Choosing the Right Wood to Build With | Lumber Explained

one of the biggest hurdles to overcome
when you first start woodworking is to figure out what kind of wood to use for
your projects there's solid wood or plywood softwood hardwood construction
grade domestic exotic and not dimension trying to make sense of all the sizes
involved it can be pretty overwhelming but don't worry we're gonna sort all of
that out in this video and a little later I'm going to show you a couple of
specific projects of mine and the wood I used and why I used it simply put solid wood is cut directly
from a tree it doesn't have any composite materials like MDF or fiber
board and it doesn't have any layers glued together like plywood solid wood
is steady and secure but it does take on and release moisture throughout the year
so if you don't take that movement into account your project could crack or
split the most widely available solid wood here in the US is known as SPF
spruce pine fir it can be any of those three species that you may know it more
commonly as a 2×4 or 2×6 this is construction grade lumber and it can be
found at almost any big home center or lumber yard bruce pine and firs are
conifer trees which are trees that are generally evergreen and have a cone
woods that come from conifer trees are known as soft woods now I'm not gonna
get into this too much but not all soft woods are soft not all hard woods are
hard but generally that's the case so as a woodworker the primary benefit of this
construction grade type lumber is the price it can be very cheap especially if
you need a thicker piece the building a table out of SPF from Home Depot is
gonna cost you about 1/4 of what it would cost if you built it out of say
walnut or cherry if you go the construction grade lumber route for your
project just make sure they're stamped KD or HT or both that means kiln dried
heat treated all the pests have been killed and the actual wood is dry if you
come across something that's labeled AD for air dry or s grn surface green or
something to that effect that wood is still really wet I would stay away from
it because it's got a lot of shrinking to do as that water evaporates off and
that could cause you problems in your project go with something that's
actually kiln-dried because even though it
probably has a little bit more drying to do it's not near as much as wood that
hasn't been killed dried and it's gonna move a lot less I talked about conifer
trees and soft woods a little earlier now let's talk about deciduous trees
these are trees that lose their leaves in the fall and we call the wood from
these trees hardwoods there are exceptions to this rule but overall
hardwoods are much denser than soft woods there are a wide variety of
hardwoods but for the sake of this video I'm just gonna go with two categories
domestic and exotic domestics are anything to grow in your regions so here
in the US that would be woods like walnut cherry maple oak exotics or
anything that grows somewhere else and have to be imported into your area so
here in the US that would be things like wingait zebra woods soupy Lea yellow
heart Purple Heart things like that your ability to find these different woods
depends on where you are I'm in the southern United States so if I go to
Lowe's or Home Depot besides construction grade lumber
they've got red oak poplar and a really nice pine there's no other domestics and
they don't have any exotics so if I want something else I have to go to the
lumber mill which I do 99% of the time or someplace like woodcraft who also has
a selection of different exotics and domestics you can also order online so
even though you can't see every piece and put your hands on it and match grain
before you buy it it's becoming increasingly popular just about every
woodworker a DIY or is gonna have this moment questioning their sanity where
they see the size on a piece of wood but when they've gone to work with it they
realize I'm missing half an inch and who knows exactly where this comes from but
I would guess that it's probably from when they first cut that piece of wood
it's likely 2 inches by 4 inches but going through the milling process to get
it flat and smooth and square they've taken some of its size down and when you
go to buy lumber in a lumber yard it gets even worse they refer to size in
quarters and board feet if you see boards labeled 4 quarter or 4 over 4
those are one inch thick since four quarters equals one so six quarter is an
inch and a half thick eight quarters is two inches thick and so on but for
you get too excited those numbers are also nominal a four quarter board that's
supposed to be an inch thick is actually about thirteen sixteenths of an inch
thick when you go to pay at the lumberyard this is something that even
experienced woodworkers struggle with but especially beginners the lumber
industry has something called board feet and it's the length times the width
times the thickness and then that gets divided by a hundred and forty four so
you take that number and then you've got a price that's set per board foot for
say walnut and if it's 350 a board foot you take that answer times 350 and
