Glossary to Mail Wood

Not every carver is lucky enough to have a source of excellent carving woods close at hand. Although it is the dream to be able to browse the local lumber store and hand pick the next blank for our projects, most carvers will need to obtain their wood from a mail order lumber supplier. You can find domestic and imported woods, softwoods and hardwoods, and even exotics that will be delivered right to your door.

It has been our experience that these wood suppliers are extremely helpful in guiding the new carver in selecting their wood needs and will answer any questions that you may have on both what to order and how to determine how much of each wood you will want. Below are a few of the terms that you will need to know for mail ordering your wood supplies.

Board Foot: This is the standard unit of measurement for wood. It is a unit of measurement one foot long, one foot wide, and one inch thick. To determine the board foot measurement of your wood order multiple the length of the board by the width of the board. Multiple this answer by the thickness of the board. Divide this answer by 144 (the number of square inches in a square foot). Example: a board that is two foot long and three inches wide and one inch thick would be 24″ x 3″ = 72″, 72″ x 1″ =72″. 72″ /144 =.5 board feet.

Visual Sample of Board Foot Measurement


S2S: Surfaced two sides, this board has been milled on both faces of the board yet the edges are not finished and will have a rough sawn surface.

S4S: Surfaced four sides, this board has been milled both on the two faces of the board and on both edges.

4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 8/4 : This is the thickness of the board as measured in quarter inches. A 4/4 board is equal to one inch, 5/4 board is l 1/4 inches thick, 6/4 board is 1 1/2 inches thick, 8/4 board is two inches thick, etc.

Random Widths and Lengths Packs: Most mail order wood suppliers will provide you with what is called short packs. These are usually sold in predetermined board foot packages, as 20 board foot or 50 board foot. The packs will contain a variety of widths, lengths , and thickness of the same species of wood. Short packs are an excellent way to purchase wood for the beginner if you do not have a specific project in mind but wish to have carving wood on hand.

Selected Sizes: This is wood that is ordered in specific length, width, and thickness. If you are working on a particular project that requires certain dimensions this is how you will be ordering your supplies. Selected sized wood will cost slightly more, yet it has been milled and cut exactly as you will be using it.

AD: Air dried wood. This is stock that has been stacked and allowed to dry naturally over a long period of time.

KD: Kiln dried wood. Here the stock is heat treated in either a gas fired kiln or solar kiln to speed the drying time. Kiln dried wood has a lower moisture content that air dried, usually about 6 – 12% moisture as compared to 12 – 18% in AD.

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