4 Disadvantages Of Rough Sawn Lumber And How You Can Work Around It

rough sawn lumberThough you may have heard the term ‘rough sawn lumber,’ it’s quite likely that you don’t really know what that means. So, let’s define it. Really, this refers to lumber that isn’t yet finished before it’s shipped to be sold. It is kept rough intentionally and must be dried, planed or dressed as the recipient wishes.

What exactly happens is that lumber when processed at a mill, sawing it of its roughness is an early step at a time when the boards of the tree haven’t been planed or dried. It continues to be green when shipped, proving that it has neither dried nor cured. So, it will shrink later as it contains 20% water and must be dried under the sun before use.

Because it is yet to shrink, it is larger than its finished counterpart, leaving enough room for planing and smoothing. People prefer to by this lumber as it’s relatively inexpensive and it allows them to have greater control.

Advantages of using rough sawn lumber:

  • This lumber is usually sold cheaper than finished lumber.
  • It is also thicker than finished wood.
  • It allows the woodworker to have enough wood for a good margin of error, while also saving money.
  • DIY woodworkers and hobbyists prefer rough sawn lumber for their projects as it is economical and they can work with quality wood.
  • It is ideal for a large spectrum of furniture-making.
  • Since it isn’t milled, this kind of wood can give a really rustic feel.
  • This type of wood creates less of an environmental impact since it is only air-dried.
  • Usually, exotic woods that bear rich hues and designs are always rough sawn. 

Disadvantages of using rough sawn lumber:

  • It is difficult to work with.
  • It needs to be milled before use.
  • Care must be taken to buy it before it dries completely.
  • Professionals at the lumber mill should let you know if the wood you buy needs to be stacked, interspersed with sticks for drying, or if they need to be kept erect. This means that you can’t work with this wood immediately but only after all the moisture leaves it.

Finding a distributor: Your first point of contact to source rough sawn lumber is your local woodworkers’ association. They will recommend distributors and dealers who will give you the lumber you want.

Choosing the best rough sawn lumber: Rough sawn lumber needs a lot preparation before it can be used for woodworking projects. Usually, lumber cuts of two-by-four are taken which translate into 1.5 inches x 3.5 inches.

To begin, your tool kit and carpentry skills should be ready to use. The advantage of buying this kind of lumber is that you can buy them in large chunks since they are neither cut nor planed. Fix the size you want and add a few inches to it so that you have enough to work with even after planing.

Since rough sawn lumber isn’t as expensive than its finished counterpart because it has still not gone through any processing stages, you stand to gain by buying this. But care should be taken to see that the wood doesn’t dry up entirely and is well-shaped, or you could lose money on your project. The grade of wood you buy should also be known to you before you buy it as you can decide which projects would befit the wood you’re buying.

How to prepare lumber for woodworking projects: It doesn’t matter where you buy your rough sawn lumber because you still have to prepare it before use. You need to consider the size of pieces apt for your design, its grain pattern and whether the wood warps or not. When you’re trying to get rid of warping, you will find that rough lumber adds thickness to the wood in the preparation stages. This lumber usually measures 3 mm to 6 mm in thickness. Here are the stages of preparing lumber for your projects:

  1. Cut the board to the required length: At first, make a 1″ cut from one end of the board. Check for cracks or any other flaws in the wood that could ruin your project. If you don’t do this now, you will find cracks along the entire length of your wood piece. Include an extra inch when you cut wood from the plank. Once this is done, mark cuts on the board and use a table saw or radial arm saw to make large cuts.
  2. Choose the better board face: Examine both faces of the board and place that face on the jointer. Mark the jointed surface with an X mark to show that this is the reference face for later use.
  3. Flatten an edge: Choose the best edge of the entire board and it down the jointer while your reference face lies flat against the jointer fence. Now, ensure that the fence is 90 degrees perpendicular to the out feed bed of the jointer. Mark a V sign on the jointed edge in the direction of the reference face. This will tell you where your edge and reference face are on this wood piece.
  4. Flatten the opposite face: Pass the board through the planer with its reference face facing the bed. Make as many passes as required till the board gets its required thickness. Leave at least 1 mm thickness extra so that you can remove machine marks by scraping, sanding or hand planing.
  5. Cut the opposite edge: Pass the board through the table saw using the reference edge against the fence. Set aside an extra 1/16 inch for jointing and smoothing.
  6. Joint the sawed edge: Remove saw marks by passing the sawed edge against the jointer. Set the jointer for a thin cut not exceeding 1/64th inch. Leave 1 mm extra width for removing machine marks.
  7. Cut the best end in a square shape: Once you choose the best end, remove a small portion, not exceeding 6 mm. Create a 90 degree shape on the table saw and cut it out.
  8. Cut the final length: Cut the final length using the table saw and leaving about 1/32 inch to remove machine marks and for smoothing.

This effort should give you a perfect board for your woodworking project.

Author: John Clax

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