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Home > Lumber Terms Used On This Site And Their Meaning
Log Skidding
This picture was taken at Jack Herritts lumber camp. Notice the many horses employed in this operation. I remember seeing this in my younger days and was impressed with the amount of work that was done. Horses are not the most efficient means to do this but they are by far the least environmentally disruptive means. Besides that every horse has its own personality and somehow working with another breathing creature that you get to know, feed an apple or carrot to every now and then, is much more satisfying than putting fuel into a motorized skidder!
Lumber Terms Used On This Site And Their Meaning
  • Board Foot - A unit of quantity measurement for rough lumber. A board foot of lumber measures 12" square x 1" thick. To compute board footage take the length of the material in feet x width of material in inches and divide that product by 12. This will give you the board footage for a 1" thickness. If the material is 2" thick multiply the result for 1" by 2...and so on.
  • 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 10/4, 12/4 Thicknesses - All rough lumber from the mill is measured in 1/4" increments. That is to say that 4/4 means 1" thick material, 5/4 means 1/1/4" thick material....an so on.
  • Wane - Wane is an area of the lumber that is missing solid wood and is generally indicated by bark on the edges of the material.
  • Ingrown Bark - Ingrown bark is exactly what it indicates. This is area in the material where bark is in the surfaced of the material.
  • Lumber Stain - Lumber stain is a natural occurrence in wood and happens generally when the wood is not properly aired in the drying process after being cut. The acids and other chemical reactions in the lumber literally change the white sapwood to dark sapwood because there is no ventilation to carry off the moisture in the wood.
  • Worm Holes And Knots - Worm holes are also a natural occurrence caused by insects that burrow into the tree. They are without exception very small holes less than a 1/16" in diameter and are most often accompanied with minor lateral mineral stain where the tree tries to fix the problem. It is to be understood that knots, when listed in the description, are on both faces unless specifically stated as on one face only.
  • Sapwood - Sapwood is the white wood in the tree and is found closest to the bark of the tree. In maple it is the preferred wood and in most of the other hardwood species it is not desirable. Sapwood shows the best figure in maple.
  • Heartwood - Heartwood (darker colored wood) is the wood found adjacent to the sapwood and is located in the center of the tree. It is the preferred wood in cherry and most of the other species of hardwood trees. The figure or curl may or may not be very vivid in this area of the maple species but is generally vivid in the other species of hardwood trees.
  • Curl or Figure - What causes curl of figure? In all of nature genes go a little crazy which produces abnormalities. In lumber....it is figure or curl. It is a rarity to find good figure to be sure but it does happen in .5% to 3% of the lumber cut depending on the species. There are no absolutes when it comes to figured lumber...like people no two are alike! Hardly ever does nature make the perfect piece of wood when it comes to figure and I guess you can say that about people also! In describing material on our site we describe the material as accurately as possible in the space allowed and the pictures taken. However, there may be some things that you absolutely require such as figure both faces, no defects, etc that the pictures do not show. If this is the case I would advise you to email or call me to make sure the your specs are appropriate for your selection.
  • Spalted Lumber - Spalted Lumber is lumber in the initial stages of decay but still solid and useful. This happens when the lumber has remained in log form a long time without being cut and process. You get some beautiful designs and colors in this decay process.
  • Surfacing
Surfaced One Face......the material is really "surface jointed" using a spiral headed jointer to straighten the material and expose the figure. It is always assumed that when this operation is finished the material is almost always 100% surfaced on one face but never less than 85%. This operation not only exposes the figure but more importantly straightens the board with no tearout. This obviously is a greater advantage to you than just running it through a surface planer. It is done at a much greater time and expense to me but the end result is worth it for my customers.
Surfaced Two Face.....the board is first surface jointed, being 85% to 100% surfaced on one face, and then run through a spiral headed planer to make the opposite face parallel to the surface jointed face and eliminate tear-out. This operation almost always results in a 100% surfaced second face but never less than 85% surfaced.
Roughly Surfaced.....this means that the material is "hit and missed" surfaced on both faces and the surfaces will be parallel but not necessarily be straight. This happens to some material that has been previously surfaced at the mill.

Grade Lumber....What does it all mean?
Many people that buy figured lumber have no idea of what grade of lumber they are buying . While it is true that there is no official grading system for the actual figured in the lumber, it is still a piece of lumber and as such does come under standards established by the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA).
Be suspicious of dealers who do not tell you the grade of lumber you are buying. The saying "comparing apples to apples" is especially true when you buy hardwoods. If you buy a piece of highly figured lumber and you do not know it is graded 2com or 3com, you better be making small projects because it will have defects.
The grading process is complicated to go into depth here. You can get an excellent layman's explanation of the NHLA grading system here. Be an informed buyer! Know exactly what grade of lumber you are buying so the lumber will fit your purpose. After that the primary concern for buyers of figured lumber is the figure itself....and that's what this site is all about!