Q. What is the difference between the hardwood lumber grades of No.1 Common and Select or FAS-1 Face (also called “Face”)?

A. The lumber grades were developed and are overseen by the NHLA (National Hardwood Lumber Association). The difference between Select grade lumber and No.1 Common lumber is that when grading both, we look at the poorer of the two faces to determine the grade. For both No.1 Common and Select, the poorer face is graded as No.1 Common; that is, they poorer faces are the same.

The difference between the two grades is the better face: When grading No.1 Common, the better face is the same or better than the poorer face. When grading Select, the better face must grade FAS, which means that the better face of Select must be clearer than the better face of No.1 Common. There are also some edge wane restrictions in Select.

Overall, this means that if you are making clear-2 face cuttings, it is the poorer face that determines the yield, so (except for the wane improvement in Select), you will get nearly identical yields when cutting either grade.

With FAS-1 Face grade, the lumber grading rules are identical to Select with one difference. FAS-1 Face lumber must be at least 6 inches wide (Select pieces can be 4 inches). Cut-up yields should be slightly higher than for No.1 Common.

For the best grade, FAS, the lumber on the poorer face must be somewhat clearer than for No.1 Common, so you do get perhaps 25 percent higher yields when cutting this grade.

Gene Wengert, “The Wood Doctor” has been training people in efficient use of wood for 35 years. He is extension specialist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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