Top Grade

Once you know if you're going to use softwood or hardwood for your cabinet building project, now you should get acquainted with the grades of wood and how to pick them. The many different species of wood are all cut into lumber and are graded on a scale. This scale varies from the best to the worst. The top grade (therefore the most expensive!) can be almost flawless, while the bottom grades may be virtually unusable. Each board has defects and this is how the lumber is rated.

When making cabinets, you need to decide on which grade is the lowest acceptable for your application. If a natural finish is desirable than purchase the top-grade lumber, but if you plan on painting your cabinets, you can purchase a lower grade lumber. Remember the old saying "paint makes it what it ain't?!" Well, it's true; paints can hide a lot of defects!

If you're going to use softwoods, which are the easiest woods to work with in making cabinets, then you'll need to choose the appearance-graded boards. The two main grades of the appearance boards are Select (or Clear) and Common. Each of these grades also has sub-grades beneath them. The lumberyard also sells "dimension lumber", which is graded for strength, but you probably will want to use the appearance-graded lumber. The dimension lumber is usually used in house framing because of its strength, but it is also used in woodworking where extra strength or thickness such as bookshelves is needed. Use a "Select Structural", as this is the top of the line in this category.

If you want wood with no knots and is flawless, look for the C and better Select grade lumber. Other good choices would be Common "knotty" pine No. 2 and No.3. Watch out for Common boards marked Construction or Standard-and-Better. They would be fine for utility shelves, but you might not want them for your kitchen cabinets! For the final test, let your eye be the judge. What you see and like is what you should use.

To make matters even more complicated, some kinds of lumber species have their own grading! Typically, the Redwood and Idaho White Pine fall in this area. Redwood is categorized in this descending order of the quality of the lumber: Clear All Heart, Clear, B Grade, Select Heart, Select, Construction Heart, Construction Common, Merchantable Heart and Merchantable. Idaho White Pine is categorized in this order: Supreme, Choice, Quality, Sterling, Standard and Utility. Wow! What a selection!

If you have your heart set on using hardwoods, you should know that they're graded a little differently than softwoods. The number of defects in a given length and width of the board are considered. The best grades are the First, Seconds and then there is a mix of these two which are called "FAS". These boards are clear wood at least eight feet long and six inches wide.

Your eye should be the final decision on buying your lumber. You know what type of wood would look good in your kitchen or den. Remember that the wood you buy is the starting point or your project! The workmanship remains in you hands!

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Cabinets

What exactly is the difference between split leather and top grade leather?

split leather is a process where they take older thicker hides and split them into layers like slicing ham. Then they tan the hide and press a leather grain pattern into the surface as it doesnt have one. Split hide is weaker, less hard wearing and durable than a normal naturally tanned hide.

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