Tips on Buying Wood for Woodworking

The quality and the look of your wood craft depend greatly on your workmanship and the material you are using. But finding a great piece of wood can be quite challenging. You need to take into account the grade and cut of wood and how it's sized. The following information will help you choose the best wood for your woodworking designs.


When you are going to the lumberyard make sure you bring along a pencil, measuring tape, scrap paper, a calculator and small block plane to be used for checking the color and grain. We recommend putting down all the dimensions and total board feet for each board so you could verify the salesperson's calculations.


When choosing wood for your woodworking rafts and arts you should determine its grade first. The classification of wood grades depends on the number and severity of the defects a board has. According to the National Hardwood Lumber Association (or NHLA for short) the following wood grades are distinguished:

Firsts: No or very few noticeable defects.

  • Seconds: The board may feature a knot or other surface defect. Typically firsts and seconds are grouped together and referred to as FAS (firsts and seconds). They are used for making furniture.
  • Selects: These boards come with more noticeable defects, but all they are not big or frequent so can be easily cut out. We don't recommend using this grade for fine furniture as the process of making it will be too time consuming and complicated.
  • Four grades of Common (#1, #2, #3a, #3b): These boards have so many defects that they just can't be used for making furniture.


Wood for Woodworking
  • The way wood was cut also affects its quality. These are the types of cuts:
  • - Plain-sawn: Most boards are cut with plain saw. Since the boards have growth rings that run about 30 degrees their face grain looks a bit circular and wavy.
  • - Rift-sawn: Such boards come with growths rings that meet the face between 30 - 60 degrees. They are distinguished by a straight grain pattern different from the circular shape of the plain-sawn boards. In addition, rift-sawn boards are more stable and more costly than plain-sawn wood.

Quarter-sawn: These boards have growth rings about 60 degrees from their face and can be easily recognized by a straight grain pattern with a flake or ribbon-like figure in the wood. The boards of this type are the most stable and their price is high. Only several species of wood, like white oak, for example, feature such boards.

Wood Deffects


Most wood boards come with knots, splits, cracks, and checks, but since they are found only on a small area of the board planning your cuts around them is usually not a problem. But if they cover the most of the board surface never purchase such board. Also never purchase boards that have warps, twists, or bows. Working out these defects will take too much time so purchase only quality boards that are straight. To check the board for the defects, put one end of the board on the floor and hold the other end to your eye.


Wood can be sold two ways: dimensional and by the board foot:

  • - You can purchase dimensional wood which is smooth and cut to precise widths and thicknesses. Dimensional wood is sold by the linear foot or the board.
  • - Wood that is sold by the board foot may be smooth on all sides or may feature one square edge. A board foot is normally 1 inch thick (called 4/4) by 12 inches wide by 1 foot long. To calculate how many board feet a particular piece of wood has, just multiply its length (measured in feet), width, and thickness (measured in inches) and divide this number by 12.