more: The Difference in Wood Sizes

Hardness Measurement of Wood

 The hardness or softness of woods is something most woodworkers need to know at some time or another. Thankfully the flooring industry (where hardness is crucial) has taken the time to test and rate most of the woods available around the world for their hardness.

As a woodworker, sometimes I am involved in building a particular project and would like to know the hardness of different woods I may be contemplating. For example, anyone who make musical instruments like guitars, banjos or Ukeleles, need to know the hardness of woods for the necks of these instruments as well as the finger boards.

In making guitars and banjos the necks can be made of many different materials ranging from mahoganies to hard maples but in most cases the finger boards are made of Rosewood. Knowing the hardness of these woods can help the woodworker select other woods that may also be suitable for the job. Or if you are looking for something that needs be hard wearing or soft wearing, it's sometimes necessary to know the hardness. If you are one of those woodworkers how likes to make their own wooden hinges and clasps for a project, harder woods are needed.

Carvers on the other hand are often looking for woods that are softer for carving. Knowing what woods are softer can help them determine what woods they might want to carve. Not every carver wants to carve the softest woods, sometimes picking a particular wood is a necesseity depending on what a client might want, so READ MORE to see the actual hardness scales of some selected woods. If you need more, please search for the Janka Hardness Scale.

Lignum vitae / Guayacan / Pockenholz 4500 
   Ipê / "Brazilian Walnut"
  Red Mahogany, Turpentine
  Mesquite   2345
 Bubinga, Cameron
  Hickory / Pecan, Satinwood  
 African Padauk
  Black Locust
  Wenge, Red Pine
  Hard Maple / Sugar Maple
  Natural Bamboo
 White Oak
  Ash (White)
  American Beech
   Red Oak (Northern)     
  Yellow Birch, Iroko Kambala
  Cocobolo   1136
  Black Walnut/North American Walnut
  Black Cherry, Paper Birch    910 
  Lacewood, Leopardwood
  African Mahogany
 Mahogany, Honduran Mahogany    
 Southern Yellow Pine
  Douglas Fir   660
  Alder (Red)
 Chestnut   540
 Hemlock    500
  White Pine    420 
 Eastern White Pine

Copyright - Colin Knecht