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Woodworking 101: What Does 4/4 Mean In Lumber?

Hardwood lumber comes in thicknesses measured in quarters of an inch. 1″ lumber is called 4/4 (four quarters). 2″ lumber is called 8/4 (eight quarters). Here’s how they compare.
What do these lumber fractions mean? 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 8/4, 10/4, 12/4

In short, these fractions are the names for the thickness of hardwood lumber. The thickness is expressed as a fraction, and goes in increments of quarters of an inch. However, this is a name only. It’s not a precise measurement.

Why those funny fractions? I’m used to standard sizes like 1×6, 1×12, 2×8 etc.

While you might be used to seeing sizes like 1×6 or 2×8 in lumberyards for softwoods (fir, pine, cedar, etc.), the hardwood industry takes a different approach.

That’s because the primary users of hardwoods (red oak, cherry, maple, etc.) build custom or made-to-fit products – like furniture and cabinetry – where uniform sizes in the raw material is unnecessary and more troublesome. For example, there’s no standard size for kitchen tables, you can make one any size you want. So sawmills cut hardwood logs to get the best yield from a log, which means all boards will be various in width rather than the same width. If sawmills were to cut logs to specific sizes or uniform widths, that process would incur more waste and require more labor. Therefore the resulting boards would cost you more money. Who wants that?

Softwoods that get sold in “standard” sizes like 1×6 and 2×8 are cut for particular applications that require those sizes.  In building construction you’ll find standard and uniform sizes from building to building. Door jambs and wall studs for example.

So, the hardwood industry standard for indicating the size starts with lumber thickness, and it’s expressed as a fraction: 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 8/4 and so on.

This system of naming lumber thickness by quarters was established by the National Hardwood Lumber Association. The organization was founded in 1898 to establish a uniform system of grading rules for the measurement and inspection of hardwood lumber.

rough hardwood lumber board
With rough lumber, it’s hard to see the grain and the boards are frequently slightly cupped or warped from the drying process. Surfacing fixes both of these, but it does remove thickness.
Let’s explain more, starting with the most common, 4/4

If we were talking you’d hear me say it as “four quarters,” which is short for four quarters of an inch.  If you’re pretty snappy with numbers, you’ve already put together that 4/4 is probably one inch.

4/4 means approximately 1″ thick
5/4 means approximately 1-1/4″ thick
6/4 means approximately 1-1/2″ thick
8/4 means approximately 2″ thick
12/4 means approximately 3″ thick

But there’s more.

To know what the actual measured thickness is, you need one more identifier such as S2S or RGH.  S2S means “surfaced two sides,” and RGH means “rough” and they describe the stage the lumber is in, surfaced or rough. But all lumber starts out rough.

A saw that cuts lumber from a log is very large and aggressive, so the resulting lumber is known as “rough sawn” and the surfaces of the boards are . . . yes, rough and inconsistent. This lumber needs to be planed smooth and flat before being sized for the project at hand.

Enter S2S. Lumber that is S2S was rough at one time, but now it’s been planed smooth and flat. Naturally, that process removes some thickness and answers the age old question, “Why isn’t 4/4 lumber a full one inch thick?”

Actual measured thickness on 4/4 lumber that’s S2S is 13/16″.  According to the NHLA rules, 13/16″ is the standard acceptable thickness of surfaced 4/4 lumber. (Note: you can view the current edition of the NHLA rule book here.)

Rough lumber needs to be dressed with a planer and/or jointer and this is where a lumber dealer like Woodworkers Source has to make a tough decision. Have the lumber surfaced smooth and clean, or sell it rough? There are benefits to both, but it’s impractical to stock both.

Rough Vs. Surfaced Lumber

Pros Cons
Rough Lumber
(RGH)
  • Usually costs less
  • Most of the time you can yield more thickness than the standard surfaced thickness
  • Difficult to inspect grain, figure, and color
  • Often cupped or distorted from the drying process
  • Requires time and labor to plane and flatten before moving on to final sizing
  • Heavier, therefore costs more per board foot to ship
Surfaced Lumber
(S2S)
  • Usually easier for the less-equipped woodworker to use and get started
  • Easy to see the grain, figure and color
  • Uniform in thickness
  • Lighter, therefore costs less per board foot to ship
  • Less control over final thickness
  • Surfacing adds cost

One difference between rough and surfaced lumber might not be very obvious, which is the weight. It’s commonly thought that rough lumber is cheaper because it doesn’t have the added cost of surfacing. But that’s not the end of the story. While there is a charge for surfacing lumber, surfaced lumber weighs a lot less, and this plays a big role when we transport truckloads or container loads from suppliers.

