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How Can You Tell What Kind Of Figure You'll Get From Rough Wood?


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There's a hardwood outlet nearby and they sell stuff pretty rough, but hey . . . the prices are pretty good :D . I can do the surfacing and stuff myself, but I was wondering if there's a good way to tell what kind of figure you can expect from the rough boards? I'm thinking particularly of mahogany and sapele . . . I really love the look of ribbon striping that you can find in these woods, but in the rough they often look pretty non-descript.

Also, can you find decent figure in flatsawn sapele/mahogany or do you need quartersawn?

Thanks for the info :D

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Just as Setch mentioned Ribbon is found in well quartersawn stock, and generally the color difference in the bands are pretty easy to see even in the ruff. Flatsawn wood will on occasion exibit Quilting or Pomelle figure. You can train yourself to spot the figure, and ignor ruff machining patterns. It just takes a bit of training to know what the indicators look like and close observation to sort through the clues.


BTW: Are these actually boards in the ruff or 2nd's and commons? Most dealers sell wood machined on 2 sides unless it is 12/4 or thicker. I have found they prefer to surface most woods 8/4 and thinner so they can grade and sort (worth more), unless the batch of wood appears to be of a lower grade and they choose to leave it "ruff" instead of surfacing to 2nds. If the company only sells wood in the ruff this may not be the case though (Sapele in the ruff should be at a fairly good discount 25-30% vs 2s2 SAB-- assuming it is not greater than 8/4 stock).

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I buy almost all my wood in the rough (and that maple above is not in the rough, trust me), and it just takes some experience to see through all the sawmark scars and look for the grain and figure. It can be especially tough on the ends of the boards if they are all gummed up with heavy wax, or are heavily scuffed.

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shoot..y'all don't know rough. i get most of my wood from a friend who slabs out downed trees around here with a portable sawmill..not the band saw type..the chain saw type. now that's rough. but we're texans and we like things rough. :D

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Yes, that piece of Maple has definately been surfaced. I did a quick search this is a breakdown on grading and surfacing-click. I found a couple extra bits about dimensions and how wood in the rough differs from surfaced wood (this is from posts on the Wood Web).

"Sorry to take exception, but the weights and measures department of every state adopted the technique of measuring board footage many years ago (in 1978?). So, within every state, when measuring lumber, the rules are the same--for small or big mills. (Parts would be different.) Also, the measure for softwoods is based legally on the nominal size and not the actual size. This is the standard used and is legally done that way in every state (and probably Canada too). There is no exception for small-scale people.

Lumber is indeed sold by the board foot. Hardwoods are sold by the "whole number" or integer board foot and not fractions. It does not have to do with scale, it has to do with the measure, which for hardwoods does not have fractions. For softwoods, the definition is for board feet measured to two decimals based on nominal size, not actual.

Incidentally, softwood pieces 1x12x10's are 0.75 x 11.25 x 10.0' actual size. This size is the size when the piece was graded, so if it dries out it will be a little smaller; if it gains moisture, a little bigger. But the BF stays the same 10 BF per piece.

Also, if you sell a dry, planed piece of hardwood lumber that is 1.00 x 11.51 x 10.5', this is actually considered as 5/4, so it is 12 BF (the first piece) and 13 BF the second piece, etc.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor "

"I understand that most people have there own way of grading and sell lots of wood, but when a person asks for a grade requirement, I believe we should revert to the accepted standard instead of what someone taught us. I have found way too often bad teaching gets passed on without being questioned regarding its accuracy.

This is directly from the Grading Rules:

13. Standard thicknesses for rough lumber are 3/8", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4", 1", 1-1/4", 1-1/2", 1-3/4", 2", 2-1/2", 3", 3-1/2", 4", 4-1/2", 5", 5-1/2", and 6". One inch and thicker may also be expressed in quarter inches as follows: 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 7/4, 8/4, 10/4, 12/4, 14/4, 16/4, 18/4, 20/4, 22/4 and 24/4.

14. Standard thicknesses for surfaced lumber is calculated by subtracting 3/16" from standard rough thickness for lumber 1-1/2" thick or less and by subtracting 1/4" for lumber between 1-3/4" and 4" thick as follows:

Rough Surfaced

3/8" S2S to 3/16"

1/2" S2S to 5/16"

5/8" S2S to 7/16"

3/4" S2S to 9/16"

1" S2S to 13/16"

1-1/4" S2S to 1-1/16"

1-1/2" S2S to 1-5/16"

1-3/4" S2S to 1-1/2"

2" S2S to 1-3/4"

2-1/2" S2S to 2-1/4"

3" S2S to 2-3/4"

3-1/2" S2S to 3-1/4"

4" S2S to 3-3/4"

I personally have never been too happy about the surfaced standards, but that seems to be what is allowable.


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I hear ya uncleJ, my pop has an alaskan mill (chainsaw mill) and drops trees cause he still burns wood for heat. When I heard he ran into a patch o' black walnut on his place and he planned to burn it, I threatened to burn HIM! Anyway, his last visit he brought me a bunch of hickory that was very rough. But to answer the thread, I have no friggin idea. I pass it through the planer and say, "hey that looks cool."


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Just bring a scraper with you to the place, and just take a little off in some areas. You dont really get a full view of it, but you get an idea. The place I go to lets me do that , but I dont know if they will allow it.

I second this idea, and also have some naptha( lighter fluid) to bring out the grain. I do this all the time.


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