How to Get Square, Stable Stock
For best results, rough-mill the wood, allow it to stabilize, then finish-mill
Synopsis: Transform rough lumber into square and stable stock with this foolproof milling process described in detail by Fine Woodworking contributing editor Gary Rogowski. His guidelines are direct and helpful—leave bad boards at the lumberyard, for instance—and they’ll save you headaches. He details the entire process, including selecting rough lumber, drying and acclimating lumber in your shop, rough milling, stickering, and finally jointing, surfacing, ripping, and crosscutting to final dimensions. He shows how it’s done and the order it’s best to do it. Along the way, you’ll learn how wood cups and crooks.
From Fine Woodworking #165
Take a piece of rough wood, fresh off the woodpile or lumber rack. Now transform that coarse stick into a square, flat piece of stock with parallel sides and ends, suitable for your latest project.
It seems to take a sort of magic sometimes to make flat and smooth what starts out twisted and rough. The importance of this feat, however, cannot be overstated. If you lay a foundation of accuracy with your milling, then your joinery and assembly have a much better chance of going together smoothly and sweetly.
I am focusing here on milling rough lumber, as opposed to material already surfaced on two or four sides. When starting with rough lumber, you’re not bound by the thicknesses that are commonly available in surfaced stock. Also, rough stock is less expensive. And there is no guarantee that surfaced material is truly flat or straight anyway. That leap of faith has gotten many a woodworker into trouble. So proper milling practices are important in any case.
Wood is alive. It moves despite our best efforts to keep it flat and square. How can we mill it straight and flat and then keep it so? Start by…