Properties Of Common Woods

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The following list gives descriptions of some of the more widely known woods suitable for furniture-making. In each case, colour, texture, figure, working properties and behaviour can only be an approximation or general average, for individual trees within each species may differ very considerably. There will be marked differences between trees of the same species and accorded the same commercial gradings grown some 2000 miles apart, but there can also be an appreciable difference between trees grown only a few hundred miles apart. Movement or dimensional change is arrived at by adding together the tangential and radial movement values occasioned by a change in environmental humidity of 90 per cent (equivalent to a moisture content in timber of approximately 20 per cent according to the species), down to a humidity of 60 per cent (12 per cent moisture content), with a total movement of 3 per cent denoting a stable wood; 3 to 4.5 per cent a medium, and over 4.5 per cent a relatively unstable wood. Thus idigbo will shrink approximately 3/32 in (2.4 mm) tangentially and 1/16 in (1.5 mm) radially for every 12 in (305 mm) in width within the range 18 per cent moisture content (90 per cent air humidity) down to 12 per cent (60 per cent humidity), and can be classed as a small movement or stable wood, whereas beech will shrink 3/8 in (9.5 mm) tangentially and about 3/16 in (5mm) radially under the same conditions, and must, therefore, be regarded as a large movement or relatively unstable wood. In practice, actual stability under normal working conditions will depend on the sum of the dimensional changes as given above, and also on the difference between the tangential and radial shrinkage value, with large differences giving greater tendency to warp and twist.

Home-grown wood


Colour, texture, figure

Working properties, behaviour, etc.


White to pinky cream or brown. Coarse textured. Plain figure sometimes with large flash or ripple.

Tough, strong but easy working, ideal bending wood. Stable.


Lime green to golden brown in colour. Straight grained with a coarse texture but smooth to finish.

Requires careful seasoning. Hard, strong and very durable; ideal for cabinetwork.


Light brown in colour with varying zones of light and dark browns. Fine grain and texture.

Hard and rather brittle. Easy to work but care must be taken in seasoning. Used mainly in turnery, small cabinet work and carving and in the past for many saw handles.


Whitish yellow. Fine even texture. Plain speckled grain. Quality-variable.

Medium hard, strong, clean and easy working. A universal wood. Fairly stable.


Colour, texture, figure

Working properties, behaviour, etc.


Distinctive yellow colour, and one of the finest textured commercial woods available.

Dense and heavy and must be dried carefully to avoid splitting. Once dry is an excellent wood for fine turnery or carving. Also used for engraving, chessmen and bandings.

Cedar of Lebanon

Light brown, strongly aromatic, with clearly marked annual rings. Prone to large dead knots.

The wood is soft and light but durable. Fine grain but brittle, works easily. Ideal for cabinet work and panelling. Used in the past in blanket chest bottoms as a deterrent to moths.


Pale yellow to light reddish brown. Fine even texture with silky sheen resembling pale yew.

Medium hard, tough, clean working. Fine finish. Excellent cabinet wood. Stable.

Chestnut, sweet (Spanish)

Resembling oak in appearance but not so dense.

Softer than oak. Clean working. Very stable.


(English or common)

Pale dull brown to medium brown. Coarse texture. Bold attractive figure.

Hard, tough, clean working. Warps badly if not bone-dry. Bends extremely well.

Elm, Dutch

Straighter grain than common elm.

As English elm but not so liable to warp.


Very pale brown. Straight grain.

Very clean working. Fairly stable.


Greenish white to grey. No distinct heartwood. Dense even texture. Some holly can be pure white if correctly seasoned.

Medium hard, very clean working, very fine finish. Suitable for inlays, and for staining as blackwood. Fairly stable.


Reddish brown. Straight grained with a distinctive spring and summer wood. Reasonably free from knots, but when these occur they are hard and tend to loosen in seasoning.

Moderately hard and heavy. Strong, durable and tough.


Even white to pale brown. Fine uniform texture. Little figure.

Softish. close grained and very clean working. Ideal for carving. Fairly stable.


A softwood resembling yew.

Very durable and stable. Strong scent. Ideal for bookshelves, etc.


Not so white as sycamore. Fine texture with natural lustre. Plain figure.

Medium hard to very hard. Fine finish. Reasonably stable.


Colour, texture, figure

Working properties, behaviour, etc.


Cream to light yellow-brown. Coarse even texture. Attractive figure with quartered wood showing bold flash.

Medium hard to hard, tough, clean working, good finish. Bends well. Fairly stable.

Oak, brown

Very rich brown colour.

Much sought after for fine furniture.

Oak, tiger

Streaked brown on a white ground.

Properties as normal oak.


Pinkish brown with fine even texture and no apparent figure.

Medium hard, clean working, fine lustrous finish. Stable.


Resembling beech in appearance but with broader rays. When quartered is known as 'lace wood'.

Medium hard, fine finish. Stable.


White to yellow-white. Fine texture, natural silky lustre, sometimes with outstanding "fiddle' figure when quartered. Known as 'Harewood' when stained silver-grey with iron salt.

Medium hard to hard, fine finish. Stable.


Greyish yellow to brown with brown-black markings .often finely figured. Fine grain, but some open texture in coarser varieties. One of the most beautiful of all woods.

Medium hard, very clean and easy working. B ends well if straight grained. Stable.


A very dense softwood. Orange to rich brown in colour with purplish tints, stripes and darker spots. Very smooth and lustrous. Handsome close even grain with fine texture and figure which finishes well. Distinctive white sapwood.

Tough, strong, durable, heavy, hard and elastic. Knots, heart shake, ingrown bark and other growth characteristics are an attractive feature, accounting for its use in woodware and fine cabinet work. Bends extremely well.

Imported hardwoods

Abura West Africa

Light brown with pinkish tinge. Fine even texture. No figure.

Medium hard, clean working with some interlocked grain. Fairly stable.

Afrormosia West Africa

Resembling teak but paler and finer textured.

Moderately hard, easy working. Non-greasy substitute for Burmah teak. Very stable.

Agba West Africa

Light cream. Close even texture. No figure.

Medium hard, clean, easy working. Excellent for construction work. Stable.


Colour, texture, figure

Working properties, behaviour, etc.

Beech Europe

White to brownish red when steamed. Fine even texture. Plain figure.

Medium hard, clean working. Good bendingwood. Not very stable.

Bubinga West Africa

Purplish brown ground colour, bordering in some specimens on deep crimson. Deeper tints run across either as irregular bands or as mottled or marbled variegations.

Dries slowly but well, and once dry is stable in use. Strong, hard and machines to a fine finish. Similar to rosewood in weight and grain, and often used as a cheaper alternative. Used for cabinet work and fine woodware items.

Guarea (Nigerian pearwood) West Africa

Pinkish brown .Fine texture. Straight grain occasionally curled.

Medium hard, easy working with some interlocked grain. Reasonably stable.

Hydeua/ Amazakoue/ Ovangkol. West Africa

Dark golden brown in colour with attractive dark brown to black markings. Close grain and fine texture.

Hard, heavy, clean working. Stable

Idigbo West Africa

Pale yellow. Even texture. No figure. Good oak substitute.

Medium hard, easy working. Very stable.

Mahogany, African (Dryland)

Deep red brown. Coarse texture. Stripy figure.

Fairly hard, dense, easy working but grain interlocked. Not stable.

Mahogany, African (Lagos, Nigerian, Grand Bassam, etc.)

Light pink brown to red brown. Fairly coarse texture. Stripy figure.

Medium hard, easy working but with interlocked grain. Fairly stable to stable.

Mahogany, Brazilian

Darker and richer than Honduras. Some resembles Cuban.

Superior to all African species. Second only to Honduras.

Mahogany, Cuban

It is regrettable that Cuban (Spanish) mahogany, the most universally known of all timbers, is no longer available owing to over-exploitation.

Mahogany, Honduran

Yellowish brown. Close even texture. Plain lustrous figure.

Medium hard, excellent working properties. Very stable.

Makore (Cherry mahogany) West Africa

Reddish brown. Fine even texture. Lustrous, stripy figure. Peppery scent.

Medium hard, clean working. Stable.


Colour, texture, figure

Working properties, behaviour, etc.

Mansonia West Africa

Dark greyish brown, resembling walnut. Fine even texture. No figure.

Medium hard, clean working. Very stable.

Muninga Africa

Handsome gold to red-brown with darker markings.

Moderately hard, clean working. Stable.

Oak Europe

Pale cream to light brown. Coarse texture. Good figure. Large flash.

Hard, clean working. Fairly stable.

Oak Japan

Pale cream to light brown. Coarse even texture. Little figure. Small flash.

Medium hard, milder working than other oaks. Very stable.