that's the price of the board but don't sweat all this and definitely don't let
it deter you from going to a lumber yard because honestly that's where the great
prices are the great selection and you're really gonna miss out if you
avoid lumber yards just don't hesitate to ask the questions that you have if
you don't understand board feet ask them to explain how they're measuring how
they're calculating and every time you go you're a little bit more experienced
and knowledgeable than the last time materials like plywood MDF and fiber
board can either be thin layers of wood glued together or they can be some sort
of composite material that may or may not have actual wood in it these
materials can be great for projects like cabinets where you need wide surfaces
because they come in four by eight sheets where solid wood you'd have to
glue pieces together to get the width you need all of these have the added
benefit of little to no movement during the seasons as water is absorbed and
evaporated MDF and fiber board have virtually no movement plywood we'll just
a little bit because they are real wood layers but they're so thin and they're
stacked in alternating directions that the overall movement is hardly
noticeable the drawback to all these materials is that they're not near as
strong and won't last near as long as solid wood and generally traditional
joinery methods like mortise and Tenon's are pretty worthless to attempt so don't
bother I mentioned briefly before that plywood is a stack of thin layers of
wood that are turned in different grain directions and then glued together
plywood gets graded and part of that grade is based off of what each side
looks like or each face if it's smooth and blemish free and has a really nice
appearance that's a higher-quality face if it's got a bunch of knots or it's
repeating pattern or it looks more like construction grade lumber
and that's a lower quality face and you can get plywood and any combination of
good or bad faces or both bad or both good so recently I did a project where I
bought mostly plywood with a good side and a bad side because only one side
would show and then I had just two pieces that we're gonna show both sides
so I bought higher-quality plywood for that there are a lot of different types
of plywood they have different applications things such as OSB which is
just layers of wood that are stacked and glued on each other in a certain way and
it creates a plywood panel I would never use that for something like a furniture
project or even a shop project where the OSB would show in the end it's more in
my opinion for construction type applications where it's gonna be hidden
on the same hand I wouldn't personally use an expensive plywood for something
that's gonna take a beating there's also ply woods that live in that
middle area that aren't too expensive but also still look pretty nice and one
of those is radiata pine it's about sixty percent the price of a sheet of
oak plywood so quite a bit less expensive but it looks way better than
OSB you can actually make a pretty nice finished project if you pick through the
pile a little bit and get a nice sheet just most of the time the other side is
gonna be pretty rough with knots and repeating patterns and look having more
of a construction look so you're most of the time gonna have to be able to hide
that side in your project one big consideration especially with MDF and to
a lesser degree plywood is that they don't like water at all plywood can be
resistant to weather as long as you keep water out of the ends where the actual
layers are exposed so most of the time you'd put a solid wood banding all
around the edges to hide that and then also just like any other would put a
finish on there to resist water as much as possible logs can be cut in several different
ways the first way we're going to talk about is plain sawn or flats on that is
where the grain is parallel to the face if we take a board here this grain runs
parallel to the faces the top face and the bottom face this is the cheapest way
for a Sawyer to mill the log since he gets the most wood from the tree another
way to flat saw is to make passes down to the top of the pith and then roll the
log over do the same thing down to the pith and do that all the way around but
the problem is it's by far the most unstable and the board's can cup and
twist easily most of the board's you find at the Home Center are flats on
with knots cathedrals in an unstable shape a Sawyer can also quarter-sawed
this log he'll cut it up into four sections or four quarters and a lot of
times but not all the time they'll cut a slab directly out of the middle to get
rid of this pith once this is quartered one piece at a
time will go up on the mill it'll make a pass roll it over make a pass roll it
over and make a pass and if you see this grain is almost ninety degrees to 60
degrees either way to the face this results in a much more secure and stable
board the grain is a lot straighter and then if you have Mary rays that come out
from the center which I don't think this log does then the Ray flex will show up