For example, a flat bed truck will haul 45,000 lbs. The cost to move that load doesn’t change if load of lumber is rough or surfaced – 45,000 lbs is 45,000 lbs. But what does change is how much lumber will fit on the truck. You can fit about 11,000 board feet of rough lumber or 14,000 board feet of surfaced lumber. In the end, it just makes more sense to pay the wholesaler the marginal fee for surfacing (which is about $0.10 per board foot) in favor of fitting more lumber on the truck or container.

Therefore we’ve decided to stock surfaced lumber.

Here are pictures of each lumber thickness to help you out:

  • JOHN HERTZFELD

    So, for confirmation of concept, I’m planning a project that calls for 3′ lengths of 3×2″ and 3×3″. I understand that I would want to order the 12/4. This would then come in various widths and lengths, and I can add a request for my desired lengths in when I order. My question is then how will I know how much I need to order to meet the 12 lengths I need, assuming that some boards I will be able to rip down and not on others?

  • David thompson

    I have a mahogany table that I need 4 legs for, I’m making it taller for bar chairs, what do I need?

    • What’s the final size of the legs? That will help determine what you need. Most likely 8/4 lumber, which would give you enough to work them down to anything under 1-3/4″ square. But I don’t want to assume too much before knowing the final size you want to acheive

  • Jim Ellis

    I just bought myrtlewood, rough cut not kiln dried has been stored in a barn for 15 years. Been through 0 degree to 95 degree F weather. It ranges from 1+ inches thick to 6 inches thick and from 12 inches wide to 30 inches wide. I want to resell this wood. Are there any issues that need to be addressed before I try to sell

  • Scott M. McCauslin

    You explain 4/4, 6/4, 8/4 (etc) very well. what I did not find is: Is your wood true-measure, or, is this planed off of true measure??? With my turning spindles, it makes a MAJOR difference! I only purchase true-measure wood.

    • Hmmmm…. I get your question. Since you’re asking about turning spindles, my answer will deal with that rather than lumber.

      Turning spindles are not the same thing as lumber. Turning stock is really a manufactured item, whereas lumber is the raw material from which it comes – and so it would be unusual for turning stock to be named with 4/4, 6/4 etc. But still, what you will find is turning stock named nominally, which is probably equally as frustrating. A 2x2x12 piece of turning stock will rarely measure a full 2″ square (usually more like 1-7/8″ or 1-3/4″). And the actual measurement of a 2×2 depends on if it’s rough sawn, rip sawn, molded, or planed.

      On our website, we always post both the nominal measurement and the actual just for full disclosure. Around here, we don’t want you being unhappy with what you buy just because of a technicality in name. That would be lousy for all parties. At the same time, a whole string of fractions like 1-3/4″x1-3/4″x12″ instead of 2x2x12 is not as easy on the eyes, or as quickly understood. Therefore, in the name we’ll post the nominal dimension. But in the description we’ll provide the actual measurement.

      A puzzling item we do sell is a 2x2x30 of red oak, maple, walnut, and cherry. Our supplier cuts these from rough sawn 8/4 lumber. So, naturally it’s not a full 2″ square. But it’s not 1-3/4″ either. The supplier starts by skim planing the lumber to 1-15/16″ thick, then they rip the squares at 1-15/16″. As a result, the squares have two opposite sides that are smooth from the rip saw, but two sides that are “hit and miss” thanks to the skim planing. Hit and miss means there’s still some rough sawn markings, as 8/4 lumber won’t cleanly yield 1-15/16″ on a routine or predictable basis. We still name them 2x2x30, but we certainly don’t hide the fact that they really measure 1-15/16″. It’s provided in the description.

