Ok, so you want to start building things with wood.
A good idea, because wood is warm, has a beautiful color, and is also easy to process.
But be careful!
There are a few important things to know about the lumber you will be working with.
Important things that can make or break your project.
If you are working on something, you want your project to be a success, because you will be working on it for many hours.
Wood isn’t a cheap material either, so you don’t want to waste it.
When you build something, it should last as long as possible.
In this way, your invested money and time will be well spent.
Don’t worry, in just a few minutes by reading this article, you will be able to use wood correctly every time.
With this information, you can make any woodworking project a success.
Below, you will find 5 useful tips about wood that you should know before starting a new project.
I wish I had found an article like this when I started woodworking.
Read these 5 tips carefully and take your woodworking skills to the next level.
- Why is wood a good building material?
- 5 helpful tips about wood you MUST know BEFORE building things
- Must know tip 1 – Know the wood you are working with
- Must know tip 2 – Remember: wood is moving constantly!
- Must know tip 3 – Always check the moisture level
- Must know tip 4 – Check the end grain
- Must know tip 5 – Protect your wood after finishing your project
Why is wood a good building material?
Building with wood, be it a small piece of furniture or a building, has a few very special advantages.
The main ones are:
Did you know that wood is better than steel when it comes to breaking length?
It is a lightweight building material, which means it can bear its own weight better.
That is why wood is often used in large spaces, where support is not possible or should be reduced to a minimum.
When the temperature rises, lumber will hardly expand, on the contrary, heat will dry out the wood and become stronger.
The specific heat of wood is quite high.
If you want to increase or decrease the temperature of it, you need a lot of energy for that.
That is why wood conducts heat or cold up to 3 times less quickly than, for example, concrete or steel.
For this reason, wood is often used in buildings.
Another reason wood is used is, for example, for making handles for metal objects that are heated.
Want to remove the echo from a room? Then use wood!
The acoustic properties of wood ensure that sounds are absorbed.
When sound waves hit the wood, they are not reflected or amplified.
There are so many types available, that there is a wood that offers the perfect look for every application.
With wood, you create a warm and cozy atmosphere.
5 helpful tips about wood you MUST know BEFORE building things
Must know tip 1 – Know the wood you are working with
Each project has its specific requirements.
It is therefore important to choose the type of lumber that is most suitable for the project you are working on.
So it’s a good idea to do some research first.
You really don’t want to spend a large sum of money, to notice afterward that all your work and investments have been in vain.
I’ll give a clear example:
Imagine, you built a closet for a bathroom.
The bathroom is a room that can experience strong fluctuations in temperature and humidity.
When you take that hot shower, that warm vapor spreads around the room and settles on that brand-new bathroom cabinet you just built.
Imagine you used the wrong type of lumber, one that is light and porous.
I think you already know what’s going to happen.
Indeed, it will quickly absorb that moist vapor.
Result: the wood will expand, and/or mold will affect the wood
You will think, no problem, I will turn up the heating, and it will dry out again.
Drying out will cause the lumber to shrink again, and that rapid fluctuation between expansion and contraction will cause it to break or warp.
Then you can disassemble the cabinet in which you have put a lot of money and energy, and use it as firewood.
Too bad, isn’t it?
So before you start building something, think carefully about the properties of the lumber.
Try to find the right lumber for that specific project.
So, don’t use cheap pine to build a porch deck, or no tropical hardwood to build a wall with.
If you want to know how you can see what properties a certain type of wood has, there is a website that has collected all this data.
A few weeks ago, I already placed the link to the wood database on the homepage of this website.
You can find it underneath the section of interesting links.
So come back regularly, because if I find a website that provides useful information, I’ll share the link over there.
On that database website, you will find each type of wood with a very detailed description.
That will be useful in determining the right type for your project.
So don’t make expensive mistakes and do some research on which type is best for your project.
More information about wood types can be found in an article I wrote about 5 best tips to a woodworking jump start.
Must know tip 2 – Remember: wood is moving constantly!
As described in the first tip, you should be aware that temperature and moisture have a major impact on lumber.
Wood will move due to these 2 influences and either shrink or expand whenever one of these changes.
If it gets warmer, wood will dry out and contract.
If it becomes moister, it will expand.
