How to Measure Hardwood Boards

How to Measure Hardwood Boards

Hardwoods are measured and sold by the board foot, which is 1 foot long, 1 foot wide, and 1 inch thick. For your project, you may need a board of 1 × 10 of a certain length—in that case, skip to the next section and just go buy it. You can say, "I'd like an eight-foot, one-by-ten pine board." More complex projects, especially those that require widths other than the standard 1-inch thickness, may require ordering in board feet. Here's how to figure it out.

1 Board feet is calculated by multiplying a board's width in inches by its length in feet by its thickness in inches and then dividing by 12. This means that a thicker board contains more board feet than a thinner one of equal surface area—board feet is a measure of volume, not area. So, a 16-inchwide, 8-foot-long, 2-inch-thick board would be 16 × 8 × 2 ÷ 12 = 21.3 board feet.

How to Measure Hardwood Boards

2 First, list the rough-cut sizes of the boards you need. Start by determining how thick you want the finished board, then add ⅛ or even ¼ inch to account for surface planing.

3 Do the same thing with width, again adding ¼ inch.

4 Add an inch to the length of each finished board to determine the roughcut length—you'll make the end cuts last, and the plane or router has a nasty habit of chipping board ends before you get to them.

5 If you aren't sure, you can always order your hardwood from the lumberyard S4S—"surfaced both sides"—in which case you don't need to add a cushion—just ask for what you need.

BUYING SOFTWOOD BOARDS

Softwoods are sold in standardized board sizes, not by surface area and board feet. You don't get much more standard than a "2 × 4," but a 2 × 4 actually measures 1½ × 3½ inches, the size of the board after being planed down from the rough stock. The same is true of all standard softwood boards, including the 1-by series (1 × 2, 1 × 3, 1 × 4, 1 × 6, 1 × 8, 1 × 10, and 1 × 12), the 2-by series (2 × 2, 2 × 4, 2 × 6, 2 × 8, 2 × 10, 2 × 12), and bigger wood, including 4 × 4, 4 × 6, 6 × 6, and 8 × 8. All the 1-inch dimensions are actually ¾ inch; all the dimensions from 2 to 6 inches lose exactly half an inch (e.g., a 2 × 6 is in fact 1½ × 5½). Dimensions over 6 inches lose ¾ inch. These widths and depths all come in the standard lengths of 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, and 24 feet.

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