Prepping Wood Part II

When we venture out on our woodworking adventure for the first time, when there is a seriousness ordering our steps, we at first make forays along paths well-trod. Going into the big box stores in search of tools, equipment and our raw material, wood, can be like entering the unknown. It can also be disappointing in that expectation does not match what we hope for in the opening experience. I liken this to getting out in nature by camping out but glamping in a yurt with all home comforts matching our home life instead. The experience was comfortable but more detached from what we sought. Eventually, you will discover trails over moors and through woodlands, crossing rivers and climbing higher in search of wood from a dozen sources and not the least of which is skips and someone else’s waste disposal. Generally speaking, the huge stores are somewhat dull and boring compared to finding a small mill somewhere where the miller slabs, stacks and stickers his harvest ina kiln he dries down the wood with. They are not truly a great place to begin an adventure into woodworking.

The magic of starting any craft automatically carries with it the essential ingredient of enthusiasm that emotively results in action. The big-box store is often what we relate to most because they are so big, present and impressive. It’s not because they are in any way experts, it’s because it’s they’re the only thing we’re likely to know of and have been exposed to over the recent decades. And it is not just the big box stores either. Going online these days you will see a pretty impressive array of ‘other’ apparent experts in the form of online woodworking suppliers. They can persuade you into believing that you need a £20,000 budget to get started in woodworking. What you actually need are some basics in the form of wood and tools alongside disposables like sandpaper and glue, nails, screws and such like that. These can be had for very little money if you take time to shop around. I’ve used eBay successfully many time too, especially for hand tools and other support equipment. So far I have found it competitive and generally reliable. I recently purchased a new-to-me Woden vise to replace my soon-to-be-pensioned off my vintage Woden # 3189B woodworking vise which after a hundred years of holding wood is beginning to show signs of wear. I say some of this because for the dimensioning and preparation of wood you must have a bench and a good vise.


My goal through the years has been to not tell you what you need but to show you. It’s almost 30 years ago since I started entertaining the thought of teaching woodworking to others. Some students brought a case or two of their own tools. I skimped down and supplied no more than ten. The ones that took the ten and worked with them seemed to me to be the more successful. The pluralist illusion of more is better proved to be delusional. I coined the phrase and set up my first woodworking courses on this one statement: ‘With ten hand tools and three joints you can make just about anything from wood’. I never changed it and 6,500woodworkers attended the courses based on this premise. These opening paragraphs are to clearly state that the big-box stores are not generally the place to go to buy wood, hand tools or a workbench, etc. Especially is this so if you are moving towards making good and fine furniture. The wood they sell is to be buried behind plasterboard (sheetrock USA), under OSB, inside walls and under floors, and then used to build outdoor decks too. The tools they sell are meant to hang from a tool belt and be pounded with a steel claw hammer. These carpenters, in general, have almost everything come from a chopsaw. They work off their knee and a mobile workstation or a sawhorse/trestle of some kind. All of that said, some will have special categories of finer or better wood, tools and related equipment. But I am really talking about the US here, not the UK. UK big-box stores are generally deplorable. Don’t give up yet though. We’ll get there!

Timber racks like these are the rarity rather than the norm these days. When you find one, support it, even if the prices are a little higher. Once we lose them, they will not return.

Mostly, at the chain store suppliers, we will buy some softwood like pine or fir, spruce, and so on in our starting out. We might also look to secondhand wood and even pallet wood. We don’t yet know if we will be ‘any good‘ at woodworking. It stands to reason that when we think wood we think carpenter. In some countries this works, in the UK and the US, it does not. In some cultures, carpenter is a generic term inclusive of anyone that works with wood. Some cultures provide specialised classifications identifying the exclusivity so we have carpenters, joiners, coopers, cabinet makers and two dozen woodworking crafts besides. Being a woodworker is to be culturally generic – an unclassified group accepted by all other amateurs but not by those qualified by associations and bodies even though in my experience it is the amateur who has done the study and research to better understand more than one area of how to work wood. Anyway, we’re not yet too sure what we are looking for or even looking at when we arrive and walk through the racks and shelves of wood and tools.

