Author Topic: wood for fine furniture  (Read 6438 times)

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Offline DanielOB

  • Posts: 148
wood for fine furniture
« on: August 22, 2014, 12:17 PM »
When you guys go shopping for wood planks, like Oak or Maple, to make fine furniture (e.g. Cabinet)
you step in front of a pale of wood planks (e.g. in HomeDepot) and start to choose
- what you are looking at?
- what is the most critical for selection

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Offline waho6o9

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Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2014, 12:32 PM »
I'm not sure of the grading system in Canada

but I purchase FAS (first and seconds) from a

lumber yard. The big box stores charge a premium

and it's more cost effective to purchase from a lumber yard.

Straight boards, no knots cups or twists is what I look for.

 [thumbs up]

Offline grbmds

  • Posts: 2008
Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2014, 12:39 PM »
Do you have a source for hardwood besides Home Depot, Lowe's, etc.? My first recommendation would be, if at all possible, find a source for hardwood outside of the big box stores.

Wood must be straight - twists and turns are hard to deal with, regardless of the equipment you own.


Randy

Offline davee

  • Posts: 295
Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2014, 12:55 PM »
Red Oak at my local Home Depot is $6.86/bf whereas the lumber yard I go to sells at $2.85 bf.  I did purchase 100 bf for that price.  I also use FAS.  You can sometimes get a better deal by purchasing shorter lengths (local mill calls then super shorts).  For some projects, I look for unusual grain and features although this sometime results in reaction wood which can twist a bit when cut - more effort but I like the look.

Offline DougG

  • Posts: 27
Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2014, 01:16 PM »
I don't buy from the local home centers typically.

Go to a real lumber yard or local sawmill.  You can find them on Woodfinder if you don't know where they are (http://www.woodfinder.com/).  You can search for locations close to your zip code (USA only), or even particular types of wood (oak, maple, etc.).

That being said, if I do buy from the home center (because it's about 1 mile away), I check for defects like warps, checking, knots, etc.  If you're lucky, you might find something with a little figure, something a little more rift or quarter sawn, etc.  It pays to look around a bit.

That being said, the home center stuff is usually S4S, which is nice if you don't have any way of dealing with rough lumber.  It comes at a price, however.  I can get rough boards a lot cheaper, but then I have to break out my hand planes to surface, joint, etc.  A TS55 is nice for cutting straight edges, though.

Offline waho6o9

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Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2014, 02:06 PM »
" A TS55 is nice for cutting straight edges, though."

Good point, put a panther blade on it and rip away.


Offline SRSemenza

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Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2014, 02:16 PM »
I avoid twisted boards. They are the most difficult to use. Bends and warps in one direction can generally be made to work especially for narrower , shorter pieces, but I avoid those too if possible.

Seth

Offline Peter Parfitt

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Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2014, 02:23 PM »
When you guys go shopping for wood planks, like Oak or Maple, to make fine furniture (e.g. Cabinet)
you step in front of a pale of wood planks (e.g. in HomeDepot) and start to choose
- what you are looking at?
- what is the most critical for selection

You should buy wood which is as close to your desired thickness as you can find (but allowing for planning flat and thicknessing of course). If you have to remove too much it is more likely to move.

Try and get advice from your timber yard people - mine really know their stuff and they do not try to fool their customers otherwise they will lose business.

Look for the type of grain or detail that will suit your work. I buy sawn timber only. You have to look closely and try and visualise what is under those saw marks. Once you have bought a few planks and planed them up you will start to understand the species that you have bought.

Defects can be attractive, either left alone or filled with a suitable filler - perhaps a contrast.

Remember that (in UK) there is an accepted waste associated with each bought board. You cannot expect to use more than 85% of it and even then there may be some small defects.

If you can afford it, buy more than you need and build up a stock.

When doing a particular project you may find that buying all of the wood in one go will give you some consistency of colour and grain - particularly useful if you can get all of your boards from the same tree.

If you are really serious then buy a whole tree at a time - this is not fantasy but good economic sense provided that you can store it.

Peter

Offline Jesse Cloud

  • Posts: 1750
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Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2014, 04:26 PM »
Since you mentioned cabinets, I'll start there.  Most of us use hardwood for the rails and stiles, and plywood for the panels.  If that's what you are doing, the first step is to be sure you can get plywood in the same species as the hardwood you choose (or consciously choose a different species for contrast - but be careful there, it can get ugly quickly).  Its mostly a matter of taste, but I generally like fairly straight grained wood for stiles and rails, and maybe, a nicely figured panel.  If you are making a small number of pieces, I recommend taking the time at the lumber yard to plan your cuts.  Look at a plank and figure how many of what type of pieces it will yield, working around knots or other waste.  Repeat as needed until you have wood for everything on your cut list.  Then buy maybe 10 per cent extra for surprises and errors.  Try to find wood that is close to the width of your pieces, or allows for multiple pieces cut from the width (remembering kerf losses).  Longer planks tend to work better for avoiding waste.

