Woodworking Tips - Lumber Lingo

Understanding Lumber Terminology

If you are fortunate enough to have a hardwood lumber yard near you, you are in luck. You potentially have access to all kinds of wood species of different width, lengths and shapes; maybe even access to some live edge slabs! However, buying lumber can seem confusing and intimidating if you have never done it before or are not familiar with some of the terminology and lingo. In today’s blog, I want to spend a few minutes giving some tips on how to get yourself educated before going in to buy lumber so that you can have an understanding of some of the questions to ask, and what the folks at the mill may be asking you.

Types of Lumber

When it comes to buying lumber, you have two main categories, rough cut and dimensional. Rough cut lumber is wood that is straight off of the wood mill and has not been processed any further, meaning it has not been surfaced in any way. Rough cut, or rough sawn, lumber is very raw and is mainly for those consumers that are going to dimension the lumber themselves; either by hand or with machines. Even with rough cut lumber, you can purchase some partially dimensioned, or surfaced, lumber. This brings us to the next set of terms to know; Surfaced on one side (S1S) and Surfaced on two sides (S2S). Each of these means exactly what the name implies. S1S is rough cut lumber that has then been surface planed on one side and S2S implies that it has been surfaced on both  sides; the top and bottom faces. You can also, usually, get the boards surfaced on one edge, or both edges (S4S), surfaced on four sides. With rough cut lumber, the more surfacing you have the mill do, the more expensive the board is going to cost. Most lumber yards will charge you some price per linear foot (how long the board is), say and additional $.20 per linear foot.  Now, these boards may all still be of varying widths, so they are not uniform as is the case with dimensional lumber.

Dimensional lumber refers to lumber that is cut in standardized, uniform width and thicknesses; think pine 2x4 or 2x6 for example. Dimensional lumber has been surfaced and processed to conform to these regulated standards and are most often found in construction grade woods for house and framing, like the big box stores offer. On a cost basis, dimensional lumber costs more than rough cut lumber does, per board foot. “What’s a board foot?” you may be asking...

How Rough Cut Lumber is Measured

Rough cut lumber is priced and sold on what is called a board foot basis. Think of this as the volume of a piece of wood; width, times length, times thickness. There are a lot of calculators online to figure this out, but you can also do it yourself pretty quickly. For example, let’s say you have a 1” thick board that is 6” wide and 72” long. Your calculation would be: (1x6x72) which equals 432 cubic inches. To convert that to board feet, just divide by 144 and you are left with 3. So, that board equals 3 board feet.

Now, we need to take a minute to talk about one last thing; quarters. See, when you by dimensional lumber, you may already know that a “2x4” isn’t really 2” by 4”, but is actually 1.5” by 3.5”. Rough cut lumber works differently and is all based on quarters, which is the thickness of the rough, unfinished surface. So, you have 4/4, which is 1” thick; 5/4, which is 1.25” thick and so on, 6/4, 8/4, 12/4. This is important because that quarter inch is what is generally milled away to give you your final, finished dimension. For example, once you surface and mill a 4/4 piece of lumber, it’s optimal finished thickness will be .75” or 3/4 of an inch. So, if you are building a table and want to have a top on it that is 1” thick, you would buy 5/4 lumber and mill it to 1”.

Rough cut lumber of various quarters


So, as you are sketching out your next project and you are thinking “how much lumber do I need?” you can quickly break the pieces of the project into the their “quartered parts” meaning, “how many of my project pieces are made from 4/4?” or “how much 8/4 lumber do I need?” then, you can use that information to convert to board feet and then you will know about how much your project will cost in terms of wood required. This is extremely helpful in those situations when someone says “hey, how much would it cost for you to build me a coffee table?”. Now you can back your way into that number. Plus, hopefully when you go to the lumber yard, this has helped you understand the terminology they use and how they are calculating the cost of your lumber.

Any other tips or suggestions? Feel free to leave that in the feedback section!

Laying out parts on rough lumber

Workshop Dust Collection

Dust Collector Setup

Back in September, I had the opportunity to do a write-up for Highland Hardware's online newsletter, Wood News Online. I did a tour of my, not yet complete, workshop (is it ever complete?). Since that time, I have received a number of questions about my dust collection setup, so I thought I would address them in a blog post. Hopefully you can pick up a couple tips/tricks and maybe learn something and spark ideas for your own shop. 