White or red according to species. Coarse even texture closer than European oak. Very little figure.

Hard, heavy, clean working. Moderately stable.

Obeche West Africa

White to pale straw. Soft, open but firm texture. No figure.

Sottish, easy working and suitable for core work only. Stable.

Olivewood Europe

Yellowish brown with variegated darker streaks.

Hard, heavy and gives a fine lustrous finish. Used for decorative work, inlays and turnery.

Padauk West Africa, Burma,

Andaman Islands

Rich deep red/brown in colour. Coarse texture with an interlocked grain.

A heavy timber. Dries slowly but exceptionally stable in use. Used in furniture, fine joinery and for tool handles.

PaoRosa West Africa

Dense, attractive, straight grained, rose coloured wood, which gives a pleasing lustre when finished.

Hard and heavy, used mainly in turnery and fine cabinet work.

Ramin Malaya

White to pale straw. Medium texture. Little figure.

Medium hard, clean working. Fairly stable.

Redwood, Scandinavian. Northern Europe, Scandinavia, Britain and Western Siberia

A white sapwood with light brown heartwood. Some small sound knots may be found.

Soft, stable and fairly durable. Good furniture quality boards available.

Rosewood, Amazon South America

Dark rust brown with some lighter markings.

Very dense, hard and heavy. An ideal rosewood for turnery as it is one of the few available in thick 1 sections.


Colour, texture, figure

Working properties, behaviour, etc.

Rosewood, Brazilian, Rio - see Exotic hardwoods

Rosewood, Honduran Honduras

Distinct mauve/red colour with lighter and darker markings.

Heavy, dense and machines to an excellent finish.

Available in reasonable sized boards; used extensively in musical instruments and furniture.

Rosewood, Indian, Bombay - see Exotic hardwoods

Rosewood, Mexican Mexico

Brown with black lines, extremely decorative.

Very popular as a fine turnery timber.

Rosewood, Santos Brazil

Light brown/red with purple streaks.

A dense heavy timber which finishes with a fine silky lustre.

Sapelewood West Africa

Reddish brown. Coarse even grain. Lustrous stripe.

Fairly hard, easy working but with interlocked grain. Fairly stable when quarter sawn.

Teak Burmah Africa

Golden brown with occasional black streaks. Lustrous plain figure sometimes rippled.

Medium hard, very easy working but severe on cutting edges. A greasy wood but remarkably stable. The best all-round wood.

Utile West Africa

Greyish pink to red, resembling sapelewood but coarser texture and without pronounced stripe.

Moderately hard, clean working. Stable.

Walnut USA

Purplish black-brown, fine even texture, often boldly marked.

Strong, elastic, hard, clean working. Stable.

Walnut, African. West Africa

Bronze yellow and lustrous with dark streaks. Coarse even texture with ribbon stripes.

Moderately hard, clean working but grain interlocked. Not a true walnut. Reasonably stable.

The dust of both makore and mansonia is little used in production runs where large non-poisonous but highly irritant to mucous quantities of dust are raised. Hand-creams, membranes and occasionally to the skin in light face-masks or respirators will give prosusceptible cases, and for this reason they are tection to those not unduly allergic to the dust.

Exotic hardwoods

Black bean Australia

Chocolate-brown with grey-brown streaks somewhat resembling a coarse walnut. Straight-grained even texture.

Hard, strong, somewhat difficult to work but capable of fine finish. Fairly stable.


Colour, texture, figure

Working properties, behaviour, etc.

Laurel India

Light brown to brown-black. Superficially resembling walnut but with coarse though even texture.

Hard, heavy, tough working and very strong. Capable of fine finish. Fairly stable.

Rosewood, Indian, Bombay

Dark brown to purple-black. Straight grain without violent colour fluctuations of Rio rosewood. Medium, coarse, oily texture.

Rather harder than Rio rosewood, but fairly easy to work and capable of fine finish. Stable.

Rosewood, Brazilian, Rio. South America

Tan to violet-brown or purple-black with ink-black streaks and patches. Medium coarse texture. Oily with characteristic scent when freshly worked.

Hard, fairly easy to work, but hard on tools. Capable of fine finish. Stable.

Satinwood, East Indian. India

Light straw to golden yellow, sometimes exceptionally figured. Fine even texture with remarkable lustre. An outstanding wood.

Hard, very dense and difficult to work, but capable of fine finish. Stable.

