Board hoarders unite!

Boards in a bucket

Before long, I'm going to end up on one of those hoarding shows you see on cable TV. I just can't control myself in a hardwood store. Racing pulse. Cold sweat. I gently caress the beautifully figured curly maple, ray-flecked white oak, or lovely exotic boards and whisper to myself, "Oh, this would be great in a project."

Board hoarding can be eminently practical, as long as you can find those gems in your shop when you need them. But if you find yourself literally tripping over boards, it becomes a safety (and storage) issue. Try these tips to help bring order to the chaos of your collection.

Sort by size

When boards come into your shop -- no matter their origin -- take the time to sort them into rough sizes. I store boards longer than four feet vertically in one area, and shorter lumber finds its way to a shelf. If I'm building a small item, such as a keepsake box or clock, looking first through the "smalls" rack often saves my big boards for larger projects.

Boards behind a chain
Conserve valuable floor space by storing long stock on end. This also saves you a lot of heavy overhead lifting.

Mark them clearly

After the board sits in your shop for a year, will you remember its species, or be able to tell lumber with provenance (Grandad's walnut) from hardwood-store boards? Mark the boards with chalk or lumber crayons; both sand off easily and don't leave residue behind.

Boards with labels
Computer-printed labels save time when marking boards of the same species. Any sticky residue will be machined away.

Know when to let go

Just because you find an offcut too small to use doesn't mean another woodworker wouldn't love it. For example, woodworkers who turn projects like pens or bottle stoppers will snap up those discards eagerly. Or check with a school or scout troop to see if they can salvage your scraps.

Boards in a cart
Download plans for this "shorts" sorter, along with a sheet-goods rack and wall shelving, at

What about those pieces too small to use in projects? Try your hand at smoking meat and fish. Cherry, pecan, and maple impart a light, sweet taste to poultry and fish; oak, mesquite, and hickory work great for ribs and other red meat. Maybe your woodworking will improve your culinary skills!

It may seem overwhelming to keep track of your lovingly selected hardwoods, but you'll always be pleased when you find the perfect piece for that special project.

-- The Shop Monkey (aka Tom Iovino of Tampa, Fla.) blogs prolifically at

Boards in a bucket
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