Depending on the store, we might find wood in good shape and dry, we might be lucky and hit a good amount of newly delivered stock fresh from the sawmill, but we also might find the picked-over leftovers with splits and banana shapes. But we are excited and what will do for us at this point will not be so when we have gained some working knowledge of wood. Whereas there is something exciting in the midst of our naivety, our newfound energy often results in our buying something resembling a boat propellor blade or the planks to form the vessel itself. Without advice, our insight as to what we are looking for or not looking for is limited. Choosing wood can be something of a dark art. Even now, I still get caught out by one thing that attracted me but that also, at the same time, blinded me. If we take just pine alone we can miss 20 different points to look for before we buy. Are the knots dead knots or live? Do we know such things even exist? What is the difference? Should we still buy such wood and how do we decide? Moving up a notch, is the wood dry or green? How was it dried? How has it been stored and in what conditions? Why is this board so dark and this one so light? Are they different species or all one? This piece is darker in the middle than on the outside. Why? How does pine work with hand tools? Why are the rings so different in depth of colour? Is all pine one species on its own or are there many types? Who will answer all of these questions for you? I would never rely on staff in 95% of big box stores. Most pine in B&Q, Jewsons or Home Base in the UK or Lowes and Home Depot in the US is listed as some kind of generic white wood, but white wood is not a species at all. It just looks white.

And then answer me this. Is softwood soft wood? Is pine soft wood or softwood? Confused? How about is hardwood hard wood? Is pine hard wood or hardwood? Did you know that this is mostly to do with how the tree grows rather than anything to do with denseness and hardness? Why do softwoods drip with resin from pockets in the wood itself? There you are, the 20 basic questions. I could give another 50! Oh, and my spell checker wants to change all the ‘soft wood’ words to ‘softwood’ and ‘hard wood’ words to ‘hardwood’. Can you see the dilemma?

Pallets are not just 36″ by 48″ in size. I find them 8 feet long and 4 feet wide made from good 1″ thick pine and clear with no knots and few nails.

If what I have said does not confuse you, carry on – you’re on your way to becoming a woodworker. Okay so far? It gets easier. Most woodworkers in the carpenter’s trade of construction, work their wood only with power equipment. They like softwoods because it is easy on their so-called power tools and this makes it easier on their bodies too. For us hand toolists, we are bemused. Softwoods like Southern yellow pine, Eastern white pine and several others, work by hand tools beautifully. Redwood from northern Europe on the other hand works beautifully much of the time but at other times will surface tear whichever direction you plane it. Using power equipment like belt sanders, power planers, table saws and so on remove the excess wood by a million strokes and a million tiny bits. Hand tools don’t. We hand tool users on the other hand take wide shavings off and try for long lengths from long strokes too. Such strokes minimise the need for abrading wood to conformity. The carpenter on the job site is least likely apt to give good or apt advice to anyone wanting to make things for the home. Most carpenters I ever met could no more make a door than fly to the moon. They buy doors from big box stores in frames prehung so that a half dozen nails fixes the frame in place and the door needs no remedial work. When I built my first house in Texas I made the doors by hand. The carpenters were gobsmacked with their jaws dropping on the floor. Last week I made my greenhouse door from5 two-by studs in a morning replete with the frame. By maybe 2 pm the door was hung and my greenhouse became functional. I used spruce because it was almost free and with paint on and good maintenance it should last me for a hundred years. Carpenters today are indeed a different breed than those of a hundred years ago. Perhaps to describe them as fitters might be more accurate.

Walking you through this post is my intent and attempt at goodwill. Here in the UK we use a term that may not have reached around the world but its this: “He’s like the weather, he can’t make his mind up!” I often think that wood too is like the weather and in many ways that is with good reason and good linkage. We think that wood should just make its mind up but instead it keeps expanding and contracting according to the weather year on year and season on season. Wood is affected greatly by the atmospheric moisture levels surrounding it whatever that level is. A solid pine door, even with well-made joinery and allowances for weather changes, can expand or shrink to such a degree that the door almost falls through the opening or sticks stubbornly and immovably within it. It can also do the same in a home depending on the family size, the air conditioning if any and of course things like time of year, the number of bathings we take and much more. Does it seem impossible to determine how dry your wood should be? Well, there is much guesswork to it. I have no proof of this except my own experience, but wood has greater ‘elasticity’ in the first few years as a furniture or woodworking piece. I see that eventually, increases and decreases in width through absorbing and releasing moisture from the wood fibres becomes lessened by age. In my space, I have noticed that it is just about always shrinkage that takes place and not expansion. Flush tenons always protrude ever so slightly – dovetails too. I actually like this though. I have no problem. Usually it’s less than a paper thickness, no more.

