How Pros Look at Lumber
There’s more to selecting boards than counting board feet
Synopsis: At some point in your journey as a woodworker, you’ve developed your skills and acquired enough tools and you start to really think about the wood. It may sound simplistic, but wood is the woodworker’s medium, and the truly great furniture makers think about it a lot. We talk to several to get their insights into choosing lumber, from the very specific to the conceptual. John Cameron, John Reed Fox, Christian Becksvoort, Tim Coleman, Peter Shepard, Brian Reid, Garrett Hack, Greg Klassen, Thomas Throop, John Tetreault, Philip Morley, and Michael Fortune share their views.
When I first got into woodworking, most of my energy was spent learning and developing the skills required to turn lumber into furniture. I also spent a healthy amount of time reading about and acquiring tools. It’s understandable. You can’t make furniture if you don’t know how it’s constructed and don’t have the necessary tools. However, because I gave so much attention to these aspects of the craft, I gave almost no thought to the material I was using, and the furniture I made suffered as a result. Sure, my joinery was improving but I was using wood with ugly grain, or the cherry I picked for the legs of a table was a noticeably different color than the boards I picked for the top. Eventually, I had cut enough joinery and really didn’t need more tools, so I began to think about the wood. This is when I realized that the wood you use shouldn’t be an afterthought, at least not if you want to make truly beautiful furniture. You must be as thoughtful about the color, grain, figure, and cut of the wood as you are about the proportions, dimensions, and details of the design. Since then I’ve developed a very…