How to Choose the Right Timber and Manufactured Boards

Do-it-yourself projects rarely involve expensive hardwoods such as mahogany, oak, ash and beech. These tend to be used by furniture makers and the joinery trade, owing to their high cost and relative difficulty in working. Softwoods, such as prepared pine, or manufactured boards are the basic materials used by the home craftsperson for most structural work.

Using wood
Hardwoods, as they are expensive, are often used as veneers over cheaper materials, as lippings around flat surfaces such as shelving and table tops, and for picture framing.

Softwoods, such as pine and, to a lesser extent, Douglas fir, are the most commonly used types of wood for do-it-yourself jobs such as wall frames, flooring, skirting (base) boards, picture and dado (chair) rails and a great variety of cladding, framing and fencing applications.

In addition to softwoods, there is a range of manufactured boards, which are cheap and come in convenient sizes that keep jointing to the minimum.

Practical uses
The two manufactured boards most often used are plywood and chipboard (particle board). The former, which has good mechanical strength and can be sawn easily, is suitable for structural work.

Chipboard is more friable and less easy to work accurately, but is cheap. It is adequate for some flooring applications and a host of carcassing jobs, such as kitchen cabinets and bookcases. It is unwise to drive screws or nails into the edge of a chipboard panel, as the material will crumble.

Veneered finishes
Doth plywood and chipboard are available with hardwood and colored melamine veneer for improved appearance. Blockboard, which consists of solid wooden blocks sandwiched between plywood skins, is a stable and strong structural material often used where some form of weight-carrying capacity is required. As with all manufactured boards, the extremely hard resins used to bond blockboard together rapidly blunts tools unless they are tungsten (carbide) tipped.

Pineboard is like the core of blockboard, but without the outer layers. Small strips of pine are glued together on edge and sanded smooth. It is ideal for instant shelving and carcassing.

MDF (medium-density fiberboard) is another useful material. Unlike most other boards, it can be worked to fine detail with saws and chisels, and it is often used for making quite delicate mouldings. Hardboard is ideal for covering floors prior to tiling or carpeting and, as it is light, for making-back panels for cabinets or pictures. It can be used for making templates to establish correct shapes, especially when using expensive material for the finished object, helping to avoid mistakes.

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