In one or two of my upcoming posts, I will show you that strategised methods will work well long term and you will become fitter and stronger and more skilled by following the strategy I suggest in the process. You must agree to increasing your willingness to sharpen more frequently and also to using a bandsaw. I would prefer not to hear from those who couldn’t live without their power equipment. I am not interested in using skilless methods. My research shows that 70% of my audience could never own, use or house such equipment. We know such things exist and that people enjoy the benefits of having them but we want more bang for our buck.

Why we prefer buying roughsawn instead of off-the-shelf foursquare

It’s a valid question and if you don’t have machinery and equipment I would say maybe this is an option. The trouble with pre-milled wood is that it often distorts after the milling process that flattened it to create it as a workable section – such is the nature of the beast. Preparing your wood should take place as near as possible to the time you will be working it into a piece, so as to minimise any distortion that can throw off your subsequent work such as laying out and joint making. In general, we rely on the outside faces of our wood as reference and registration faces to run gauges against or hand router planes, ploughs and rebate planes etc. Always remember that would is hygroscopic – it absorbs and releases moisture constantly. This then causes the wood to ‘move’ and joinery constrains the bulk of such movement once done, so for those reason we generally create the joints asap to constrain it within and by the joinery.

A really good reason for buying in rough-sawn stock is the fatness of the wood. What you buy pre-planed will be sold as a one-by which means it will be the net size that’s nominal in that after milling it is finished out at 3/4″ (19mm). This means that you are actually buying 1″ thick stock and then taking away a finished size and paying for the waste you would have had had you bought it rough sawn out of the planer. It also means that the miller fed the board through an automatic four- or five-head cutter and so took wood off from all four sides in a single pass. The economic way for business is to simply take off 1/8″ on each face whereas doing your own from the rough-sawn gives options according to your size need. When I buy kiln dried material of say 1″ it is usually around 1 1/16″ to 1 1/8″ and mostly the latter. I can often hand plane and true this rough wood to between 7/8″ and 1″, and sometimes even fatter depending on distortion, so I get the fuller measure this way.

I try to see my wood ahead of buying so I visit the suppliers if they welcome on-site customers and most of them do. I have not had much success with local tree fellers as log cutters and rarely find the slabbed boards stickered and stacked in good conditions. I gave up on that as it was unpredictable for me. One day you can go and there is wood and you can buy but then one building joinery company can buy up all the stock and you must wait weeks or months for a replaced stock. Your experience may well be different. I have bought enough material now to see that it can be very hit and miss and thereby unreliable.

Going to the timber suppliers is I think our equivalent to how half the population perceives a day out shopping – I always enjoy it. I also enjoy meeting my friends at the timber suppliers. As I wander through the racks I rummage around to pick out the special bits from the odd-bins that others might not want. Often, for little money, I am able to take away a piece or two if I am prepared to cut around ugly stains and wormhole for that quarter-sawn lovely I can use in small projects like boxes.

Okay! What to look for!

In the big box store, I usually am looking for something here in the UK we call Redwood pine. It’s a wood I have relied on since my apprenticeship days, a wood I have loved. It is always hard to say which wood is stable and which is not because they will all surprise you at some point. You soon get used to knowing just what stable is. Stable means that each species you work with is less or more likely to distort when compared to others. Wood is hygroscopic. In a dry atmosphere, it will release any moisture to match the surrounding atmosphere. Conversely, it readily absorbs moisture from when the atmosphere contains moisture at a higher level than the wood has in its fibres. These exchanges of moisture levels will usually but not always cause the wood to change shape and size. When you buy wood from a supplier, it will almost always be dried by a forced method using a kiln of one type or another. But because it says kiln-dried we tend to think that the wood we buy is permanently dried when that is not the case at all. Wood dried down to 7% in the kiln will rarely remain at that level in most of the UK. Wood products made in Houston in southeast Texas, where the MC in the wood may have risen to well over 10%, and then going to west Texas where the desert lands are so dry, will reduce a percentage or two of moisture over a few weeks. If this happens the wooden tabletop will shrink, possibly change shape and will often end up with at least an end-grain crack.

Part III coming very soon. Here we will get to the nitty gritty of how I get my wood from roughsawn to perfected sizes for joinery and so on..