      Sadly, to understand the actual size of turning woods, or true measure as you call it, we have to get a little geeky about how the stuff is made!

      This difference in named sizes and actual sizes isn’t exclusive to wood, either. It’s actually more pervasive than you may realize. Take clothing for example. Medium shirts from from Eddie Bauer fit me perfectly. But a medium shirt from Kohl’s is too tight, and a large size is too big. Yet my doctor still says, “Mark, you’re getting a little overweight.”

  • B Adams

    i understand the thickness but how do i specify the length desired and/or how can i tell the default length given on the site?

    • Sadly, there’s no “default” length in the hardwood lumber world. In our warehouse, though, most domestic woods range from 6′ long to 12′ long, with a good majority being 8′. A lot of exotic woods are the same, but there’s also a small variety that’s shorter, usually 3′ to 5′ long only.

      For shipping purposes, we are hamstrung by UPS and Fed Ex limitations which really don’t allow for boards to be any longer than 8′. So we aim to send nothing shorter than 4′, but nothing longer than 8′. Unless you ask for something different, which you can do. (there’s a text input box called “Selection Requests” on the ordering page for you).

      If you do need lengths longer than 8′, you’re not totally out of luck as long as you can stomach the high cost of transportation do so, or can build up an order of a minimum of 100 board feet. At that kind of quantity, you can get better freight rates through LTL service, or truck freight.

      Admittedly, there’s a whole balancing act to engage in when it comes to a discussion on lumber length and what can be shipped, and for how much $ dinero.

      I hope it helps?

  • Kent Renee Houston

    Mark. In your opinion do you feel that poplar would be an acceptable wood to use for some interior plantation shutters? I’ll use basswood for the louvers. They will be painted so figure is not a factor. Thanks.

    • Poplar is probably perfect for the job. Inexpensive, lightweight, and its tight grain is good for painting.

      • Forrest

        What about Poplar for a tabletop?

  • Simo Ahtola

    So overly complicated… regular reader of Fine Woodworking in a Metric country and is constantly challenged.
    Could understand that 4/4, 5/4 had made some sence in early days, but seriousy, why you can not just say 1in, 1,25in thick stock. I believe you are even confusing the imperial people…

    • Kevin Williams

      Don’t shoot the messenger. Mark didn’t make the rules, he is only explaining what they mean.

    • Shannon Mikus

      Simo, I buy lumber in standard measurements, but build it in metric. It is easier for me to measure and work in metric, and the buyer doesn’t know the difference between a 6 foot table and a 1.8M table.

  • Jake Watts

    Wonderful article and fantastic follow up to comments and questions. Thank you Mark, well done and very much appreciated!!

  • Corey Loyd

    This could be a dumb question, but I’m new to woodworking, so here goes anyway! If I buy S2S lumber, will I still need to joint before planing?

    • Face jointing? The opinions can vary on this one! The only hard and fast rule I can tell you is to joint the wood if it needs it. Surfaced S2S lumber can still cup or twist down the road, and therefore need to be flattened by planing or jointing. It’s not always the case, though.

  • Michael Kratky

    Just give me 15/16″ to 1″ surfaced one side, I’ll take it from there. For conversation at the box stores S2S is 3/4 ” thick, the lumber yards 13/16″ but with tear out, checks, warping and cupping. Frustrating as I work with very expensive tigermaple and birdseye.

  • Michael Kratky

    Mark, so let me get this straight, 4/4 rough lumber is 1″ thick, 5/4 is 1 1/4 ” and so on. My vast experience is that I need to allow an extra 25% in width (allowing for tear out, warping and cupping) to get to a final dimension of 13/16″ which you referred 4/4 I actually need to buy 5/4 rough. I never buy S2S as most all such boards still have some cupping, warping, and tear out.

    • The only certain things in life are death, taxes, and wood movement. It would be pretty uncommon for a project to be critically dependent to finish out at 13/16″ thickness, but I can understand if you’re frustrated that 4/4 doesn’t yield what you think it should. However, the 13/16″ designation by the NHLA isn’t just getting pulled out of the ether willy-nilly. It’s 13/16″ because that’s what 4/4 will yield cleanly on a routine basis. Presumably 13/16″ should let you then work it down to 3/4″, which is true a vast majority of the time . . . but as you know, wood does move and can do so more than we want it to, and without warning! But the bottom line is that the industry needs a standard target for selling lumber that’s been surfaced, and in the case of 4/4 that’s 13/16″.

