When it comes to all of the many projects you can complete as a woodworker, you must learn how to properly prepare your lumber. Whether you buy your lumber at a specialty wood store, a home center, or a lumberyard, preparing lumber for woodworking projects is a must before you can start your project.
Lumber that you buy can either be rough cut and delivered directly from the mill or have smooth surfaces on either two, three, or four sides. Both types of lumber must be prepped. First, you want to consider the size that you are going to need for your design. Consider what type of grain you need your wood to have for the specific project and if there is there any warping or cracking.
The rougher the lumber, the more thickness you must work with. Typically, rough lumber is 1/8th inch thick to 1/4th of an inch thick.
Cut the Board
The first cut you want to make is a small one inch cut at each end of the board. Check the board ends for cracks that may cause the need for you to cut more. You want to make sure there are no cracks left on the board, because if there are ones you miss, they could continue to grow.
Every time you make a cut at the end, make sure the cracks are gone and continue to cut until there are no more cracks visible. Now, you can mark the boards with the measurements of the cuts you need for your project. Once the board is measured and marked, use a saw of your choice to make these cuts. Consider leaving some extra material behind your mark in case you make an error and need to correct it.
Flatten the Best Face
Pick the face of the board that you want to look the best and run it face down across the jointer planer. What is a jointer planer? A jointer planer is a tool used to flatten the face of the board. Depending on the condition of the board, you may have to make several passes over the board.
Pick One Edge
Now you want to flatten an edge of the board. Choose the edge you want to work with and follow the same steps as above. Run the edge through the jointer planer as many times as you need to get it how you want it. Also make sure your corner is 90 degrees.
Cut the Opposite Side
Now that you have cut and flattened one end of the board, you can now cut the opposite side to match the length.
Run Your Board Through the Planer
Now that your boards are cut and sawed, you want to smooth the surface from any saw marks made by putting the boards in a planer. You can set the tool to take off as little or as much from the board as you need to and run the board through.
**Now continue the above steps with each board until you have the right amount for your project**
Once you follow the above steps and have the correct amount of boards, you can continue with your project following the necessary steps based on the project. There are a few things that no matter where your shop is located or what type of projects you do, that you will want to follow. The first one is to let your wood acclimate to your shop’s climate before you start working with the boards. Do not use green wood, as it contains a high moisture content. Lastly, look at the board you are using and its features to ensure you highlight any areas of the boards you want to keep for aesthetic purposes. Also, consider buying more lumber than you need in case you make errors on cuts and need to make up for it.
Woodworking is a very detailed and creative trade that requires a lot of attention and dedication. If you follow these steps to prep your wood before you start your project, you should come out on the other side with a well done and beautiful wood project!