  1. I bought a piece of camphor laurel from a wood show and it turned into a propellor over night.
    Looks like I’m starting a new trade. It’s being a “fitter” of sorts but not wood related. Very hard to know the pros and cons of a job, especially W Tafe where it had a whole image attached: I wanted a passion job but had to work the situation in reverse and save myself physically and hope the mentality may follow.
    As an older person starting a skill I hope to seperate the job and environment from my identity and get into creating and real hand skills one day.. I have the basic tools now and I have long found your teaching tools. I did So want to create (and be a self determined person) cos I know it’s one of the major tenants to life’s purpose and joy. Anyway. I live on. Once again, enjoy the posts

  2. Excellent article Paul. I am fortunate to have a wood supplier only 30 minutes north that carries many species that you might desire for furniture and can be bought rough sawn or S4S if you desire. I always purchase the rough sawn. I go to the big box store for my Sheetrock, 2 x lumber, and maybe for some electrical but that is all I go there to purchase.
    I am looking forward to article III and thank you for your commitment to us that want to learn more.

    1. My worst wood find was from a skip at work – some nice looking pieces about 3″ square and a couple of feet long. Sawn but not planed. I tried to plane them and destroyed the edge on the plane. I tried to cut them with a (metal work) hacksaw with a HSS blade and blunted the hacksaw ! At that point I gave up. A bit of investigation revealed that they were Canadian ‘rock’ maple that had been fireproofed with Alum. Not a good find despite how they looked.

  3. I agree hole heartedly with your comments about internet suppliers. They will sell you anything you want and never give advice on the project or even ask how you intend to work the piece of wood you buy. But then, i guess that’s your job to know, not theirs. But as a new, barely a novice woodworker, it suppliers have been smarter to go to a local hardwood dealer and talk to someone before trying to work hickory with hand tools. Lol

    1. I must have been very lucky the first time I ordered wood over the internet. I have a great supplier in upstate Wisconsin who has helped me immensely over the last few years. Holds to his word, been helpful finding other suppliers of wood he doesn’t have, like air dried quartersawn white oak for steam bending. He even told me to go to HD for a bit of poplar as his shipping costs for something this easy was to expensive!! His prices are very fair especially in being able to trust his suggestions. None of these can be found at a Big Box store.

  4. Have great difficulty in finding wood in the U.K, apart from bigstores, which is mainly pine with a small amount of Oak. Timber suppliers mainly have wood for for construction. Do you have any recommendations on where to go to find for example wood like Cherry?

    1. SL Hardwoods in Croydon have a good stock & reputation but I have not been there for a long time. Have a look at their website. They also supply rare sheet materials

      Other hardwood suppliers are available !

  5. I once bought a dozen 2 z 4s from Home that to uotogether. Took one for use and put another aside for the next day. When I came to use it, it had twisted so much that each end was at right angles to the other.

  6. Following along the lines of your plywood workbench, do you think a mallet head made from laminated baltic birch multiply would work? I am trying to repurpose scraps I have, and I use Titebond 2 as a laminating glue.

    On the subject of recycling/repurposing wood materials, my daughter picked up some shipping pallets locally, and all the wood had been heat treated to kill insects. I’ve been able to reuse some of the 1X slats by surfacing them and then laminating them for chisel handle blanks. Since I no longer do construction, I am able to use a chisel hammer if I need to strike them, and they seem to hold up just fine.

    1. Try it ! You have little to lose except for a bit of time. I suspect it will be Ok. Not quite as dense as the mallets made from compressed and impregnated wood but good enough for use on wooden surfaces.

      Let us know how you got on.

  7. Thanks Paul. 20,000 pounds to outfit a workshop, not for me. One day while woodworking in the shop I was listening to the Fine Woodworking Podcast. The topic was outfitting a shop with $1,000. It was a fun listen. Over the next few days, I spend some time playing that game myself looking at the tools you recommend in the Common Woodworking section, used tool prices, etc. I found that when I reached $1,500 I had everything i needed including the lumber and vise for the workbench. That included a router hand plane and a plough plane. And that $1,500 wasn’t trying to pinch every penny. If I wanted to make some of my tools, I could have done it for much less. It also doesn’t take much room. I work against a well in the garage. can even do so with the car in the garage.

    Out of curiosity, what are the ten tools you reccomend? I’m guessing
    1. No 4 handplane
    2. Rip saw
    3. Dovetail saw
    4. 12″ square
    5. Marking knife
    6. Mallet
    7. 3/4″ chisel
    8. 1/4″ chisel
    9. Marking gauge
    10. Spokeshave

  8. During lockdown I wanted to make the book shelf from woodworking master class using beech. I was keen to buy rough sawn timber and prepare the wood with hand tools myself. Unfortunately I could not find any suppliers that would allow a visit, so had to gamble on internet purchase.