      Here’s the page in the NHLA rule book about standard thickness: http://issuu.com/nhla/docs/2015_rulebook_final/9?e=14506784/10572319

      One more thing. You can have 4/4 lumber planed thicker, say 15/16″. But the odds are high that the lumber won’t come out 100% surfaced – it’ll be “hit and miss” or “skip planed” which means parts of the board will be rough.

  • Steve Gronsky

    Mark ………. Excellent article and very nicely detailed answers to customer questions. Thanks for your efforts on this.

  • ATPBM

    Hi Mark, I also encountered the “edged” term when dealing with a lot of common 2, 4/4 white oak. What does that mean? Thank you!

    • It can mean a couple of different things. I need a little more context to give a better answer.

      To take a few stabs at it:
      it could mean that 1). the lumber has been gang ripped to remove wane and give it rough parallel edges or 2). the lumber has one “good” edge that’s been straight-line ripped, which makes it suitable to be further cut to size on a table saw.

  • TWFD1110

    A surfaced board is slightly thinner than the “nominal” thickness. Is this also true of the width, or are hardwoods cut to an exact measurement? For instance, is a 12″ wide board actually 12″ or would it be similar to softwoods in that it’s only 11 1/4″?

    • It depends how that lumber dealer is selling the wood, actually. Is it sold by the board foot, lineal foot or by the piece? That makes a big difference, and here’s why.

      If the lumber is sold by the board foot (a measurement of volume), then you use the exact measurement of the width to the nearest quarter of an inch. Lumber that is sold by the board foot is never referred to as 1×12 or 1×6 or anything of the kind. It’ll be referred to as 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 8/4, etc. It’s only named by its thickness. The widths are “random,” which means the lumber pile will look something like this attached picture, with widths of all kinds. You’d measure the exact width when determining the board footage in the whole board:
      http://www.woodworkerssource.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/hardwood_lumber_thickness_002.jpg

      However, if you go to Home Depot or Lowes you will find some hardwoods like oak, maple and poplar that are sold in uniform widths such as 1×6, 1×3, 1×12 and so on. These will not be sold by the board foot, but by the lineal foot or by the piece. In that situation, these are nominal sizes. Nominal is a term that means “in name only.” Which is to say 1×12 is just a name. Contrary to some beliefs, no one is trying to pull one over on you by selling lumber that measures 3/4″ x 11-1/4″ and naming it 1×12.

      In short, if you’re buying by the board foot you use the exact measurement of the width and the length. The thickness will be identified by a fraction like 4/4 – and as is discussed in the article above, the exact measurement of 4/4 depends on if the lumber is still rough or if it’s been surfaced smooth.

      Any of that help? It’s a little hard to answer your question exactly how you asked it because I have to account of a few paradigms in the system of buying/selling lumber. I hope it clears it up.

      • One more thing. You don’t buy or sell lumber by the board foot if it’s sized to a particular thickness and width. Board footage is reserved for when the widths and/or lengths vary. When you’re buying and/or selling lumber that’s milled to a specific dimension, you’ll price it by the piece or by the lineal foot. Never by the board foot.

        So, here’s an illuminating exercise. 1x12x8′ red oak from my nearest Home Depot sells for $58.70 per piece. The board footage is basically 8 board feet (we can consider the actual 11-1/4″ width later), which equates to $7.34 per board foot. We, on the other hand, sell 4/4 red oak for $5.19 per board foot, or $3.89 if you get 100 or more board feet. Buying by the board foot is just a way to buy it upstream in the chain of distribution before it’s processed in a way that you may or may not need, and therefore incur the costs of doing so. If you don’t need it to be 3/4″ x 11-1/4″ (or what-have-you) why pay the extra for it?

        • TWFD1110

          Very helpful! Thank you so much for your detailed answer. My situation is that I need a finished board width of 12-1/2″, and I wasn’t sure if I needed to ask the dealer for a 13″ (which, if nominal, may be too narrow) or 14″ board assuming there are standard sizes and I’ll just need to cut it down, or if 12-1/2″ might be possible. They sell 4/4 pieces by the board foot.

