Forget the Grade Focus on Usable Cuttings

national hardwood lumber grade card imageThe randomness that hardwood lumber is sold in certainly creates some interesting scenarios for manufactures and craftsman.  Unlike softwoods, where the board is graded based on the entire piece, hardwoods are graded based on the usable cuttings that can be obtained from that particular board.

Those associated with the industry know that the hardwood lumber grade standards were set years ago by the National Harwood Lumber Association to establish a fair and equitable way to trade lumber. Each of the grades allows for an acceptable range of fiber that can be used and provides a minimum amount of clear cuttings that can be obtained from a board.

For example FAS, First and Second, grade lumber is designed to yield 83.3% clear cuttings from the board. 

On the other hand #1 Common lumber, which is typically less expensive, is graded to assure customers that 66.6% of the board would result in clear cuttings.

And #2 Common lumber is graded to provide 50% clear cuttings.

When we get the opportunity to discuss lumber requirements with customers we often suggest they focus less on the grade and price and more on the clear cuttings they think they need to create for their products.  Most of the time lumber buyers are fixated on the size, shape and type of defects found in a board.  However, when we can get them to reverse their perspective and look at the amount and placement of the clear fiber we often realize a different type of hardwood lumber product can meet their needs more effectively.

This type of discussion can also lead to the development of a specific type of board characteristics or potential defect placement that the customer wants to receive and we can use that as a basis to develop a custom lumber solutions specifically for them.

So next time you are looking for hardwood lumber, try starting by determining what type of parts you need to make and what size of clear cuttings you would need to produce that part. Then contact your hardwood lumber supplier and find out what grade would be best to accomplish that.

Tony C.
The Baillie Group
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.