    Generally the wood seemed good quality, cheaper than pre-sawn and I was excited.

    I followed Paul’s advice with preparing stock and sharpened up my scrub, no4 and no5 to get going. I have learnt a lot during the process, mainly that it is hard work, but very satisfying. I needed to reduce the thickness by a good 1/4 inch on all piece, which took me many a weekend to complete.

    As Paul says, wood moves and don’t I know it. Unfortunately as it took so long to prepare my pieces, moving from winter into spring, there’s been movement that has challenged my joinery. However, I did have a long banana piece; given it was rough saw and I needed to take 1/4 inch off, I managed to take out some of the curve giving me a smug look at the end.

    I did some long grain to long grain gluing to make the pieces wide enough; I had a few failed joints due to a combination of not getting the mating faces right and gluing up in a cold garage – two lessons learnt.

    Will I do it again? I believe I will, as I enjoyed the challenge; I just need to plan my time better and get the job done sooner, to reduce the risk of warping as the weather outside changes.

  9. I am a professional joiner, since leaving school in 1984. I vary rarely use power tools, the one I use most is my cordless drill. I have been on site today fitting linings to root lights, sawing timber by hand and using my trusty old 05/2 record jack plane I bought new when I started in 1984. I still sharpen my saws as well.

  10. Hi Paul, your articles, blogs & specific instructional videos have been wonderful reading for some time now. I live in the Waikato, New Zealand and as we have quite a temperate climate, the extremes of moisture content in wood can vary considerably depending on the season.

    I am very fortunate however in that my eldest son is an arborist who over the years (and with plenty of advice from myself) has frequently come across a wide variety of timber species in a raw state – anything from all our exotic cypresses & native hardwoods, through to much rarer species such as Eastern red cedar, chestnut and alder (with its bright orange colour when newly cut), plus occasional species such as liquid amber, and some of the maple genus.

    Like yourself, I have had a close association with all things timber since a little ‘tot’ in my own father’s garage, worksite, or joiner’s shop, and can still cherish memories of him and his forefathers in the hand tools that were brought to our shores from the Isle Of Wight, England in the late 1930’s. Some of these very old tools were hand made in the late 1800’s, and are still functioning as intended today, as when they were first created.

    The point I’m trying to make however is that like yourself, I have established access to lumber from the limb to the plank, so to speak, and with a combination of an Alaskan chainsaw mill on location, plus my trusty (made in Taiwan) 19 1/2″ bandsaw, I can not only readily dimension all these wonderful varied species of timbers, but can selectively mill them ‘from the get go’, with an eye to a final usage, in all manner of quarter-sawn, rift or cathedral cut grain.

    I read in your recent blog the difficulty you’ve experienced with obtaining “… slabbed boards stickered and stacked in good conditions.” from local log fellas. I understand those existencies, however to any likeminded woodworker out there, I would highly recommend building ongoing relationships with both arborists and millers/loggers in your area, and through more careful milling & storage techniques, there can be a multiplicity of ‘good wood’ available to us word workers!

  11. I enjoy reading your posts I also use rough sawn lumber from local saw mail.. I really enjoy going to the saw mill and talking to other woodworkers about there projects in process.. Keep up the good work Paul. I live in USA Pennsylvania

  12. I consider myself fortunate to live in New England, which is populated enough to ensure a variety of local mills and treed enough to ensure a variety of local hardwoods at those mills. I can drive 10 minutes to Lowes and get variable quality framing timber, or I can drive 18 minutes and get beautiful local maple, cherry, white oak, ash, black walnut, hickory or even selected hardwoods from elsewhere in the world. The extra 8 minutes each way is well worth it.

  13. Very nice and timely article. Can’t wait for the 3rd installment. I’m trying to resaw 4/4 maple and it keeps cupping. Is this typical when dimensioning wood? Tips on bandsawing wood would be very helpful.

  14. I’m lucky enough that there are two businesses that specialize in hardwood and high quality softwood (I like Doug. Fir). As a kid though I used to go with my dad or grandfather to the “lumber yard.” There are none around anymore. Where I live – Northern California – there is also an Urban Tree Rescue that collects blow downs, and trees that are removed to clear land and turn them into lumber.

  15. Thanks Paul! I’m enjoying and looking forward to this series of posts.

    As a relatively new woodworker I find the local hardwood stores to be a bit intimidating for a novice. Maybe some suggestions for lumberyard etiquette and board foot mathematics might be in order?

    Your process for dealing with pallets (nail removal) and stripping paint and finish would be interesting as well.

    Thanks again for all you do Paul!


    1. I get it re lumberyard intimidation. Truth be known it’s a bit like going to a woodworking show too. Those selling equipment realise that the bulk of their so-called “punters” are new to woodworking and that they can readily pull the wool over their eyes when it comes to being in the know. I have seen many online suppliers do the same too. They can start out in a garage, copy and paste the manufacturer’s product information blurb and look pretty amazing with some snazzy pics of their well-stocked shelves. Before long they turned a profit and bought a nice warehouse and they have become the main font of all knowledge woodworking. I know of one, perhaps two or three even, who came on my courses and after a three-day class started their own school using everything they took from my classes. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
      I certainly would never let sales staff and stock stackers intimidate me. Chances are you already know more than they do. Of course, that is not the right attitude but snobby staff and staff that are not there to truly help should be passed over and you should seek someone less intimidating by stating so.
      Etiquette is to leave the stacks as you found them. If you are challenged for picking through the stacks assure that that you will not leave the stacks in a mess. When they say it’s a safety issue, insist that they go through the stacks with you. Wood is not like buying boxes of cereal where every box is identical. Sapwood, cracks, warpage and so on can all be rejected. You do not need to buy bad stock. I would guess that 95% of lumberyard staff have never worked as woodworkers. I think that that is true of staff working for tool catalogs and stores too.
      Whenever I mention denailing or salvaging wood from pallets, someone jumps in to suggest buying a pallet dismantling unit. It’s stupid unless you plan this as a career path. I have been successfully dismantling pallets throughout my work-life with a claw hammer, a crosscut handsaw, a crowbar or two and some wedges. Nail removal is only a slight problem and only on occasion have I had to abandon a pallet. You will most likely realise if you read me that I do not choose easy paths for anything. I like work and the harder the work the better because the harder the work the smarter I get.
      Stripping paint: Well, thankfully many paints are safer than they used to be. Usually, we don’t come across lead-based paints but they are still out there. I avoid paint stripping but I am prepared to plane through paint layers to remove paint as this seems the safest way. I do not go for chemical strippers and scraping can cause particles in the atmosphere.

  16. Once you start it just continues almost by itself. I am at the tail end of multiple repairs on a set of jarrah windows and frames which in all honesty were not the best built in the first place but enough is there to warrant repair work as replacement for the customer is prohibitive. I have picked up jarrah from all sorts of sources over the years for repair work and joinery, the funny thing is I remember most of them looking at the pieces. Futon bed slats, deep section handrail from a private school, fence palings from a block of flats and construction timber and skip dressed stock from my Dads pile some of which was given to him by a retired carpenter . It all needed either denailing, cleaning or machining. It was all largely finished off with hand tools as were the repairs facilitated on the existing joinery in situ. Thanks for all the info Paul.

  17. You must have heard some younger people mention Treewood. It`s good stuff so they tell me . One shop selling criss cross fence panels put together with a noisy staple gun . When I asked what kind of wood it was ; “It`s Tanalised .” Short and sweet . No chance of a smile though .
    I mentioned Treewood to my 7 yr old grandson and even he gave me a “Don`t be silly look “

  18. A very useful topic, thanks for the effort you have put into writing it!

  19. Hi Paul, hope you are well under these “new normal” conditions. I am a UK expat living in Thailand, recently retired and now taking up woodwork. My dad was a not a cabinet maker but he was a gifted woodworker and made most of our Christmas presents back in the fifties and sixties and was a dab hand at things around the house, new window frames, garden sheds, kitchen cupboards etc. And, I remember many a happy hour spent in the garage watching him work and lending a hand here and there, tending the glue pot and such. I can still remember the aroma of that glue, which was made from the bones of horses, he told me, and which you had to melt from a jelly like mass on a little gas ring burner, which was also good for keeping your hands warm.. Having recently retired, I have decided to get back into woodworking and have been following your blogs and videos which I discovered on the internet. I live in Thailand now and have a question for you regarding the planing of rubber wood boards (sheets) here, which are fundamentally the only sheet goods you can find. Problem is that being constructed out of individual 8 foot lengths of 2 x 3/4 inch pieces, the grains run in opposite directions both on the sheet surface itself and on the end grain, making it very, very difficult to get a good smooth planed finish and I hate having to revert to sanding to get the best result I can. I am just trying to master the skill of sharpening my own chisels and plane irons, so that could be the problem, i.e. they are not really sharp enough. Have you ever worked on such materials and come across this and if so have you any tips on this. Keep up the good work and stay safe.

