Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 19

Thread: What do you guys look for in wood?

  1. #1

    What do you guys look for in wood?

    I was at a flea market looking for coffee tables, when I saw a desk with a bookmatched top centered around a huge knot. The woodworker (a festool and power tool guy) told me that he specifically looks for wood with character.

    Do you guys have a particular thing you look for in wood?
    Any species to avoid?

    Also, do you get "practice wood" or just go straight to the good stuff?

  2. #2
    Lots of angles of attack there. Some projects need a particular color, texture, grain, or working characteristic.

    Sometimes wood falls in your lap and you take it, waiting for the right piece.

    A project can be designed around a grain pattern, figure, edge, or defect. Only limited by our imagination.

    I like knots, and knot holes, and other defects, as an accent.

    Construction lumber toolbox lid. One faint knot as composition:

    image.jpg

    Side of same box, pecky whitewood:

    image.jpg

    Some projects need restraint in grain, figure, etc:

    image.jpg

    (Please ignore the junk around the stalled projects.)

    Hank Gilpin uses wood in a very inspirational way.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    twomiles from the "peak of Ohio
    Posts
    7,034
    I use what I can get my hands on...but, figure..figure..figure. I try to show off the wood's figure, as much as I can. Maybe use a contrasting wood to accent things..

  4. #4
    Depends on the application. If simplistic stuff. Then straight grain and no knots. But if there is a need for more uniqueness then more character on the wood itself.
    Turning is a good example of uniqueness.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    So Cal
    Posts
    2,131
    I look for the straight boards mixed in with all the crooked ones.
    Aj

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    18,354
    Blog Entries
    1
    Do you guys have a particular thing you look for in wood?
    Any species to avoid?

    Also, do you get "practice wood" or just go straight to the good stuff?
    Most of the time my wood is the least expensive pine or some kind of western fir. It takes a little time to flip through the racks while keeping them neat to find ones that are straight and do not have damaged or bark edges. Ones with interesting grain or like what John calls 'pecky white wood' often get purchased even if there isn't a project in mind for it at the time. It looks good on the side of our hall DVD shelf.

    Birdseye Pine.jpg

    My name for it is bird's eye pine. It looks good with a bit of stain.

    Often scraps from this are set up as practice wood when setting up a plow or other specialty plane.

    Lately my situation has allowed me to purchase some more expensive wood like oak and a bit of ebony. With the oak my choice was to purchase a 10bf quarter sawn piece. My wife helped me pick a piece with good medullary rays. My mind hasn't settled on exactly what it will be used to make.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    SE Michigan
    Posts
    1,687
    Usually project specific. I outline the ideal (clear, straight grain for table base, high figure for table top and drawer fronts, for example) and hope for the best when I get to the lumber supplier. Frequently the ďidealĒ changes a bit once I start looking through boards. In general, I like high figure, but sometimes you just have to take whatís there at the time.

    If a project requires multiple boards, I do look for similar characteristics. And as Andrew said, straight is a high priority. I quit buying 3/4 S4S, because itís typically never flat and would never end up 3/4 (unless Iím going for 1/2).

    With all that said, if I see a board with interesting character, Iíll usually pick it up and decide what to do with it down the line. Iíll even look through the maple and oak stock at the big box when Iím there. Found a real nice piece of quilted maple once.

  8. #8
    Thanks for the tips.

    My local big box store (Home Depot) leaves much to be desired with wood.
    Most of it is warped, cupped, AND twisted, with knots and splits in pretty much every board.
    That construction lumber you have is MUCH better than my home depot stuff.

    My other option is McBeath's lumber in Berkeley or Newton Moore in San Leandro.
    Both are good, but pricy.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Pasadino, CA
    Posts
    847
    I collect lumber like a quilter stashes fabric. When I start a project I let my stash inspire me.
    8/4 is my favorite, ready to book.

  10. #10
    You saw a guy at a flea market. This means the guy was building stuff to sell. He has a good business plan for sure. Today, there are just not as many people wanting quality work that can last forever. They are perfectly content with knock down furniture and hot glue and staples. Cheap and disposable. They probably even prefer it so they can throw it all out and change once in a while.

    So, that being what it is, if I were building a piece of heirloom furniture I would be looking for high quality straight grained stable wood as free from defects as possible. If I were making it to sell, I would be looking for knots, unique grain, or something cheap that I could put a unique finish on. You know, like that distressed thing. When a guy builds a beautiful piece, usually out of pine, sands it to perfection, paints it with the finest milk paint, and then beats it with a chain and sands the paint off on the corners.

  11. #11
    Clean and free. And I'm willing to compromise on the clean part.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Dublin, CA
    Posts
    4,119
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Lau View Post
    My local big box store (Home Depot) leaves much to be desired with wood.
    Most of it is warped, cupped, AND twisted, with knots and splits in pretty much every board.
    That construction lumber you have is MUCH better than my home depot stuff.

    My other option is McBeath's lumber in Berkeley or Newton Moore in San Leandro.
    Both are good, but pricy.
    I get most of my good lumber at MacBeath. I've never tried Newton Moore - how do they compare in terms of the woods they carry?

    Back when I lived in Carlsbad (San Diego area) Tropical Exotic Hardwoods was literally one mile up the road. Dangerous.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    twomiles from the "peak of Ohio
    Posts
    7,034
    A friend of mine has a woods...he also has a friend with a bandsaw mill.....I can sometimes buy a load of Maple, Ash, maybe a bit of Walnut..And a bit of White oak..

    There ARE quite a few Amish sawmills in the area....
    Amish saw mill.jpg
    I may have to stop by one of these, sometime...

  14. #14
    When choosing wood for a project I usually go through the following steps in this order:

    1. What woods have the required physical properties for the use? If the wood is a poor choice for the application, it doesn't matter how pretty or cheap it is. For example, if I need something that requires long straight unsupported pieces, I would not pick hard maple, birch, or beech as they are not very stable. If the wood needed excellent machining qualities I would pick beech or cherry if I could. If it needed great screw holding abilities, I would go more for oak or maple rather than basswood or aspen.

    Another example, I'm building a pair of 6 foot tall bookcases for my mother's house, which will be carried up two flights of stairs. They are getting make out of nice lightweight white pine, even though it is more expensive here than heavy, dense red oak.

    2. What wood with the required physical properties would aesthetically work? I tend to dislike plain straight grain and go more for something with more character when I can, unless the object would be better off with less visual interest, sometimes you don't want an object to overwhelm a room or be too busy.
    If possible, I'll go for something with a nice figure, or with some kind of visual interest in the right place, maybe a knot or wave in the grain or ray fleck.
    I also like to go with maybe a more uncommon wood or size when possible. I like to go for 7/8 thickness when the stock allows it (I tend to get rough 4/4). In general I avoid using 3/4 red oak with a clear finish; it just seems to have a certain high school shop look to it (note: I approve of and support my local high school wood shop; in fact they are going to get one of my extra RO sanders soon).

    3. What is wood meets the required physical and aesthetic characteristics and is cheap? There is no sense in spending more than necessary. Red and white oak look essentially the same under a coat of dark stain, no sense paying the extra dollar a board foot for white. Walnut and cherry are both pretty, but cherry is half the cost and twice the quality here, 10 years ago it was the opposite, go figure. And nothing beats free if it works for the application

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Princeton, NJ
    Posts
    5,284
    Blog Entries
    7
    Straight grain, I prefer character in waves rather than swirls.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •