Consider the finish of the item
Before buying a lumber for furniture production, the first thing to consider is the finish of the piece that you are going to make. Do you want it to be painted or just a varnish? If the furniture is painted finish, lumber quality is not so much a problem because you cannot see anymore the grain of the wood. What you will see is the paint. But if it to be finished in varnish, it is mandatory that you choose a good lumber that is devoid of defects.
Good lumber qualities
Kiln-dried – Never use sun-dried lumbers because the moisture content (MC) of this kind of drying is very high. If the MC is more than 14%, the movement of the wood cannot be controlled. Movements of wood do not happen immediately after the assembly process. The defects resulting to using sun-dried wood will become obvious in the long run.
Furniture items for export to countries which are extremely hot or cold should be given due attention on the MC of the wood. It must be in accordance with the MC required in that particular country. The allowable MC of furniture in tropical countries like the Philippines for local consumption is around 12%. Exports to other countries like Japan and USA require lower MC of around 8%. Normally, the client provides the MC requirement. The device that calculates the MC is called a moisture meter. Once the thongs of the moisture meter are tapped into the wood surface, the hand of the meter reacts.
Straight – Sometimes when the lumber is too long, say, 12’, bowing of wood is to be checked carefully. It is very easy to see if the wood is straight or has a bow somewhere along the entire length. But if you are working on small pieces like chairs, for example, and the wood you are intending to buy is for the legs and rails, bows are not so much of a problem because you can always cut the stock in shorter lengths. Nevertheless, it is still a good practice to always buy lumber without any defect at all because there will come a time that you will need longer stocks.
Free from twists – It is very difficult working with twisted lumber, but this kind of defect is very rare on kiln-dried lumbers. All lumbers up for kiln-drying are inspected carefully before they are stored inside a kiln-drying chamber.
Free from cracks – You must look intently on the surface of the lumber if it has cracks because you will be losing much money. Although it can be corrected by bonding using a wood glue, it is still better if the wood you are buying is really of good quality, unless you will be given a discounted price.
Tips on savings on lumber costs
If your projects are all miniature pieces, do not buy long lumbers. There are stores which sell short lumbers and the prices are lower than long stocks. In the Philippines, they are called as “shorts.” Usually, the length of these stocks range from 2’ to 4’, maximum. If possible, buy S4S lumbers so you can save time, electricity, and manhours in planing them. S4S means “smooth four sides.”