  20. Sadly, my local wood yard spots a hobbyist coming from 20 yards, and raises all their prices accordingly, which leaves a rather bad taste in the mouth. I’ve had some success repurposing wood from old furniture, doors etc, which people sometimes give away on Gumtree etc.

  21. As you highlighted, the main challenge for me remains (and probably always will) the time it takes me to move from dimensioned joineried (word? 😉 ) stock to fit and assembly. Recently my bookmatched console table top (adapted for a telephone table) decided to cup slightly 2 days before assembly – although not so badly that I could serve soup in it. Turn buttons just couldn’t hold it enough, reworking it wasn’t an (palatable) option so I just needed to cut some triangular corner pieces and pull it down a bit more with screws. Such is life. So I find more and more that I leave more rougher surfaces, where I can, for finishing after assembly – relying on reference face, edge, square shoulders and internal dimensions rather than finished stock with squared ends.
    A big problem for me with Scottish mills/suppliers is they are mainly seem to be either supplying construction trade or (according to their website) dealing in what I’d describe as boutique woods (the live edge yews, oaks n sycamores or spindles n blanks). It can be frustrating when they push premium priced waney when I want the stuff in the middle.
    Online ordering can give a price shock once you see the ‘cut, vat and delivery’ charges mount up. Additionally, sizing your order can be intimidating at first and there’s never any guidance unless you call. I just fiddle with the sizes until I can see the min and max length, width and thickness available as I find knowing what they can do helps me decide what I need/want. With rough sawn I just need to be practical – if I need stock 20 mm and I get it nicely to 19 or 21 then that’s my ‘new need’ 😉
    A key thing for me ordering rough sawn is knowing my margins – take rough stock, measure it, resaw it/dimension it, plane it them measure it. That way I know the minimum it takes to get what I want.
    I admit I don’t know much so instead I just try to find ways to get by. (I remember my first online order as being more useful in showing me, once the wood was on the floor, what I should’ve ordered rather than what I did.)

    1. That was very insightful Malcolm. Being further south from you doesn’t appear to lessen the experience of online shops in any way. Being a novice I am confronted by should I buy PAR or go with rough sawn and if the latter, what dimensions should I buy, to allow for dimensioning down to joinery size. I take your point very well, that I suspect my first few purchases are merely going to be lessons in not what to buy! Well put indeed.

  22. The main big box store in Australia is Bunnings. Most timber that they sell I refer to as politician pine – bent as.

  23. I am fortunate. I live not far from a wood supplier that specializes in hardwoods (domestic and imported) as well as some quality softwoods. They encourage their customers to select their own boards from the racks in the climate-controlled warehouse, and have both finished and rough sawn, and reasonable prices. In addition, the local Home Depots sell 1×12 rough sawn pine which is milled in the area. Although some of it is of less than stellar quality, there is usually plenty in the rack to allow selecting planks that are suitable for the intended purpose. Having said all of that, some of my favourite projects have been made with reclaimed/repurposed wood.

    Much of what is written above speaks of wood movement, in the lumber yard, after dimensioning, and in the finished project. In my humble opinion, the best way to control it is to pay attention to the grain direction when selecting your wood. All other things being equal, quarter sawn will move less than flat sawn. Recently I was asked to make a cremation urn from cedar, which will cup even as you plane it. Due to Covid restrictions I was forced to work with the stock I had on hand, which fortunately I had had in my garage for some years. The stock for the sides was flat sawn, but I could make the sides thin enough to coerce them into flatness. The top and bottom were another matter. With careful selection and colour matching I was able to edge join pieces with vertical grain, which proved to be stable.

    And now for my confession: I am primarily a power tool woodworker. Nonetheless I have and use (and sharpen) a reasonable collection of chisels, hand planes, and cabinet scrapers. In my world, power tools and hand tools all have their times and places. Paul has taught me that in the past I have underappreciated the role of hand tools in my hobby.

  24. Great topic to cover. Buying wood still a feels like an expensive treasure hunt to me. So advice like this is gold dust!

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