The lumber business is the odd duck of our woodworking world. It is a conglomeration of companies, all focused on turning a commodity into a specialty.

Atmong these businesses is Timberland Wood Products (, a Sheboygan, WI firm that took me under their wing, and as they started to teach me the lumber business, I realized that woodworking companies, purchasing agents, and other people new to the industry could use the same help that Timberland was giving me. 

The lumber supplier market has several issues that inherently create confusion for the manufacturer, buyer and seller:

•  Lumber is cut directly from logs, the logs from trees, and trees unlike hinges or laminate are never consistent. They are the true embodiment of Nature, so the prevailing rule is inconsistency, or as the Japanese say, "Wabi-sabi".

• Trees tend to be harvested at certain times of the year. If the weather is unforgiving the loggers cannot get into the woods and cut. This creates seasonal demands and fluctuating prices. *

• Many species of trees, like hickory, stain quickly in hot weather if not placed into dry kilns within a few days. This can create more demand as loggers and kilns avoid cutting and drying some species even though they could get into the woods.

• The lumber supply as a whole is fragmented by individual companies that specialize in one area of the industry or even in one type of lumber. This is forced on some companies by the local species in their nearby geography, and by others just by their individual preferences. Some companies just log, some only run dry kilns and others inventory and sell. To add to the chaos, many users of lumber demand very exact species, or specifications on their lumber usage.

•  The lumber industry uses it's own "Lumber Lingo" that makes it hard for new buyers to understand. If you are a new purchasing agent and one of your jobs is to buy lumber, you may see a quote for "4/4,FASF1F, KD Poplar, S2S 15/16" RWL with 30%14-16' at a Gross price per thousand board feet. Talk about confusing!


♦ 4/4 = 1"thick

♦ FASF1F= the grade of lumber

♦ KD = Kiln Dried.

♦ S2S 15/16" =surfaced on 2 sides to 15/16" thick.

♦ RWL=Random Width and Length.

* Gross= the price for lumber before it is dried.

Lastly, there is a whole set of codes for the grade of lumber created decades ago by the NHLA, or the National Hardwood Lumber Association. Examples of the codes are FAS, F1F, 1C, 2C, 2A and 2B along with several others. 

My goal in future columns is to help you decipher the confusing lingo, the geography, and the specialties ofi the lumber market in a way that we can all understand. 

Lumber Nomenclature - What's In a Name?

Lumber Nomenclature - What's In a Name?

 Net Versus Gross Tally

There are two common ways to count the amount of footage in a load of lumber: Net Tally and Gross Tally. Gross Tally is calculated when the lumber is green, before it is dried in the kiln. (Green lumber is always figured on Gross Tally.) Net Tally is based on the lumber after it is dried. Wood swells when wet, so Gross pricing is lower than Net Tally by about 7%. This wet lumber pricing adds a fudge factor that leaves you subject to the calculations of your supplier. when determining Gross price to your actual footage, some suppliers minus 7%, some divide by 93% and some even divide by 92%. Buying your dried lumber on a Gross scale is like buying a can of peas and paying extra for the water. Net Tally is based on the footage after the lumber is dried, so your price is much closer to the actual footage on the load. When buying Kiln Dried lumber, use Net Tally for a realistic cost.

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