on the face of the board there is more waste cutting it this way compared to
flats on so quarter sawing is more expensive the last one I'll talk about
is rifts on that's when the Sawyer's trying to get boards that are oriented
so that the grain is 30 to 60 degrees to the face they really want to get it as
close to 45 degrees to the face as they can and this results in the absolute
straightest cleanest grain because there's so much waste with a rifts on
log it's much more expensive to buy these types of boards compared to
quarter sawn or flats on but we talked about the pros and cons of construction
grade lumber earlier if one advantage is the affordability then the downside has
to be the difficulty in building with it because the majority of it is flats on
and it's so unstable and it cups and it twists the first project I'm going to show you
is this balustrade coffee table that I built several years ago to keep the cost
down I used all construction grade lumber for this table except for the
balusters which were ordered just as they are the table top is two by sixes
these little pieces on the top and bottom of the balancers are also two by
sixes and then the base is two by fours pocket screw together with one by six is
laying on top of that now if you've seen the video I did on the balustrade coffee
table this is obviously not that one this is the first one I ever built of
this style and I actually messed up in a couple of different ways the first thing
I would say is that I would never recommend painting a table like this
white because it gets way too much traffic it's very hard to keep it clean
and it stains very easily secondly the two by sixes I used to build this were
really wet and I really didn't know enough to pay attention to that back
then they've cupped very badly in places there's some cracking going on and even
though the breadboard ends were cut correctly with space on each side for
contraction expansion these just have way too much drying to do and so they've
caused issues if you look at the end piece normally you will see a lip here
because of the nature of how these are expanding wood expands across its grain
so this end piece is gonna expand this way and all of the middle part is going
to expand this way so you would expect in the wintertime that the middle part
would contract and shrink and that you would have a little bit of an overhang
here the problem is this was so wet that it contracted and contracted and this
lip is always here and in the wintertime it just gets much worse you can
successfully use construction grade lumber to build a table like this no
problem since this table I've built two more out of the exact same type of
lumber that I just made sure was dry and I built it in the right way and those
tables are going on several years and they look great so just make sure your
wood is kiln dry build your project right accounting for wood movement and
you won't have a problem this project is a cabinet on stand I built for one of my
daughter's a few years ago and is based off a plan by Mike Pekka Vic I wanted
this to be an heirloom quality piece that she could keep for a long time and
eventually passed down so I made it out of really nice hardwood it's mainly hard
maple and then it's Purpleheart accents and the rainbow on
the front is made out of all exotic wood Paducah red heart yellow heart and
purple heart you'll know from earlier in this video that if you see cathedrals
like this and some of this grain pattern here the start of some tree limbs things
like that you'll know that those are flats on pieces but if you look at the
top rail of the door you see that that is fairly straight grain and then also
the back is fairly straight so that's a quarter sawn piece of wood these pieces
of Purple Heart and really straight grain on the faces and on the edges
those are quarter sawn Purple Heart the legs are close to two inches by two
inches and if you'll notice they've got two sides that are really straight grain
and then two sides that are flat some grain and if you look at the ends
they've got a basic riffs on orientation but on the opposite orientation it looks
close to flat sawn and that's why we get this grain pattern the last project I'm
going to show you are these bookcases and cubbies that I built there's a lot
of surface area here so this was a perfect opportunity to use plywood and
that made it a lot cheaper and because I didn't want the plywood inste show I cut
strips of solid wood and glued them to the front and then in the back I could
have used the same plywood that I used for the rest of the cabinet but instead
I chose this really cheap fiber board and it worked great I know this video
was packed with a lot of information so if you've got a question put it down in
the comments if I can't answer it or somebody else in the community then
we'll find the answer somehow also if I left something out or you don't quite
agree with something I said put that down in the comments if this video helps
you out consider subscribing thanks for watching and we'll see you next time

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