Silky oak Australia East Africa

Pinky red-brown with characteristic dark eye or ray. Straight even grain, coarse texture. Not a true oak.

Fairly soft but remarkably strong and tough. Easy working but difficult to finish. Fairly stable.

Other exotic woods occasionally available

Blackwood (African)

Exceptionally hard, heavy, brown-black, giving the appearance of almost total blackness as it has no visible grain. An oily, extremely stable and valuable wood reserved for musical instruments, chessmen, knife handles, brush backs, etc.

Cocobolo (Nicaraguan rosewood) Similar to Rio rosewood but with a pronounced reddish tinge and coarse, visible grain. Not so common as other rosewoods and principally used for brush backs, knife handles, door knobs, etc.

Ebony (Macassar ebony, Andaman marble wood, coromandel, calamander wood, etc.)

All are extremely hard and heavy, very finely textured and somewhat cold to the touch with a marble-like quality. The colours are showy, ranging from dark grey streaked with saffron-green, brown, red and purple to pure black. The trees do not grow much beyond 8 in (203 mm) to 10 in (254 mm) in girth and uses are, therefore, confined to small articles.

Kingwood (Violetta—Brazil) The veritable king of all woods, violet-brown with black or violet-black streaks. Very hard, heavy and most finely textured. Diameters are never more than about 8 in (203 mm) and uses are confined to inlays and small articles owing to scarcity and high cost. A near cousin is Pernambuco wood, the most expensive of woods and used exclusively in the best violin bows.

Purplewood (Aramanth, violetwood) Colour intense purple or violet. Very hard, heavy, medium coarse to fine texture. Chief uses for ornamental wood are turning, inlays and billiard-cue butts.

Snakewood (Leopardwood, letterwood) Brown or reddish brown striped with black. Very hard and heavy, fine uniform texture. Small heartwood and only suitable for inlays. door handles, walking-sticks, etc.

Tulipwood (Brazil)

Pink to crimson stripes with a straw-coloured ground. Fine texture with a straight to interlocked grain. Heavy, dense and machines to a fine finish. An ideal timber for small woodware but its main use is for furniture bandings.

BUYING WOOD, AND TRADE TERMS Notes on buying wood

Buyers of waney/wane edge timber in small quantities direct from the saw-mill or timber-merchant or dealer must expect to pay considerably more per foot than buyers of complete logs of any one variety. Moreover, they cannot assume the right to pick and choose invidividual planks, but must be prepared to accept them 'as they rise' from the pile. However, most co-operative merchants will allow selection, particularly to known customers, although they must necessarily charge higher prices. Imported square edge timber is stacked according to thickness; the planks may be from different logs but the quality is usually fairly consistent throughout the pile, and therefore it is reasonably safe to buy 'as they rise' and only pay extra for small quantities. Wide, flat sawn boards are usually obtainable in home-grown and some African woods, but as they are cut from the centre of the tree, pith defects and pronounced cupping must be expected. Quartered wood can sometimes be obtained in fairly wide boards, particularly in English oak, but are obviously more expensive. Wide boards in teak, Honduras mahogany and other valuable woods are unfortunately now almost unobtainable owing to past overexploitation; any such extra wide or long boards and planks command considerably higher prices. A fair average specification for teak and Honduras mahogany is now about 8 in (200 mm) wide and 8 ft (2.4 m) long, but African woods have not yet been over-exploited, and greater widths and lengths are commonly available. In ordering teak it is more economical to give the timber-merchant exact descriptions of the minimum widths, thicknesses and lengths required so that he can pick the nearest. Assuming that planks 8 in (200 mm) wide and 7 ft (2.1 m) long will suffice, then he may be able to supply widths of 81/4 in (210 mm) and lengths of 7 ft 3 in (2.2 m), thus saving valuable timber. Thicknesses are usually very full indeed, but only charged for at the nominal grading.

Seasoned wood

The terms dry, bone dry, well seasoned are relatively meaningless without supporting evidence, for any wood which has been sticked one year for every inch (25 mm) of thickness may be counted as air dry or seasoned, as distinct from green. The moisture content will, of course, depend on the season of the year, and not on the number of years in stick; it should not exceed 20 or 22 per cent in exceptional circumstances in Britain, unless it is water wet with drifting rain or snow. While further drying over the prescribed minimum will not make any difference to the moisture content, nevertheless additional years in stick help to equalize out the built-in strains and stresses; and while a 1 in (25 mm) board of English oak which has been seasoned for five years might show little intrinsic difference from one which has been dried for one year only, nevertheless it will be more mature and tend to be milder mannered and more stable.

