8 Easy Steps for Preparing Lumber for Woodworking

8 Easy Steps for Preparing Lumber for Woodworking

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Preparing Lumber for Woodworking

No matter what type of lumber you buy for your woodworking projects or where you buy it from, there are steps that you will have to take to prepare the lumber to make it suitable for woodworking.  Both rough and surfaced lumber, even if it comes from a specialty store will need some preparation before it can be utilized in a project.

There are two types of lumber you can buy; rough cut or surfaced.   The difference between the two is that rough-cut will come straight from the mill and surfaced lumber is lumber that has been smooth on either two or three or all four sides. When you are choosing your wood for any given project, you need to take into about the size of the design you are going to be working on. This will determine how the wood is cut up, taking into account the grain patterns in the wood and any warping of the wood.  Rough lumber will always give you more surface area to work with when you are preparing it , so it may be easier to eliminate warping with rough-cut lumber.

Here are 8 easy steps to preparing lumber for your project:

1. Cut the board to length. The first thing you will need to do is make roughly a one-inch slice to the end of a board. What you are looking for is small cracks in the wood, which are known as ‘checks’. These may not be readily visible but they could ruin your project if you don’t find them early on and eliminate them. Then, try to bend the piece of wood. If it breaks, or you see a crack, simply cut off another piece. Continue this process until no more cracks are found.  Once you have done this, you can cut the piece that you need from the remaining board.

2. Flatten the face of the board. Using the best face of the board, run it down the jointer. You will probably need to make several passes down the jointer as wood is never straight to begin with. Be careful not to use a planer for this job. A planer just mirrors the other side of the board, so if the other side is warped, they will both be warped.

3. Flatten one edge. Basically the same as step #2, but you are doing the same thing with the edge of the board rather than the face. Again, it may take several pass down the jointer to get it flat. Make sure the jointer fence is 90 degrees to the out-feed bed.

4. Flatten the other face of the board. Run the board through the planer with the initial flattened face down. This will mirror the opposite face to the original flattened one. You can do this as many times as necessary to get the board to the desired thickness.

5. Cut the opposite edge.  Use the table saw with the reference edge against the fence to cut this edge to the proper width. You will want to leave about 1/16” extra for smoothing.

6. Joint the edge that you just sawed.  You will want to use the jointer to remove the saw marks from the edge you just made. You should use a very thin cut for this, maybe 1/64th inch.

7. Square the best end. Choosing the best end, take a minimal amount off (maybe ¼” max) using a 90 degree on the miter or table saw.

8. Cut the opposite to the proper length. Cut the final length using again, the table or miter saw. You will want to leave about 1/32” for removal of any machine markings.

Preparing LumberThat’s all there is to it. You should now have the perfect board prepared for your woodworking project. You will want to allow the boards to acclimate indoors for one or two weeks before using them. Humidity varies and it will always be different from wherever you purchased the lumber. Give it a chance to settle in before using it.

A final tip; don’t use green wood. Green wood is wood that has not been dried and therefore has much more moisture still in it. It is unstable because of this and will warp in unpredictable ways.

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