In this first lesson, I would like to go over the the material we use in the shop. In part one I will discuss pine. In part two, our salvaged materials which is my favourite. And in part three, I will go over when I use plywood and a few other things. MDF is not allowed in my shop and will discuss this too.
Some of this information will be common knowledge to those of you who have already been building your own pieces. I thought it best though to assume very little knowledge so no one is left trying to figure things out.
Most of the lumber we use for our furniture is pine or in some cases SPF and I will explain this one in a bit. Pine is very easy to use and it is relatively inexpensive. It is not hard on your blades, sands with very little effort, light weight to handle and I think very pretty. Although, I paint most of my pieces now so you wouldn’t see this.
Just so you know if you don’t already, here is a little info. Pine is a conifer in being that it does not lose it’s needles and provides us with our beautiful pine cones you see in Michaels every Christmas. They smell nice but they do not smell like cinnamon. Pine is the most abundant coniferous species in North America and therefore is readily available in our lumber yards. Pine trees are the first to grow back after a forest fire. There are many different types of pine but here in British Columbia, lodgepole pine is the most abundant.
When you go into a lumber store like Home Depot, what you will see first are large shelves with what looks like pine but it will most likely be SPF. Check out the sticker. SPF stands for spruce, pine, fir. You are generally getting a mixture of lodgepole pine, interior spruce and subalpine fir. In this province anyways. I would be interested to know if it is the same elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with this combination if you are going to paint your furniture. Where you may run in to problems is when you stain it. Different woods take the stain differently so there will most likely be colour variations.
Pine lumber itself is usually found standing up in a completely different isle and the label says “Pine”. Depending on where you live, the type of pine may vary. This more expensive pine usually has fewer knots and is of a bit better quality. If you are going to stain your project, I would use this pine. If you wan tan even a finer quality of pine, you would go to a more specialized store like Windsor Plywood or a wholesaler. Here you can purchase a white pine and specify clear, meaning no knots.
When you purchase your lumber, you will notice that the sign says for instance – 1″ x 6″. The board is actually smaller. The measurement is taken in what they call a green state, meaning it is wet and has not been put in a kiln and dried yet. When it has dried, the board will have shrunk in size. What you probably have in front of you is a 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ board.
Then there is the laminated pine. Up until now we have been discussing pine boards or dimensional lumber. Laminated pine is pine that is glued up or laminated using skinnier pieces of pine to make panels in varying widths such as 12″, 16″, 20″ and wider. Most come in eight foot lengths. The advantage to this type of board is that it does not warp as readily and the planks can be wider then the pine boards discussed earlier. Very seldom do you find dimensional lumber in boards wider than 12″. If you do they are even more expensive. I have never seen any in a lumber store. I do have my salvaged lumber in larger sizes though….love my salvaged stuff. I use laminated pine quite a bit especially for furniture deeper than 12″. Just a side note….You can glue up your own boards but this takes a ton more time. I will tell you about this in a later lesson. I only use laminated pine when I am painting. If you stain these planks, I personally think it looks terrible as it goes all stripey.
Choosing Your Boards
When picking out your lumber, look down the board and make sure it has not cupped or bent. Find the straightest ones possible. This is a little more difficult with the SPF material. Also look for pitch pockets. Little pockets of sap that is sticky and annoying. I try and find the boards with the least amount of knots and dark patches. I will let you know now that rummaging through this kind of lumber takes a while. If your time is important to you, spend a little extra money and buy the better pine. I usually do.
When choosing your laminated pine, do the same inspection. So not buy the laminated pine shelving that is in the shrink wrap packages sold as shelving. It is way more expensive. Ask for the unpackaged pine. I know once I ordered it and had the laminated pine delivered. I received the packaged stuff and my bill was HUGE to say the least. Sometimes I think they can spot the packaged victim a mile away. Luckily, most of the store employees will ask you what it is you are looking for.
The following are some pictures that I added captions to in order to explain myself a little better. I think I have given you enough info for one day. I was planning on doing an audio of all of this type written stuff but I was spending way too much time trying to figure that program out today.