Timber-merchants or lumber-dealers converting their own logs keep exact records, and will always give the number of years in stick, while if they have bought the logs from other merchants the pedigree is usually available. Retail merchants who do not convert their own can rarely give the seasoning time, marketing the wood as 'seasoned' only. This also applies to all square edge imported wood, which may only be 'shipping dry' (approximately 25 per cent moisture content) when received from the importer. However, reputable merchants can be trusted to advise the buyer to the best of their ability.

Choosing wood

There is no consistency of quality in wood and every merchant or dealer can only offer the best of what is available in the particular species at any given time. First-hand inspection of the stock is always essential, therefore. Again, only active experience can give the knowledge of what constitutes good quality in any particular species. As an example, the writer would probably accept large rotten cores in rosewood logs, large knots in prime quality English walnut, very small pin knots in prime English oak, but no defects whatsoever in Honduras and African (grand bassam) mahoganies, sapelewood or Burmah teak.

In choosing wood the planks or boards should be turned over and abnormal defects rejected or allowed for in the measurement. Top boards which are badly cast or showing considerable sap should not be included. Thicknesses up to 1 in (25 mm) should be reasonably free from splits except at the extreme ends, and if there are knots or shaky patches they should be ringed with chalk and allowed for in the final measurement. A certain degree of splitting in thicker planks must be expected, but is only permissible if usable wood is left on either side. Some degree of warp in wide boards is inevitable (but not in quartered stuff), but here again a centre-cut should yield reasonably flat surfaces on either side. Again, slight bowing in the length is allowable, but pronounced kinking, casting or cupping is not, although much depends on the nature of the wood, and a richly figured log might exhibit very considerable distortion. Heart and star shakes in the pith or crown plank are almost inevitable in logs from mature trees, but pronounced cup

Examples of well-grown wood showing evenly spaced rings

22 English oak

23 Yellow pine

22 English oak

23 Yellow pine

Scots pine

Douglas fir

Scots pine

Brazilian rosewood

Indian rosewood

Brazilian rosewood

Indian rosewood















or ring shakes should be rejected out of hand as they have a habit of following up the tree for considerable distances, and may thus render the planks useless for all normal purposes. Seasoning defects should be looked for, particularly deep sticker-marks, extensive discoloration, sun checking, etc., although dry English oak may show large tarry patches which do not penetrate below the surface. If a mild working wood is required then the annual rings should be examined; they should be evenly spaced and as regular as possible and from eight to 16 rings per in (25 mm). Generally speaking, the wider the rings in hardwoods the stronger the wood, but the reverse applies to softwoods. Figures 22 & 23 show an example of beautifully grown yellow pine with tight, evenly spaced rings beside a comparable example of mild English oak. As the true colour of the wood and the extent of the sap is usually masked by dirt or weathering, most merchants will allow scoring the butt end with a knife, although they would object to its use across the face; it is therefore better to carry a small block-plane for testing. Thicknesses should be more but never less than the nominal size quoted, and a sharp eye should be kept for badly sawn or taper-cut planks which occasionally pass unnoticed. Imported square edge wood does not, as a rule, exhibit the same defects as waney/wane edge timber, as these have been rejected during conversion; moreover the plank and boards are usually graded before shipment. Points to look for are bowing in the length and inferior gradings slipped into the pile, otherwise the board can be accepted as it rises, choosing the most suitable widths and lengths. As the length of seasoning time is unknown the moisture content should be tested before use, and it is always better to buy square edge wood well in advance of requirement. Kiln-dried wood will be more expensive than air-dried, unless the latter has been in stick for several years. It is not wise to assume that kiln-dried wood will contain any less moisture as this depends entirely on how long it has been in storage since drying. On the whole, however, good kiln-dried wood, no matter where it has been stored, will tend to be less liable to subsequent distortion as the initial drying will have been carefully controlled.


The following terms are used in the timber trade, but although some are more applicable to softwood gradings they are also used in American hardwood gradings and are therefore included.

Terms denoting quality

Butt length Main trunk. Specifically lowest part of trunk next to stump.

Boule French term for superior timber or wood, but specifically imported logs sawn through and through and reassembled in order of cutting.

Prime The best available in the particular species at any particular time. First quality.

Selects Selected wood.

Clean Free from knots.

Clear Free from visible defects.