At the yard ask some questions before you start:  Can I use my block plane to smooth small spots on rough lumber to reveal figure?  Will you cut long boards or must I buy the whole board?  If you cut, what is the minimum amount of cutoff that must remain (they will rightly want a cutoff long enough to sell)?  Is there a surcharge for wide boards?  May I look through the whole stack (some yards restrict you to the top 3 or 4 rows to prevent the first customer from taking all the good pieces).

In some yards, the lumber is stacked in open access areas and you can go directly to the stacks.  In others an employee may put a stack on a forklift and bring it outside for you to look through.  In the latter case, they may ask how much you need so they can pick an appropriate stack.  You should have a rough idea of your total number of board feet and width, thickness, and length specs.  If you know the grade you need tell them that, or maybe tell them what you are building (cabinet parts, chairs, table tops, etc.).

If you are looking for a specific figure, say something that would follow the curve of a chair leg or consistent figure across a certain space, make an mdf or cardboard template the size of your piece and lay it on the planks to see whether they have the figure you need.

Its good manners to keep the lumber stack neat.  As you pull boards and decide against them, replace them neatly in the stack to maintain good relations with the vendor.   If you are only buying a few boards, don't expect the yard to deliver them.

Sorry this ran so long, especially if you already know most of this stuff.  Hope some of it helps.


Offline Untidy Shop

  • Posts: 2745
Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2014, 04:28 PM »

There is some great advice here. I work part time in a timber yard. My colleagues and I would add that some politeness will get you a long way, and try not to come at busy times, like 10am on a Saturday morning when everyone has suddenly woken up. 5 mins before closing will certainly not be appreciated. This happens regularly.

In addition, consider salvaged timber. Floor joists from the upper floors of older houses in Australia, for example, once denailed and that edge ripped off provide long lengths of hardwood. As said by others above avoid timber with twists, bends etc,.

You will however need a thicknesser, planer, nail puller, inexpensive plane and circular saw (quality but not Festool) and most importantly a small hand held nail detector, to process this timber.

Whether it will be really suitable for fine furniture or just quality furniture is a mystery for you to discover.

« Last Edit: August 23, 2014, 02:38 AM by Untidy Shop »
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Offline DanielOB

  • Posts: 148
Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2014, 01:11 PM »
How about moisture in wood?
Do you check it prior to buy, or it does not matter. What would be the best moisture content?

Offline tjbnwi

  • Posts: 6311
  • Cedar Tucky Indiana
Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2014, 01:16 PM »
I go right to the mill. If they're good enough for Stickley they're good enough for me.

http://www.frankmiller.com

Tom

Offline DougG

  • Posts: 27
Re: wood for fine furniture
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2014, 01:53 PM »
How about moisture in wood?
Do you check it prior to buy, or it does not matter. What would be the best moisture content?

Any reliable lumber yard should be able to tell you about the moisture content of the wood they sell, how it's dried (kiln or air), etc.

If you have your own moisture meter, you probably want to check with the employees if it's ok to use, as you often have to plane off a bit of the top of rough lumber with a block plane to get a good reading with a pinless meter, or you have to poke some holes if you've got a pin type meter.

"Best" moisture content is really what's acceptable to you, and depends on a lot of things.  Maybe you could find some super cheap green wood somewhere that you plan to dry yourself.  Relative humidity and moisture content are always changing, so you can expect different values at different times of the year.  Of course, when building something, you'll have to take shrinkage and expansion due to moisture changes into consideration, especially if your furniture moves to different areas with different moisture values than where you live.  For example, see Wood Handbook, Chapter 13: Drying and Control of Moisture Content (http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/products/publications/several_pubs.php?grouping_id=100&header_id=p), especially Figure 13-1 ("Recommended average moisture content for interior use of wood products in various areas of the United States").  They recommend 8% average moisture content for most of the US, but 6% in the dry southwest and 11% in the more humid south.

There's also an article for equilibrium moisture content for outdoor woods.  It has tables for various locations by month, including a few cities in Canada.  This might be helpful for any outdoor projects or if you're air drying your own lumber.  See FPL Research Note 268 (http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplrn/fplrn268.pdf).

So really, the answer to the best moisture content is hard to answer.  If you're buying kiln dried wood from a local reliable lumberyard, you probably don't have to worry.  I've never checked moisture content in hardwoods from Home Depot or Lowe's, but I suspect it's ok (based on limited personal experience).  If you buy softwood 2x construction type lumber from them, then it can be an issue.  Some areas sell mostly green materials.  Locally, we get kiln dried, but that's only down to 19% from the mill from what I've read.  Going through the racks of 2x material, some of the newly delivered stuff feels really heavy and cool from moisture evaporating, almost damp.  Some of the older stuff that's been on the rack a long time feels more like room temperature and is lighter, because it has had time to lose a lot of its water and come close to the equilibrium moisture content (and this is what I'll buy).

When in doubt, ask someone who works there.