          • I see. The thing to do is let them know what you need to achieve, rather than what you think you want to start with. That’s the approach we prefer, I’d image others do too.

            Side note. A piece of lumber that’s wide enough to yield 12-1/2″ wide often comes with some downsides. Unusually wide lumber has a greater chance of being cupped, containing excessive sapwood, or including more visual defects. Or all of them! You might be better served by gluing up narrower boards to achieve the width you want. This has a number of advantages, such as you’re in better control of the color, getting consistent grain and it’s much more stable.

        • Andy

          Did that exercise with Poplar a while back…….I ordered from WWS. The small difference, if any, was overridden by the fact that a Craft or Project pack includes shipping, so you get it at your front door. And thanks to the normally excellent eye of Robert and the boys, you get some really great stuff. Hats off to MS and WWS…….”The Only Way To Shop For Lumber”

    • One more thing. You don’t buy or sell lumber by the board foot if it’s sized to a particular thickness and width. Board footage is reserved for when the widths and/or lengths vary. When you’re buying and/or selling lumber that’s milled to a specific dimension, you’ll price it by the piece or by the lineal foot. Never by the board foot.

      So, here’s an illuminating exercise. 1x12x8′ red oak from my nearest Home Depot sells for $58.70 per piece. The board footage is basically 8 board feet (we can consider the actual 11-1/4″ width later), which equates to $7.34 per board foot. We sell 4/4 red oak for $5.19 per board foot, or $3.89 if you get 100 or more board feet. Buying by the board foot is just a way to buy it further upstream in the chain of distribution before it’s processed in a way that you may or may not need, and therefore incur the costs of doing so.

  • S. Mitchase

    I needed this… I really did thanks obviously I wasn’t the only one :-)

    • Michael Twigg

      I have ran my own Carpentry/Joinery Manufacturing company for over 20 years and the amount of friends & associates that have come to me for advice on learning woodwork or on how to build a certain item for their home. Every time I always refer them to the website below:

      solution2solve*com/woodworking (obviously change the * for a dot as it won’t let me post links here)

      Watch the video on that link and then follow their full guides if woodworking is something you want to get in to, or if there is something particularly that you are looking to build, and even if you are already competent but just want to improve your skills by learning the professional way to do things. Sorry if this comment comes across like some sort of sales person but I am just offering some free advice that I find already find myself recommending to everyone

      ..

  • tabright

    I want to make a dresser for my son with 4/4 wood. I want to make it with shelves that are 4/4 (height) x 18″ (depth) x 24″ (width) Additionally, I will need the correct dimensions for the corresponding 2 side frames: 4/4 x – (?)width x (?)height. Then 1 back frame 4/4 x (?)length) x (?)height I also would need the correct dimensions for 4 drawers fronts that open down with inside hinges. Is it possible to get that from you? As I have no way to cut it myself, do you custom cuts for orders?

    • Looks like a great project. Sadly, we do not custom cut specific parts for projects you’ll just assemble.

  • D Hancock

    I am contemplating building 7′ pantry cabinets…would 8′ x 4′ lumber work?

    • I’m not sure that’s the right approach. Cabinetry, especially built-ins for the home, is frequently made by building the major casework from 3/4″ plywood, then trimming with solid wood face frame and/or molding. Of course there are other ways to do it, but I don’t see how 8/4 lumber would be one of them.

      • Jim

        I think that D Hancock was asking a slightly-different question than the one you answered. I think he was asking about 8 foot by 4 foot boards, not 8/4. 8×4-foot boards ought to work, I would think. The real question would be the thickness; 8×4 boards will be very heavy.

        • I see what you mean. But it looks like I need to clarify the difference between lumber and sheet goods. Much of this should probably go into a new separate post, but I’ll *try* to make this brief. Be sure to see the attached pictures for illustration.

          1. Lumber is the solid material that’s sawn from a log, also called “boards.” Only under rare or extremely bizarre situations will you find solid lumber cut from a log that’s sized 8′ x 4′.