C and S Common and Selects.

Mercantable Free from defects impairing strength, i.e. sound construction timber.

FAS Firsts and Seconds.

FAQ Fair Average Quality.

U/S Unsorted.

Av spec Average specification, i.e. dimensions according to the species.

Broken spec Rising in the pile Crown plank) Pith plank ) Boxed heart

Crook Knee)

Slabbing Brashy Brittleheart Blackheart

Shipping dry


Denoting withdrawal of certain dimensions from original specification. As stacked without grading or selection.

Centre plank containing pith and heart shakes.

Wood converted so that the whole of the heart including pith and centre shakes is contained in one piece.

Short length of naturally curved wood.

Outside slices of the log containing bark and sap. Short-grained or old, dead or carroty wood.

Brashy heart caused by compression failures in fibres during growth. Abnormal black or dark brown discoloration in heartwood not necessarily decayed as in blackhearted ash, etc.

Sufficiently dry to prevent deterioration (fungoid growths, mould, etc.) during shipment only. (Average moisture content 25 per cent.) Meaningless term suggesting thoroughly dry wood.

Terms denoting treatment

Converted timber Timber/lumber sawn from log.

t and t Sawn through and through/plain sawed. Waney/wane edge timber.

W/E Waney edge timber following the shape of the log.

S/E Square edge timber, i.e. waney edge timber trimmed up with edges parallel.

U/E Unedged boards.

1 W/E, 1 S/E One waney edge, one square edge from logs squared one side before sawing.

Quartered{ Radial cut timber following path of medullary rays. Quarter sawn > Rift sawn

Plain cut Tangentially cut flat sawed through the log (the middle planks will be quarter

Cleft Split or riven along the natural cleavage-lines following the medullary rays.

Surfaced Planed on faces but not to final thickness.

Thicknessed Planed to exact thickness.

Prepared Planed to final width and thickness.

par Planed all round, i.e. prepared.

pe Planed edge, or plain edge not tongued as in floor-boards.

t & g Tongued and grooved.

t g & b Tongued, grooved and beaded.

t g & v Tongued, grooved and vee-jointed.

Deeping Resawing through the thickness, i.e. parallel to the wide faces.

Flat Cutting Resawing through the width, i.e. parallel to the edges.

ad Air-dried kd Kiln-dried.

For other terms refer to appropriate chapters.

Terms denoting Quarter girth

Hoppus measure afb Billet


Lumber Plank






Scantlings Dimension stock Shorts

Cube foot) cf

Foot super) fs bd ft, fbm bm

Foot run)

ft, run


Sawn size




Dead length Tolerance dimension

Quarter of the girth taken as one side of the equivalent square in measuring wood in the round.

System used in timber measurement of round logs which allows about 27 per cent for waste in milling (bark and wane, etc.). Allowance for bark.

Short round log. Short timber split or hewn. Log centre cut and squared or dressed.

Timber cut to specified dimension and left full to allow for subsequent treatment.

Square-edged boards of random widths.

Sawn timber over 2 in (50 mm) thick and of varying widths (British Standard 565:1963).

Sawn timber up to 2 in (50 mm) thick. (Many home-grown timber-merchants or lumber dealers prefer to regard Boards as up to 11/4 in (32 mm) thick and Planks as over 11/4 in (32 mm) thick).

Wood of small cross-section. Specifically square sawn softwood 1% in (48 mm) to 4 in (102 mm) thick and 4 in (102 mm) to 8 in (204 mm) wide. Strip wood of small section. Specifically 3/16 in (5 mm) to 3/8 in (9.5 mm) thick and 1 in (25 mm) to 11/4 in (32 mm) wide.

Square sawn timber 2 in (50 mm) and under thick and 2 in (50 mm) to 51/2 in (140 mm) wide.

Square sawn timber 2 ft (0.60 m) and 2 ft 6 in (0.76 m) long by 11/2 in (38 mm) by 11/2 in (38 mm) and up.

Square edged dimensions not conforming to other standard terms. Timber sawn to specified sizes.

Short lengths 3 ft (0.91 m) to 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) long and widths 6 in (152 mm) and up.

Short narrows less than 6 in (152 mm) wide.

Cubic foot 12 in (304.8 mm) by 12 in (304.8 mm) by 12 in (304.8 mm), i.e. 0.02832 m3.

Square foot (0.09290 m2) superficial or face measure.

Board foot, board measure, denoting 1 sq. ft (0.09290 m2) (25 mm) thick.

