Buying and Storing Lumber: What You Should Know

Buying and Storing Lumber: What You Should Know

The Backstory

Remember when I shared my first woodworking project, those chairs I made? Well, turns out I had a bit of a nightmare with the wood cracking and warping. Not exactly the look I was going for, let me tell you. But, you know what they say – live and learn, right?

After that little mishap, I knew I had to get serious about understanding lumber – how to buy it, how to store it, and how to work with it to avoid those costly mistakes. And let me tell you, I’ve learned a thing or two that I’m excited to share with you.

Choosing the Right Lumber at the Yard

When it comes to buying lumber, the lumber yard can be a daunting place, especially for a beginner like me. But I’ve picked up a few tricks that have really helped me navigate those aisles with confidence.

First and foremost, I always make sure to inspect the wood carefully before making a purchase. I’ll run my hands along the boards, checking for any warping, twisting, or cracks. And I’ll give them a good whiff too – you’d be surprised how much you can tell about the moisture content just by that fresh, earthy aroma (or lack thereof).

Another thing I always do is ask the staff about the wood’s origin and drying process. Kiln-dried lumber is a must-have in my book, as it’s been carefully controlled to achieve the optimal moisture level. Air-dried lumber can be a bit trickier to work with, as it can still contain pockets of moisture that can lead to those pesky cracks and warps down the line.

And when it comes to species, I try to do my homework ahead of time. I’ll consult the staff on the best options for my project, taking into account factors like grain pattern, stability, and workability. For example, Iroko is a beautiful, durable hardwood, but it can be a bit tricky to work with if you’re not prepared.

Acclimating Your Lumber

Alright, so you’ve scored some top-notch lumber from the yard – now what? Well, the real magic happens in your shop, my friend.

The first thing I do is let the wood rest for a good while, usually a week or two, depending on the climate. I want to make sure it has time to adjust to the temperature and humidity levels in my workspace, which are often quite different from the lumber yard. During this acclimation period, I’ll keep the boards stacked loosely with plenty of air circulation – no tight, compact piles here.

Now, when it comes to cutting the lumber down to size, I’ve learned that it’s best to wait until after the acclimation process. That way, any movement or warping that’s going to happen will happen before I start shaping the wood. Plus, it helps maintain the overall structural integrity of the boards, ensuring a more stable final product.

And speaking of moisture content, I always keep a close eye on that with my trusty moisture meter. I aim for a range of 6-8% for most indoor projects, but I’ll adjust that based on the specific wood species and the intended use of the project. It’s all about finding that sweet spot where the wood is stable, but still workable.

Storing Lumber the Right Way

Alright, so you’ve got your perfectly acclimated lumber – now it’s time to make sure it stays that way. And let me tell you, proper storage is key.

First and foremost, I always make sure to keep my lumber off the ground. A simple set of sawhorses or sturdy shelving units does the trick. This helps prevent any moisture absorption from the floor, which can lead to warping and cupping.

Next, I’ll sticker the boards, spacing them out with those handy little wood strips. This allows for maximum air circulation, preventing any buildup of moisture or mold. And when it comes to stacking, I make sure to align the ends perfectly, so the weight is evenly distributed.

Now, if I’m working with some particularly valuable or rare wood, I’ll take it a step further and seal the ends with a good quality end sealer. This helps prevent any unwanted drying and cracking, keeping the grain nice and stable.

And let’s not forget about those environmental factors. I try to keep my lumber storage area as climate-controlled as possible, adjusting the temperature and humidity levels to match the intended use of the wood. After all, we don’t want any surprises down the line, do we?

Putting it All Together

Whew, that’s a lot of information to take in, I know. But trust me, it’s all worth it when you end up with a final product that’s as sturdy and beautiful as can be.

The key, really, is to approach lumber selection, acclimation, and storage with the same care and attention you’d give to any other aspect of your woodworking project. Because at the end of the day, the wood is the foundation – get that part right, and the rest will fall into place.

So, the next time you find yourself browsing the aisles of the lumber yard, or staring at a stack of boards in your shop, remember these tips. Inspect, acclimate, and store with precision, and you’ll be well on your way to woodworking success. Happy building!


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