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Lumber & Plywood

Board Basics

When is a groove a dado? What's the difference between ripping and resawing? And why would anyone give dimensions as 1/2x4x2" when it sounds so much more correct to say 1/2x 2x4"? The answers to these and other woodworking questions depend on one thing-which way the grain runs.

Before buying lumber from a Home-improvement center, keep in mind that most of their solid-wood stock is intended for construction and do-it-yourself jobs, not necessarily furniture-grade woodworking. But that shouldn't stop you from buying it for your better projects, as long as you follow these pointers.

Dwindling supply, distant-cousin substitutes, and marketing mischief have managed to muddle the mahogany moniker. Honduran? Genuine? African? Philippine? True? Santos? Here's a rundown of some of the various claimants to the mahogany throne.

Newer versions work great with less weight.

Building with this softwood calls for extra care and right finishing techniques.

Shop smartly to steer clear of wood under tension.

There's more to life than oak, pine, and plywood. Modern manufacturing and "green" thinking have led to a number of new woods.

Balance durability, appearance, and cost.

Gorgeous figure, easily worked, and fun to finish; check it out.

Solid, and usually understated, birch has been a standard in furniture production across continents and generations.

Edge-to-edge glue-up with Kevin Boyle and John Olson.

Though five distinct woods share a common name, each has its own personality and use. We sliced through the five most common species so you can choose the cedar that best suits your project.

Wood expands and contracts with changing humidity. You can't stop it, but you can accommodate it.

A wide world of beautiful woods waits virtually a mouse-click away.

Oak, cherry, walnut, and maple tend to get all the attention. But walk down the lumber aisle of a nearby hardwood retailer, and you'll be rewarded with distinctive and affordable project stock.

If you're tired of paying top dollar for home-center wood, try these tips for saving money on local lumber.

Poplar, soft maple, pine, and plywood: These oft-maligned also-rans of commercially available wood products bring stability, strength, and -- most importantly -- savings to your furniture projects. Use these tips to squeeze even more out of secondary woods.

9 important things you should know before you start working.

Advantages and disadvantages of 9 outdoor woods.

Aromatic eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) has been the traditional choice for blanket chests and closet linings for generations because of its purported moth-repellant properties and fresh smell. Is it a miracle wood or too good to be true?

The wood used for furniture and other fine projects differs in many ways from lumberyard 2x4s.

There's no such thing as the perfect board. But you can salvage a lot of "challenged" lumber using these tricks.

When choosing a decking material consider appearance, durability, upkeep, and cost.

Naturally, you want the best face to show when building furniture and cabinetry from hardwood veneer plywood. Often, though, the "two-faced" nature of premium grades makes that choice a difficult one.

Although named for a figure pattern most often associated with hard maple, I have found it in many other species, including koa, black walnut, cherry, Tasmanian blackwood, and a few rosewoods.

Over the years, we've created several woodworking-related charts that now are ready for you to download and print at no cost. Then, hang them in your shop for quick reference.

Figured wood gives your projects pizzazz. These tips will help you work successfully with this sometimes uncooperative material.

A guide to wood, its uses, grades, and board feet. Buying wood can be just as much fun as working it, if you're informed. The basics here will get you started.

Woodworkers work with dry wood. But as you'll find out, it never remains completely so. And it pays to discover why.

Water, fungi, oxidation, enzyme stain, and decay all cause wood to deteriorate.

According to consulting forester Jim Birkemeier, a properly managed hardwood tree, such as a red oak growing in southern Wisconsin, adds 1/2" to its adult diameter each year.

Discover six surefire tricks for achieving the best look from the boards you select for projects.

Questions concerning medium-density fiberboard? Find out your answers here.

Your editorial on air-dried lumber (issue 156, page 8) pointed out the positives about air-dried lumber. I'd like to add my thoughts...

What species do WOOD's readers and online guests like to work with most? To find out we asked them. The following slides show their selections as well as tidbits we've learned about these woods over the years.

With so much effort put into such a small piece of wood, turners are very serious about their stock.

Do you know what sheet goods work best for shop fixtures? Or which ones excel in furniture construction? Armed with our chart, you'll be an instant expert.

Veneers have the reputation of being pretty tough customers once they're installed. But these ultra-thin woods can be cantankerous and downright difficult if not stored right.

Do you really know the difference between riftsawn, quartersawn, and plainsawn? If your answer is "no," let us help.

Spice up your projects with a touch of crimson from any of four species.

Create a permanent solution to clutter by building and installing shelves to keep things picked up and stored in an orderly fashion.

Oregon craftsman Russ Osterloh advertises for hardwood trees "dead or alive." Aided by his trusty chainsaw, he brings them in. Then, he mills the timber for his custom furniture.

It's been seven years since the Environmental Protection Agency announced the phase-out of chromated-copper-arsenate (CCA) treated lumber. CCA's replacements, although safer, bring different challenges to your outdoor projects. Here's what you need to know.

Ash as good as oak? With the right grain selection and stain it can be.

A craftsman selects a certain type of wood for a project because of a number of reasons. Grain is one. Yet, that word has many meanings.

Wood technologists employ appearance characteristics to identify woods. These give a board its distinct look and beauty. Learn what makes up the look of wood.

If you can't tell the difference between a board of white ash and one of red oak, here's some help for common North American hardwoods.

Don't be confused about the quality, grading, and types of hardwood plywood. It can really expand the scope of your woodworking projects.

Is it your imagination or is good plywood getting harder to find? Armed with these buying tips, you'll sort the stack like a pro to pick the perfect plywood for your next project.

Learn about the different types of figured stock from Rick Hearne, owner of Hearne Hardwoods Inc. in Oxford, Pennsylvania. Rick has been in the specialty lumber business for more than 25 years and carries an inventory of 1 million board feet of lumber in 120 different species.

Several wood patterns to skin models and plans in Google SketchUp.

Caught short of stock for your project? Want to save some bucks on wood? Can't find the wood you need for a missing part? Professional woodworkers, furniture restorers, and furniture manufacturers have long known the value of look-alikes often less expensive woods you can stain and finish to resemble more costly ones. If you're looking for a few good stand-ins, you've come to the right place.

We constructed this nifty 8x8x12' passive-solar kiln. And boy does it work, not to mention save money! Better still, we developed a plan for our kiln so you can build one just like it.

Even the driest wood can change shape due to moisture, no matter what you do to it. But you can learn what to expect.

Puzzled by which wood to use for what? Much of the choice comes down to personal taste, then cost and availability. But until you know the qualities that help you choose one wood over another, the selection process can be confusing.

Impervious to the cannon balls of opposing ships, the frigate USS Constitution earned the nickname "Old Ironsides." Here's a rundown of the wood that contributed to her fame.

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