We are constantly told by new people who join the industry that purchasing hardwood lumber is complex. Now, for some of those hardwood lumber industry veterans that might come as a surprise. But if you think about it, in today’s pre-packaged off the shelf, just in time world I can see how people feel that way. With hardwood lumber each bundle you get is unique. So maybe it is good for us to go back to the basics and explain to people the common ways hardwood lumber can be purchased.
In general, hardwood lumber is sold rough and in random size pieces. Hardwood lumber is sold as boards cut from a log and the lengths and widths of the boards vary based on the actual dimensions of the log it was cut from. Hardwood lumber is typically found in lengths ranging from 6’ to 16’ and in widths from 4” to 12” or more. All these various sized boards are packaged together as one and sold in what is referred to as a random width and length bundle containing about 1,000 board feet.
Sawmills also cut hardwood lumber in different thicknesses and they are expressed in quarters of an inch such as 4/4”, 5/4”, 6/4” 8/4”, 10/4”, 12/4” and 16/4”. Normally, hardwood lumber bundles are packaged by thickness and are not mixed.
Each hardwood tree is unique so each board cut is unique as well. Although similar, each board has characteristics that are different. It is these characteristics and the amounts of clear fiber present that determines the quality classes, or grades, of hardwood lumber.
The industry’s hardwood lumber grades were established by the National Hardwood Lumber Association, (NHLA), in the late 1890’s. They are almost always based on the amount of usable clear cuttings you should be able to derive from the board. This is referred to as yield. The categories of grades are:
- FAS 1F and Better – Highest quality. Will yield largest portion of clear usable parts.
- 1 Common
- 2 Common
- 3 Common - Lowest quality of the hardwood lumber grading spectrum
Over the years, hardwood lumber suppliers, like American Lumber, have enhanced their average hardwood lumber offering by trying to accommodate certain customer requests. Additional services have been added to the preparation of a random width and length board to enhance it and make it better for use in a customer’s manufacturing process. These are a few of the activities that are now commonly provided by hardwood lumber suppliers.
- Surfacing – Planing the board to convert it from a rough sawn state. This can be done on 2 sides, (S2S) or all four sides (S4S).
- SLR1E – Straight line rip 1 edge. Squaring up the board on one edge.
- SLR2E – Straight line rip 2 edge. Squaring up the board on both edges.
- Sorting – Separating the various boards into common widths, lengths and even color and packaged together so each board is more similar.
There is much more to hardwood lumber products and offerings than this. However, this is a start to answering in what forms can one buy hardwood lumber. If you have any questions our team would be happy to help. Please contact us and let us know if we can assist you in any way.
American Lumber Company