wood facts

wood facts

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What is a Board Foot?

A board foot is a volume of wood, and is equivalent to 1” thick x 12” wide x 12” long (144 cubic inches). However, most hardwoods are not available as 12 inches wide. The widths of the boards vary (random width), so a formula is used to calculate board feet.

Board Feet = Thickness X Width X Length (all in inches) divided by 144

Hardwood Lumber and Plywood Information

Using the images above, here are two examples for calculating board feet:

Top board: 1” T x 6” W x 96” L divided by 144 = 4 board feet Bottom board: 2” T x 6” W x 60” L divided by 144 = 5 board feet

The length dimension is often measured in feet (not inches). An alternative formula for board feet can be used in those circumstances:

Board Feet = [ Thickness (inches) X Width (inches) X Length (feet) ] divided by 12

Again, using the images above, here are two examples for calculating board feet when one dimension is feet (not inches):

Top board: 1” T x 6” W x 8’ L divided by 12 = 4 board feet Bottom board: 2” T x 6” W x 5’ L divided by 12 = 5 board feet

What do you mean by random width?

Hardwood lumber is commonly available as “random width with rough edges and faces” . This means the boards vary in width from one to the other, the edges need additional work on the jointer and table saw, and the faces need additional work on a planer. The range of widths is dependent on the wood species; some species are generally small trees and some are very large.

Because the boards are different widths, the amount of wood in each board will vary; a reason why hardwoods are sold by the board foot. This is not dimensional lumber, which is often sold by the lineal foot because the boards are pre-cut to specific sizes.

What is meant by 4/4, 6/4, 8/4, 12/4, etc?

The thickness of hardwood lumber is measured in quarter-inch increments. When the thickness of a board is 4/4 (pronounced four-quarter), it is about 1” thick. Hit-and-miss boards labeled 4/4 are about 15/16” thick, and will plane to a smooth finish at 13/16” thick. In-the-rough boards that are labeled 4/4 are about 1” thick and will also plane to a smooth finish at about 13/16” thick. The actual thickness of rough boards depends on the species of wood and mill preferences.

A 6/4 (six-quarter) board is planed hit-and-miss to 1-7/16” thick and will plane to a smooth finish to 1-1/4” thick. 8/4 (eight-quarter) is about 2” thick, 12/4 (twelve-quarter) is about 3” thick, etc.

Hardwood lumber abbreviations and grades:


  • KD = kiln dried
  • AD = air dried
  • RW = random width
  • R/L = random length
  • S2S = surfaced 2 sides
  • 1E = 1 edge straightened
  • S2S 1E or S3S = surfaced 2 sides & 1 edge straightened
  • S4S = surfaced four sides
  • Grades:
  • SUP = superior
  • S/B = select & better
  • FAS = firsts & seconds
  • RGH = rough
  • FG = furniture grade or frame grade
  • #1 COM = number one common

For more detailed information about the woods available at High Desert Hardwood, click this link to our Wood Reference Book.


High Desert Hardwood stocks hardwood veneer plywoods suitable for use in cabinets and furniture. They are intended for indoor use.

Most of the plywood is 4’ wide x 8’ long in both ¾” and ¼” thick. Russian Birch plywood (also known as Baltic Birch) is an exception. It is 5’ wide x 5’ long and available in several thicknesses.

Plywood is sold in whole sheets only.

Common abbreviations and grades for hardwood plywood:


  • P/S = plain sliced
  • R/C = rotary cut
  • S/C = solid core
  • 1PF = 1 piece faced
  • T&G = tongue & groove
  • A-1 = A Face & #1 Back
  • A-2 = A Face & #2 Back
  • A-3 = A Face & Mill Option Back (could be anything)
  • C-2 = C Face & #2 Back
  • BBB = B Face & BB Back
  • SHOP = slightly damaged

Important safety information

Some people are individually sensitive to different species of wood dust. Eye, respiratory, and skin irritation can occur.

Precautionary eye, nose, and skin protection should always be used when working with wood.

Always wear hearing protection!

What is the condition of the lumber surface?

The lumber at High Desert Hardwood arrives from the mills as either planed “hit-and-miss” (or skip-planed) or “in-the-rough”

Hit-and-miss means the boards are fairly smooth with occasional rough patches. The color and figure of the wood are visible. In-the-rough means the surface of the wood has not been planed and has a rough appearance. The particular figure, grain, and color in each board may be difficult to see until it is planed. In both cases, the board faces need further planing.

Advantages of having the boards available with rough edges, as hit-and-miss, and in-the-rough, are the woodworker controls the final specifications, the yield is maximized, and this is the least expensive way to buy hardwood lumber. Disadvantages are the woodworker has some work to do before the lumber is ready for a project, and the grain, figure, and color in the rough boards may be difficult to see.

High Desert Hardwood offers various levels of milling including planing, jointing, S4S, etc.

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