Running foot (25 mm) length measurement in the particular width. Average lengths. All widths.

Nominal or sawn size before machining.

Converted timber/milled wood of less than specified dimension. Sawn size before machining, i.e. planing.

Net measurement after machining. Exact length/finished length.

The maximum permissible variation for a specified dimension in the sawn size.

Marking and measuring timber (metric measure)

Continental exporters cut to inch dimensions for the British and American markets and are content to do so for so long as the demand exists. However, the general adoption of metric weights and measures will necessitate a complete overhaul of existing practices, and it has yet to be decided what conventional units will be adopted. At present bulk quantities of timber in continental countries are often measured in cubic metres (steres) but as a cubic metre contains 35.3150 cu. ft some smaller unit may eventually be adopted. In the meantime the procedures already mentioned are the same. The average of three widths over the face usually favours the buyer, and a measuring device incorporating sensitive fingers has been developed which will give extremely accurate readings. A similar device has been used for many years in the leather trade for measuring hides.


Some confusion still exists within the Timber Trade in the implementation of the metric system of weights and measures, and attempts to introduce intermediate units of measurement (centimetres, decimetres, etc.) have so far failed. Timber continues to be sold by the cubic foot (foot cube) as the cubic metre is too large an amount for most individual requirements, although metres and millimetres are increasingly being used for linear, cross section and surface measurements. Wood-working tools, brasswork, etc. are still made to imperial measure with metric equivalents, and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Metric conversions: imperial to metric units


1 inch = 25.4 mm (millimetres) 1 foot = 0.3048 m (metres)

Metric conversions: inches to millimetres

















































































1 square inch (1 in2) = 6.4516 cm2 (square centimetres)

1 square foot (1 ft2) = 0.092 903 04 m2 (square metres)


1 cubic inch (1 in3) = 16.387 064 cm3 (cubic centimetres)

1 cubic foot (1 ft3) = 0.028 32 m3 (cubic metres) ; 1 UK fluid ounce = 28.41 ml (millilitres) 1 UK fluid gallon = 4.545 961 (litres) (160 fl oz)


1 ounce (avoirdupois) = 28.350 g (grams) 1 pound (avoirdupois) = 0.45359237 kg (kilograms)

Density lbs per cu ft to kilograms per cu metre: 1 lb/cf = 16.018 kg/m3

Pressure lbs force per sq in to kilograms per sq cm: 1 lbf/in2 = 0.070 31 kgf/cm2


Degrees Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius (Centigrade) :

Degrees Celsius to degrees Fahrenheit:

Conversion factors

To convert inches into millimetres millimetres into inches square inches into square centimetres square centimetres into square inches

32 = degrees Fahrenheit multiply by


0.039 37




This is a folding knife with hooked blade giving a gouge-like cut, and sometimes called a 'raze-knife'. It is used for marking the superficial footage on the ends of planks, and for scoring the weathered face of the wood to determine grain and colour.

24 Wood-scribe

2 Veneers

The term 'veneer' is unfortunate as it can mean to 'gloss over' or 'to cover up', but the practice of veneering dates from before the time of the Pharaohs, and is not, as some people still mistakenly imagine, a cheap method of glossing over poor workmanship and materials. Cogent reasons for the practice are fourfold:

  • a) a more balanced construction is achieved, free from the inevitable splitting, checking, warping and distortion of solid wood;
  • b) the availability of rare and highly decorative timbers is vastly extended by using them in sheet form;
  • c) decorative effects, duplication of identical grain configurations to form matched panels and patterns are possible which would be extremely difficult with timber in solid form;
  • d) certain rare and costly burrs, burls, curls and abnormal grain effects have very little structural strength, and would split, buckle or distort if used in any appreciable thickness.

The only disadvantages of veneered work, i.e. chipping and lifting of edges, fragility of top surfaces, etc., and lack of sparkle in the wood itself due to excessive glue penetration, have now been largely eliminated with the use of resin glues which form permanent bonds that do not—or should not—penetrate to the wood surface; and synthetic lacquers which provide extremely hard protective coverings which are proof against most risks in normal use.

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Wood Working 101

Wood Working 101

Have you ever wanted to begin woodworking at home? Woodworking can be a fun, yet dangerous experience if not performed properly. In The Art of Woodworking Beginners Guide, we will show you how to choose everything from saws to hand tools and how to use them properly to avoid ending up in the ER.

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