Picking out straight boards
To spend the money for easier-to-pick, straighter, more-blemish-free boards or not to spend the money on these board and get furring strips–that is the question. How much time have you got? You’ll be spending a fair amount in the aisle at the lumber store if you go with the furring strips.
Either way, you need the straightest boards you can find. If you are new to this process, this is what I recommend, but realize that I’m not old to this process as of yet… Start out in the really nice lumber section of the store. You will know you are there as the price goes up for the boards! Go look at various 8 foot lengths of boards of select or S4S (surfaced 4 sides) boards. Or some red oak or poplar boards. Your chances of finding really nice and straight boards in that section are better and you should know what one looks like first.
Now take your board with one end on the ground and the other up to one eye, which you will use to “sight” down the board like you are aiming the board to shoot (one eye closed). See this process here by Ana White from Knock Off Wood.
You might take along one of these select boards to the next section. The boards in this section are Top Choice boards where I’ve been, and they are the middle-of-the-road boards. You still have to look pretty hard in this section to find a great board, but it is a little easier than in the next section. You can use your select board to compare to the Top Choice boards.
The last section is the furring strips. The are called “premium” furring strips in my area, but I’m not sure at all why. The very best thing about these boards is that they are super cheap. Around half the price of Top Choice boards the same size. You will spend more time finding the boards, more time sanding the boards, but LESS money. In this section you will find all sorts of examples of warped, cupped, and twisted boards. A lot of them you won’t even have to “sight” to see that they are not straight. When I find one that seems straight by “sighting” it, I put it on the floor to see if it rocks at all side-to-side in any spots (indicates cupping or twisting). I then put it on its edge and see if it rocks. Try to make sure that the floor is a flat spot for this.
The straighter your boards are to begin with, the easier your build will be. You can make furring strips work, but you’ll have to put more effort into it!
If you want to see the sanding process for furring strips and a picture comparison between furring strips and Top Choice, see this post. If you’d like to read another post about buying boards, click here.
**If you thought this was a helpful post, please drop me a line in the comments section. If it was not helpful, I’d love to know what I could/should change–please let me know this in the comments section as well. Thanks for your input!