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Tips for Buying Better Boards

Prepping for a new project is always exciting. One of the best parts is picking out the boards you will use, and it’s easy to rush through this important step. The wood you choose will determine the final look of your project and how easily it fits together, so it's important to select carefully. Read on to learn how you can score the best boards for your next project.

Explore Your Options
The two main types of wood, softwood and hardwood, can be cut and sold differently. Softwoods are cut into standard “dimensional” sizes (such as 2x4 or 1x6), so all boards of the same size and wood species (fir, cedar, pine, etc.) are priced the same. Hardwoods (maple, oak, cherry, etc.) are also cut to standard sizes at home centers. Go to a specialty hardwood dealer, though, and hardwoods are cut into random widths and lengths and sold by the board foot.

Look for Defects
Once you’ve decided what type of wood you want, the first step is to rule out boards that are defective. Splits, also known as checks, at the end of a board aren’t a big deal; many times you can just cut the bad section off or rip around it. If you don’t like the “knotty” look, be sure to keep an eye out for knots in your boards. You will also need to check the flatness of your boards to ensure a stable project. Look down the edge of each board to check for bow and twist. Then, take a look at the board face for crook or cup.

Check Grain and Color
It’s easy to fall in love with the beautiful grain pattern of an individual board. But, you need to remember that all of your boards will eventually get cut up, moved around, and reassembled into something new. Grain patterns can vary from board to board. More subtle grain figure is much easier to match as you assemble your project parts. Highly figured wood grain may look cool, but be prepared to spend more time getting all of the boards to match up.

Boards within the same wood species can vary widely in their color, too. Believe it or not, the three boards below are all cherry. A good trick is to pull boards from the rack and line them up side by side. This way, you can easily see how consistent your look will be from board to board.

The Online Option
If you don’t have a local source for lumber or a way to haul it home, consider buying your wood online. Although shipping costs may add up and you can’t physically see what you’re getting, there are many benefits to buying wood online. Your choices in wood species and grain configurations are essentially endless when you expand your search online. Plus, many online vendors offer “bundle” deals with free shipping when you buy in bulk. This may be a good option when you need to stock up on wood for your next project.

Great-Looking Results
By exploring your options, looking for common defects, and successfully matching the grain and color of your boards, you are sure to end up with a great-looking project. When you’re ready to show off that project, consider sharing it in the Kreg Owners’ Community. If you’re not a member, join today!

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From Kreg and Woodsmith Magazine
2014 August Home Publishing

Kreg Tool Company
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