Lumber will not change so much in length, but rather in width.
The amount of this change will depend on how large the fluctuations in moisture or temperature are.
Not only that, but also the choice of the type of lumber is decisive.
But why is it that wood can expand or contract?
Well, wood is made up of tiny cells.
When your lumber was still a tree, these cells were filled with moisture. Think of it as little bags with water in them.
Thanks to these filled cells, the tree could grow, and these cells made the tree quite flexible.
After cutting the tree into planks, these were placed aside for a while.
That way they were allowed to dry out.
What happened when the boards dried out was that the moisture disappeared from these cells.
As a result, these cells shrink and become closer together.
This not only made the boards smaller but also stronger.
However, these cells remain in the lumber.
They can start to absorb moisture again when they come into contact with it.
How fast this goes depends on the circumstances and the type of lumber.
As a result, these cells will refill and the board will expand again.
Wood will constantly adapt to the conditions in which it finds itself and therefore constantly move.
So keep this in mind when you choose the type of lumber you will be working with.
Must know tip 3 – Always check the moisture level
If you have read my other blogs on my website carefully, you will notice that I have repeated this many times before:
Check the moisture level of your lumber before you start working with it!
Lumber must be dry to work with.
As I have just described, it consists of cells that were once filled with moisture.
It is therefore important to let the lumber dry long enough so that the moisture sufficiently is removed.
I described the best ways to dry lumber in the article 4 correct ways to dry lumber.
Be sure to check out this blog because there I will go into more detail on this topic.
When the lumber has reached a certain humidity level, you can safely use it for your projects and the shrinkage will be minimal.
You can easily check the humidity level yourself.
What every woodworker should have in their workshop is a moisture meter.
This is a very affordable device that can save you many annoyances.
Different types of moisture meters are available.
I recommend purchasing a pinless moisture meter, it will not damage the lumber.
So avoid shrinkage by working with well dried lumber!
For exterior lumber, the acceptable moisture level is between 9% to 14%.
For interior lumber, the moisture level is lower and is between 6% to 8%.
Some recommended quality moisture meters to have in your workshop
Must know tip 4 – Check the end grain
Did you know that lumber is cut from a tree in different ways?
And did you know that the way in which this is done determines the quality and also the price?
There are three ways in which the cutting of a log is done.
By checking the head of the lumber, or called the end grain, you can easily see which way was used.
Like that, you can see for yourself what quality you have.
If you have a piece of lumber, check if you can see more of the rings, and see if those rings look like a rainbow.
Well, that kind of board is called plain sawn.
Because the grain continues in this board, this board will be much more sensitive to shrinkage and warp easily.
This is the cheapest lumber you can buy.
When you have lumber whose end grain runs right through the wood, then you have wood called rift sawn.
This board is fairly stable and will not shrink that much.
And then you have quarter sawn.
The end grain resembles a rainbow cut in two.
Quartersawn lumber is also quite stable and shrinks only half as much as plain-sawn lumber.
This is because the shrinkage happens more evenly.
Depending on how a board is cut from the trunk, the board will shrink and move in a certain way.
It is good to know this, in order to estimate how the lumber will react once it has been incorporated into your project.
So, the next time you go to buy lumber, you should not only check that it is nice and straight.
Also take a look at the end grain and notice what quality you will be buying.
If you know well what kind of board you are using, your project will always be a success.
Must know tip 5 – Protect your wood after finishing your project
For wood protection, you can choose from a number of wood treatments. In my post 4 Types Of Wood Finishes. What To Use When And How? A Clear Guide, I go into this in further detail.
These compounds create a barrier that partially sinks into the grain while also sealing the surface.
As a result, moisture and fungi are prevented from penetrating and damaging the wood.
It will be more scratch-resistant as well.
Use food-safe wood finishes if you’re working on a project that will come into contact with food. To assist you in selecting the finest food safe finish, I produced an article titled What Is The Best Food Safe Wood Finish (All In One Guide)
The range of preservatives is enormous.
You will have to make a choice that best suits the wood used, your taste, and your requirements.
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I hope these 5 tips about wood were helpful, and that this blog and video inspires you.
Let me know in a comment below.
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Christophe, founder of Christofix.com
Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration