Fair Woodworking

July 5, 2012

The mighty 2×10

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog,Favorites — fairwoodworking @ 10:55 pm

Like most professions, in construction the new guy must survive going through some rights of passage. These kids can be ridden pretty hard, but most times it’s all in good fun. It’s not unusual to be asked by some wide eyed kid if you know where the “fubar” is, or the board stretcher, or some other imaginary tool.

There are other times that you just need to get some work done, and the new kid gets to play the role of legitimate gofer. This is the no goofing around time, and when the boss says to go get something, you need to hit the ground running.

One time I witnessed an accidentally funny right of passage. The boss told the new kid to go get him a 2×6. He told him where he would find it on a near by site. What he didn’t consider was the the kid just moved here from England. Off the kid went, and we continued with what ever it was we were doing. As time went by… No kid, no 2×6. Finally he returned, and very apologetically, said, ” I looked everywhere and I couldn’t find a 2×6 anywhere! Will this 1-1/2″ by 5-1/2″ work?”

Now depending on where in the world you are reading this from, you may even still be waiting for the punch line. The funny thing was that the kid didn’t know he was holding what we call a 2×6.

My point is that we don’t always know what we have when we look at dimensional lumber. If you have ever tried to make something nice out of 2×4’s you will know that it is really hard to get any kind of nice wood out of it.

I love getting free wood, but I have learned to be more picky. I’ll pass on most 2×4 cutoffs, but I’ll gladly scoop up the 2×10.


Because the wood, or more importantly, the wood grain, and cut is usually better.

Here is an example of the difference. The bottom is a 2×4, and on top of it part of a 2×10 that I’d just ripped down. The 2×4 is made from a very young small tree. Much of the wood is made of complete growth rings. It’s the worst of a flat sawn board. The part of the 2×10 is larger but you can see the growth rings are nearly vertical. I’ve found quarter sawn wood in a simple 2×10.

Here’s another example.

This 2×10 was very cupped along the length of the board. I ripped it at the most dramatic point of the cupping.

The sharpie marks show the direction of the growth rings. The rings are curve more, in the area that is the least stable of the board.

I’m looking for some stable wood so this is what I can do on a budget.

Above there are a couple of small boards that I cut down from this same piece of 2×10. In the end the boards are nearly perfectly quarter sawn.

Free wood.


  1. Very nice graphic examples!

    On a related note, I bought lumber for my workbench a while back. While I want what “2x4s” should give to laminate the top, I went for 2×10. Furthermore, I bought 20′ long boards since these obviously came from older, larger trees. Do I have a 20′ truck or trailer? No way, but the lumberyard cut them all for no cost (into 10′ lengths which fit fine on my pickup truck). As you said, much of it is essentially quartersawn, and the entire pile, enough for a 8′ workbench and then some, was barely over $100.

    Comment by rob campbell — July 5, 2012 @ 11:28 pm

  2. Did you know that Stanley makes a tool called a FuBar?

    Comment by ChrisHasFlair — July 6, 2012 @ 1:29 am

  3. Hey guys!

    Rob, it’s always a bitter pill for me to waste wood, this is a case where I really think its worth it. Looking forward to seeing the new bench, I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of work.

    Chris, I kind’a thought that was the case, but only if you still consider Stanley to be a tool manufacturer… Ha, ha, just kidding.

    Comment by fairwoodworking — July 6, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

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