Dust Collection FAQ

The first question I mostly received as a result of the article was, "what is that cyclone setup you have there in the corner?". I will address that later below. The second question I received the most was, "you have two dust collectors?". The answer is "yes, I do". I do have two dust collectors and here's why...

Dedicated Dust Collectors

One of my dust collectors is the famous Harbor Freight "2 HP" system that nearly everyone and their brother and sister have. I have had this particular dust collector for over 10 years and it has held up quite well. The only thing I have done to it is to replace the top bag with a 2.5 micron Grizzly filter for more fine dust filtration. When I was setting up my new shop, I thought about modifying this dust collector to a cyclone system, but due to the size and layout of my shop, I knew that it would not have enough power to handle all of the machines as some of the runs would be 30 feet or greater, with the greatest need (planer and jointer) being the furthest away. So, this spawned the idea of going one of two directions; Get a new, bigger dust collector or get a second dust collector. I opted for the second dust collector because of cost and complexity; complexity in running duct work specifically. So, my Harbor Freight dust collector is dedicated to my table saw and bandsaw. The reason for this is, these devices put off smaller dust particles, not chips or shavings, and this machine handles these situations very well. This machine is also fitted with the 110V PSI Long Ranger remote.

My second dust collector setup, which I will explain in more detail below, is dedicated to my jointer, planer, floor sweep and router table. These devices put off bigger shavings and dust particles and my second dust collector setup is better suited for these devices. I set this up in a cyclone model specifically for these larger chips. Let me explain...

Dust Collector Cyclone

While doing my research for a second dust collector, I looked everywhere and looked at all options. Somehow, and I don't know where where or how, I came across a company called Kufo Industries. They had a very compelling system that claims to be a 2 HP system, I took that with a grain of salt as many manufacturers tend to overstep their claims, and this is also a measurement in 100% ideal conditions; which are never met. The one reason I could tend to believe this is closer to 2 HP than not is that it is also a 220V system, which was appealing to me as well. I was able to find the system from Amazon.com, because you can buy pretty much anything there. The price was very compelling, so like many do with the Harbor Freight model, I decided to go for it; what did I have to lose?

Now, I planned on converting this, or any dust collector I bought, to a cyclone from the get-go, in order to have the advantage of a chip separator for the jointer and planer. The other reason this was a must for this particular model, and I will point out in case you decide to pick one of these up is, the impeller is made of vinyl. This was a point of hesitation for me, but since I knew I was going to put a cyclone in front of it, I didn't worry too much. So, I went to one of the most trusted names in cyclones and bought an Oneida Super Dust Deputy

This Kufo dust collector is pretty versatile and the setup just begs for a cyclone to sit under it. I detached the motor and output from the little stand that came with it and put it up on a bracket on the wall to get it raised up in order to get the cyclone and drum under it. I also bought a salvage drum from Amazon to capture the chips. This drum is really nice because it has a pretty solid lid that has a foam seal and a strong, metal, lever-lock ring so it seals up nice and tight. The Dust Deputy has a 5" inlet on it and it is a bit difficult to find 5" PVC so I temporarily ran 5" flex pipe down the wall. I did this because I plan on using metal ducting down the road, but I didn't want to commit to a layout just yet. I wanted to work in the shop for a while to see if I liked the layout and if I want to change anything, the flex pipe makes it really easy. This machine is also fitted with a 220V PSI Long Ranger remote. 

Dust Collector Setup - What's Next?

So, this is my setup...for now. I say "for now" because I think I will be changing a few things down the road. For example, I will be running metal pipe once I decide on a machine layout. Second, I am considering either putting in a larger drum or putting a plexiglass window so I can see how full it is. The only "problem" I've had is when the drum fills up, it will "bypass" the cyclone and drop the chips into the bag. This is undesired because, remember, it only has a vinyl impeller so you risk breaking it. Lastly, I may redo the floor sweep. Right now, I have it near the workbench so I can pick up shavings and such from hand tool work. It works ok, but I need a better solution for securing it to the floor without permanently fixing it to the floor. 

Dust Collector - Performance

So, how does it perform? In its current setup, which is knowingly not the ideal setup, it works GREAT! I am pleasantly surprised at how well it has worked for me so far. The Kufo system is pretty quiet and performs very well. Now, I do not think I could use either the Kufo or the Harbor Freight to effectively run my entire shop, so I feel that by creating two separate systems I get the best performance and efficiency possible. Once I make some final improvements to the cyclone, it will work even better.

If you still have questions about the setup, feel free to contact me with any questions. Check out some pictures below to see the setup.