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Thread: Do Pros use rough sawn boards for Kitchen cabinet builds?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    Pittsburgh, PA
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    Do Pros use rough sawn boards for Kitchen cabinet builds?

    Just have to ask this question!

    I am turning some boards that came from an ash tree on the property into dimensioned boards for a kitchen I am building in my “hobby house”. This is on the property next door which I bought just before retiring. I bought it for the land and to ensure we would not have to deal with an undesirable neighbor during our remaining years (decades hopefully ). So there is no rush to get the house finished. I basically gutted the place and except for the basic frame everything inside is new, or will be.

    Anyway, I have concluded it must be impractical for a pro to mill his own lumber to be used in making cabinets, unless possibly if it is a high end (read very expensive) installation. Just seems like it would be much more efficient time wise to buy demensioned lumber and “just get it done”.

    Curious to hear how close I am to hitting the target with this conclusion.

    Bill
    Too much to do...Not enough time...life is too short!

  2. #2
    You would be wrong there. Keep in mind that using s4s only means that you paid someone else to do the milling. There really is no way to eliminate that cost. Many shops do farm out certain operations, everything from milling to drawer and door building. Some shops even farm out cabinet part production. But this is more about choosing what you want to concentrate on or have the ability to do and less about actual profitability. In my experience, the big manufacturers pretty much have a lock on semi custom and operate very lean. So all that's left for the little guy is the total custom end of the market.

  3. #3
    For 35 years we sold rough, KD, graded lumber to local cabinet shops. Some tiny shops lacked a planer and we sold the lumber surfaced on the faces to them.

  4. #4
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    I was a self employed pro from 1971 to 1994. Made mostly store fixtures and office furniture. The first 4 years I used S2S and jointed edges. After that I only bought S3S. The upcharge over rough was tiny. I was in a big city and ordered from 3 wholesale yards that delivered for free. 95% of it was flat and straight. Lumber that I rejected was rare, but the yards would pick it up for free and give me full credit.
    For me it was way faster and cheaper to order S3S.
    Last edited by Andrew Joiner; 02-28-2019 at 8:27 PM.
    "Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t - you’re right."
    - Henry Ford

  5. #5
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    Western Nebraska
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    Depends on the cabinets in my shop, usually I order with a straight edge and S2S for all things paint grade and lower quality. If it's more expensive, I like to do all the milling. I rarely build whole kitchens though, generally just a custom cabinet built to match what they have, built ins, or customizing something one of the big companies made. The guys who exclusively do cabinets for a living probably have a different approach.

  6. #6
    We buy S2S. In a production environment, if you don't have a moulder or double sided planer surfacing everything, it takes too long in my opinion.

    We have a rip saw, so I don't see the need to buy it with a clean edge. When we didn't, I always ordered S3S.

    Then there's the sawdust. Tough to deal with in a small shop when emptying the collector isn't automatic.

  7. #7
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    Some years ago I bought what is called here surfaced two sides, one straight edge. I think this is what Andrew is referring to as S3S.

    Time difference between what I am doing now and using that s2s one straight edge stuff is huge. For me anyway.

    This is what drove my question. Just seems like there would be more money to be made building and installing cabinets than milling lumber. Don’t really know, hence the question.
    Too much to do...Not enough time...life is too short!

  8. #8
    I'm not a pro, but anytime I need more than about 100 bd ft of something, I just have the yard do a S2S & SL1E (surface 2 sides plus a straight line rip), and have it delivered. It isn't worth my time to drive 50 mies round trip, pick out lumber, and then stand in front of the jointer and planer for a couple hours. Plus there is the wear and tear on my knives (and body). Whatever they use doesn't leave any snipe, and the surface finish isn't too bad. Sometimes I might have them do a 7/8ths hit and miss if I want to do the final planing for some reason. I have even had them rip to width if I needed enough of something and was in a time crunch, like when I redid all the trim on the first floor of my old house.

    If I were a pro, I would definitely have them do it for me. To me, jointing and thicknessing wood is the most drudgerous part of woodworking, and it would be the first thing I would outsource.

  9. #9
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    Peoria, IL
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    I ran my shop from '87-95. I started ordering rough sawn, then a couple years in I would order it hit or miss to 15/16" off a strat-o-planer. The mill I was ordering from, would send me rough sawn 4/4 that could be almost 1 1/4" thick. It took a lot of effort to get it to 7/8 or 13/16.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Seemann View Post
    It isn't worth my time to drive 50 mies round trip, pick out lumber, and then stand in front of the jointer and planer for a couple hours. Plus there is the wear and tear on my knives (and body).
    Right Andrew. Even if I would've gotten rough hardwood for free it would cost more than paying for S3S hardwood.
    To drive any distance, sort, load, and unload. Then face joint, plane, edge joint with hand feeding long stock thru the jointer. The costs for labor and maintenance on the machines would add up.
    "Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t - you’re right."
    - Henry Ford

  11. #11
    I have had to use pre- dressed at times ,as an employee. Think glue joints are best done with wood that is not twisted.
    I like useing my skill to dress material. Sometimes the real reason the wood is bought dressed is management will not
    demand that workers cut down on breaks and improve skills.

  12. #12
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    Apr 2016
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    Tasmania
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    If it is cabinet joinery, purchasing straightline gauged timber is OK provided you have a good supplier. Buy it from a big box store and you are in deep trouble.

    If it is precision work as in chair making and the like, it is not worth paying the mill to dress it as sizes are odd, you have to select every piece for figure and colour etc so rough sawn is best.

    As with most things, it is not a one size fits all answer. The best solution is worked out when estimating the job so that you allow the correct times and resources. If it is line ball on cost, I always take on the labour myself. Why not keep busy? Subcontracting is for stuff you either don't want to do or can't do and I would rather pay myself than a subbie. But then I am perfectly happy standing at a machine for days, especially when I can look out over the farm and beyond to the World Heritage reserves of Western Tasmania. Cheers

  13. #13
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    Williamstown,ma
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    For as long as I have been in business, we have bought almost exclusively rough lumber, and done all the milling ourselves.
    The only exceptions are with exotics , and South American woods, which we have them S2S to get rid of the gravel that is ALWAYS embedded in it.
    It does not take that long to mill stock.

  14. #14
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    Some volume operators are likely going to be more inclined to buy surfaced stock in some cases, but others have the gear to run the rough stock through and come up with boards ready to work. For the latter, the machines that often get used are a little more capable than the things that we solitary workers tend to have in our shops...they feed the material automagicallly and work multiple surfaces concurrently. The shop I was in for a sign workshop down in VA a few months ago had such a machine and it was pretty slick. Personally, I would prefer to work the sticks myself because i have complete control of grain and color and can also cut boards out of rough stock "not parallel" to the sawmill edge when that's the right choice for a component. But I build things "one at a time" and that attention to detail gets charged to a paying customer.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #15
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    We have always surfaced and S4S our own stock. Even before we had a straightening S4S moulder. I can see where a larger custom cabinet only shop would buy S2S SLR1E stock. Especially if they are in a competitive market.

    I prefer hit and miss over rough. 4/4 is usually 15/16 and 8/4 is 1 15/16. The advantage to H&M is you can see the grain of the lumber, see defects, it is usually cleaner from dirt and rocks and still enough thickness to get everything straight and flat.

    Some species only come rough. In this case we usually face one surface on the jointer to look at the grain before proceeding to rough out parts. Rough is a lot more work to process and makes more shavings.

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