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Understanding Hardwoods: Making The Grade...


Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

 

In an ideal world every piece of wood that was milled from a tree would be straight grained and free of any defects. When purchasing lumber you wouldn't have to worry about knots or wormholes or color variations. It would be a woodworker's dream. However, trees are living organisms with branches and leaves and are subject to droughts, flooding, fire, insects and animal infestation and disease. Not every stick of lumber that comes off the mill will be perfect so a system of grading was established to differentiate board quality.

 

Hardwood lumber in the United States and Canada is graded according to the rules established by the National Hardwood Lumber Association, or NHLA.  On a technical level, the standard grades of hardwood lumber as defined by the NHLA (in descending order of quality) are as follows:

 

FAS
FAS derives from an earlier grade known as "First and Seconds". It is the best and most expensive grade. Boards are 6" and wider and 8' and longer in length. Yields 83-1/3 percent of clear face cuttings with minimum sizes of 4" x 5', or 3" x 7'. Suitable for fine furniture, interior joinery, solid wood moldings, and other applications where clear, wide boards are needed.

FAS 1-Face (F1F)
One face meets FAS requirements and the poorer face meets Number 1 Common grade requirements. Usually combined with FAS lumber, thereby providing at least one FAS face.

Selects
Face side is FAS, back side is No. 1 Common. Boards are 4" and wider and 6' and longer in length. Yields 83-1/3 percent clear face cuttings with minimum sizes of 4" x 5', or 3" x 7'. A cost effective substitute for FAS when only one good face is required.

No. 1 Common
Often referred to as "Cabinet" grade in the USA due to its extensive use for kitchen cabinets. Boards are 3" and wider and 4' and longer in length. Yields 66-2/3 percent clear face cuttings with minimum sizes of 4" x 2', or 3" x 3'. Provides good value, especially if relatively small pieces can be used.

No. 2A Common
Also known as "Economy" grade. Boards are 3" and wider and 4' and longer in length.  Yields 50 percent clear face cuttings 3" and wider by 2' and longer. Grade of choice for US hardwood flooring industry.

No. 2B Common
Same as No. 2A Common, except that stains and other sound defects are admitted in the clear cuttings. An excellent paint grade lumber.

Sound Wormy
Same requirements as #1 Common and better but wormholes, limited sound knots and other imperfections are allowed. This grade is not commonly available.

No. 3A Common
Boards are 3" and wider and 4' and longer in length. Yields 33-1/3 percent clear face cuttings 3" and wider by 2' and longer. An economical choice for rough utility applications such as crates, palettes, fencing, etc.

No. 3B Common
Boards are 3" and wider and 4' and longer in length. Yields 25 percent clear face cuttings 1-1/2" and wider by 2' and longer. Applications same as No. 3A Common.
 

The grading above is a complete set of grades for hardwood lumber. However, in practice, some of the above grades are rarely used in the commercial trade and others are typically combined. For example:

 

FAS & FAS 1-Face are usually combined and sold as "Face And Better"

FAS  &Selects are usually combined and sold as "Sel and Better"

No. 1 Common & Selects are usually combined and sold as "No. 1 Common and Better"

No. 2A Common & 2B Common as "No. 2 Common".

The grade of Sound Wormy is rarely used commercially.
 

Source: National Hardwood Lumber Association
 

If you have any questions or comments about this blog entry please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail. Thanks and be safe when working with tools!!!

 

Burgie  

 

burgie picture

Robert Burgoyne, also known as "Burgie", has been doing woodworking for nearly 30 years. He started learning at an early age in his grandfather's garage and continued while working with his father in construction. The hobby has now become a business with Creative Landscape Accents. Burgie builds  high quality woodworking projects for the outdoors and also enjoys making decorative accent pieces for inside the house. While not working in his shop doing woodworking Burgie enjoys computers, restoring his old 1964 Chevy C60 2-ton dump truck and riding his Harley-Davidson Road King throughout beautiful Colorado.

 

 


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