Do you have a new project in mind and don’t know what kind of lumber to use for your project? With so many different kinds of lumber available, it may be overwhelming. First you have to decide whether a hardwood or softwood would be more appropriate for your specific project. How do you tell them apart? Hardwoods are porous on the surface, much like the pores on your skin. The sizes of these pores determine the grain patterns and textures. Examples of some hardwoods are: Ash, Bamboo, Cherry, Maple, and Walnut. Softwoods have closed grains, small fine pores that are not seen easily on finished products. Some examples of softwoods are: Cypress, Douglas fir, and Cedar.

Hardwood grades are graded by the Nation Hardwood Lumber Association. This organization determines the grade of lumber by the number of defects in the board. First and second grade lumber have a minimum board size of 6″ x 8″ and have a useable face material of 83% or higher. Select grade lumber has a minimum board size of 4″ x 6″ and also has a useable face material of 83%. #1 common grade lumber has a minimum board size of 3″ x 4″ but only has as useable face material of 66%. #2 common grade lumber has a minimum board size 3″ x 4″, the same as #1 common grade lumber, but only has a useable face material of 50%.

Softwood grades are divided into two separate categories, dimensional lumber (with a grade based on the strength of the wood), and appearance of the boards, which are most commonly used in the woodworking field. Softwood grading is broken down into five different categories. C select grade is the best grade of softwood with almost no defects. D select grade has a fine appearance but may occasionally have small knots. 1 common is the best for use with pine due to the knotty look; the knots in 1 common lumber are tight and small with not a lot of concern of the falling out. 2 common is generally the same as 1 common but with difference of slightly larger knots. This type of grade is most used for wood shop projects. 3 common grade has even larger knots than 2 common and is mostly used to make shelving and paneling. Another use for this grade of lumber would include but not limited to fencing, box making, and crate making.

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