          2. Sheet goods, on the other hand, are what you’ll find manufactured in 4′ x 8′ size sheets (note that the size is identified width by length: 4′ x 8′). Plywood, melamine, fiberboard, etc. are all types of sheet goods. They can also come in other sizes like 4′ x 10′, 5′ x 5′, etc, but the most common is 4′ x 8′.

          3. When discussing lumber sizes, the accepted format goes in this order: Thickness x Width x Length. I’ve attached an image to illustrate each dimension.

          4. Modern day cabinet building uses very little solid lumber. Usually a cabinet or built-in consists of the main “box” constructed out of plywood (or another sheet good), and a frame or the trimwork is milled from solid wood. The frame and/or trim is commonly just 3/4″ x 1-1/2″ x the necessary length. Image attached to illustrate.

          However, if you are building a cabinet out of solid lumber without a single piece of plywood, it can be done and there are techniques for pulling it off – sadly, starting with a solid board that’s 4′ wide and 8′ long is not the way . . . partly because that size does not exist. Yet if it did, you’d be introduced to the severe difficulties of working with such a fantastically large piece of wood. Not just the weight of such a piece, but also its instability and rapid rate of degrade. There’s a reason why most lumber piles consist of boards 4″ to 12″ wide. Wider material is both more uncommon and impractical to work with – not impossible, just impractical.

          I hope this helps.

        • I see what you mean, Jim. But it looks like I need to clarify the difference between lumber and sheet goods. Much of this should probably go into a new separate post, but I’ll *try* to make this brief. Be sure to see the attached pictures for illustration.

          1. Lumber is the solid material that’s sawn from a log, also called “boards.” Only under rare or extremely bizarre situations will you find solid lumber cut from a log that’s sized 8′ x 4′.

          2. Sheet goods, on the other hand, are what you’ll find manufactured in 4′ x 8′ size sheets (note that the size is identified width by length: 4′ x 8′). Plywood, melamine, fiberboard, etc. are all types of sheet goods. They can also come in other sizes like 4′ x 10′, 5′ x 5′, etc, but the most common is 4′ x 8′.

          3. When discussing lumber sizes, the accepted format goes in this order: Thickness x Width x Length. I’ve attached an image to illustrate each dimension.

          4. Modern day cabinet building uses very little solid lumber. Usually a cabinet or built-in consists of the main “box” constructed out of plywood (or another sheet good), and a frame or the trimwork is milled from solid wood. The frame and/or trim is commonly just 3/4″ x 1-1/2″ x the necessary length. Image attached to illustrate.

          However, if you are building a cabinet out of solid lumber without a single piece of plywood, it can be done and there are techniques for pulling it off – sadly, starting with a solid board that’s 4′ wide and 8′ long is not the way . . . partly because that size does not exist. Yet if it did, you’d be introduced to the severe difficulties of working with such a fantastically large piece of wood. Not just the weight of such a piece, but also its instability and rapid rate of degrade. There’s a reason why most lumber piles consist of boards 4″ to 12″ wide. Wider material is both more uncommon and impractical to work with – not impossible, just impractical.

          I hope this helps.

  • lrick

    Do you suggest I use 4/4 or 6/4 knotty alder to make a hanging barndoor?

    • The hardware you use will probably have a specification for the thickness of the door, so get your hardware first. Usually interior doors for closets and passage ways are 1-1/4″, 1-1/2″ or 1-3/4″ thick. So you’re most likely looking at using 6/4 or 8/4. But still, get your hardware first and that will probably answer the question with certainty.

      I’d like to see a picture of this door when you get it done!

  • Weatherby

    I’m planning to buy my own portable sawmill, so I have to become familiar with the terms. This information makes it much easier to understand. Thanks

  • pstem

    can you explain E4E

    • E4E means Eased 4 Edges. It’s a term that often describes a decking product. When they say the edges are eased that means there’s a slight round over along the length of the corners of the board, which is a good thing for decking. In this attached picture you can see there’s a very slight radius on the corners of all 4 edges. That’s E4E.

      • pstem

        Excellent and thanks… the reason I am inquiring is… I export cants of precious hardwoods from Nicaragua of that have been downed by hurricanes Mitch and IDA. Amazing wood that is difficult to extract but as well very hard to find in the market due to the protection in place for these species. The new law states that timbers must be touched at a minimum on 2 sides by industry-mill before export. No more chainsaws with marcos in the jungle. I respect the law and there fore have changed the business plan and bought a mill. The mill is an existing mill and all the machinery is from Austria. Including a KD environment. I have now opened the market and now am receiving the requests to deliver S4S – E4E – FAS decking.

        Is there an industry standard to the roundness of the edges with regards the E4E.

        • I don’t know what the standard radius dimension is, sorry. Decking industry is a little out of my field of knowledge. If you’re getting requests for the material, your customer may know.

  • DD

    Does 5/8″ thick finish lumber come 11 1/4″ ? [12″ Nominal] My Interior stairs need 5/8″ material for “skirt board” each side to transition smoothly to 5/8″ x 5″ base trim at top and bottom? Appreciate any comments.

    • Probably not. You’d have to plane it down from 3/4″ thickness. If you don’t have that capability it can be done by a milling service.

  • Elton

    Thanks great easy to understand article and I appreciate the knowledge. So I am planning t build some shelves for an audio rack I own that came with MDF. I want 3 inch thick shelves. They are about 18 in by 22 in wide. Would it be better to buy 12/4 wood and cut a solid board to the correct size and shape or glue a few smaller 12/4 boards together together to get the size or to glue a series of 4/4 boards together to get the right size and then cut the shape? I do know the wood can curl and also shrinks and expands with the weather.

    Also, the two front corners will have to be concaved inward to fit around the posts. Would it be best to route and with which blade? I do have a router but no routing table. I also have a jig saw.

    I built shelves once before but I used pine which is too soft and to get a thicker shelve I glued two shelves together which doesn’t look anything like the shelves I’ve seen other make. Thanks.

    • bb

      If you have clamps to glue it it would probably be cheaper to glue together thinner boards.

    • I’m wondering why you want the shelves to be so thick. If it’s only for the appearance, then a better approach is to make boxes 3″x18″x22″ from plywood. Be sure to orient the face veneer so the grain runs the direction you want on the front of the shelves. To notch the front corners, make a template that matches the curved shape and use it to to mark a line on your shelves. Rough cut it with the jigsaw, then clean up with the hand held router and a pattern bit – or just clean them up by hand with a cabinet scraper and/or sanding. Depends how big the curved notch is.

    • the blood brother

      I would build them hollow, with either veneered ply or natural wood, but it will save you money and be lighter than a solid chunk of wood.

  • Mike in Wickenburg

    Great info for the beginner.

    But, I do have a question: When repairing or re-tightening wooden chairs, it is necessary to sand the inside of the dowel holes to remove old glue. In the past, I have made my own sanding sticks by wrapping sandpaper around a 1/2 dowel. Is the a product readily available that I can use instead?

    • Sure, you can use a drill bit the same size as the hole. You just need to do a little reaming. With a power drill you risk enlarging the hole, which you don’t want to do. Just use a drill bit in a pair of vise grips and gently ream out the hole. Faster and arguably better than sanding.

  • juegos en hospitales

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  • SR

    so I guess the answer is a resounding “no” that I can’t ask Mark a question about his post on Sapwood in Walnut from March. Thanks!

    • Sure you can! Please post it again if it’s gone unanswered. Sadly, there’s an obscene amount of spam that gets run through the comments every day and so they have to be checked over manually for the “real” ones. Perhaps yours got overlooked, if that’s the case please accept my apologies. It’s not intentional. Re-post it, email me (mark@woodworkerssource.com) or call 480-344-1020 xt 110. I’m happy to help.

  • Raiders

    This is very cool. Thanks for the info. Now, is 1/2″ lumber common-
    that is, is it sold at most lumer yards?

    • No, not exactly common. Anything thinner than 1″ is actually planed down from thicker lumber, rather than sawn from a log with the intention of becoming 1/2 or 3/8 or whathaveyou. “Thin” stock is a convenience item.

  • Zak

    Thank you this was well written and explained. I found it informative and helpful, thank you for posting it.

  • Tg

    Very helpful! Thanks

  • matt

    what about a composite material