Never Stop Building

Blog

Marking Rough Lumber for Organization

Consider this the first stab at formalizing a system, or at least my system, for marking the ends of lumber with key information to help with organizing, identifying and selection. 

Backstory

When I had moved into my Baltimore Shop (as detailed in the A Shop of My Own article) there was a very limited amount of space. As a result, lumber had to be stored horizontally on wall racks to give clearance to the machines. This was not ideal; I realized immediately how important it was to store wood vertically, short in front, tall in back. In that arrangement one could quickly see grain, estimate length and width, and usually identify species.

With the lumber horizontal, all I could see was edges, and often only those that were at the front of the pile. There needed to be a system to mark the ends of boards so I could know all the details of the piece at a glance. By formalizing this system, I could reference this article when I inevitably forget what my own markings mean. Surprisingly, extensive google searching yielded few results for other systems to consider. What follows is a "first stab" that I hope to refine a little with feedback from other woodworkers. 

Summary

Wood to be marked on ground end with symbols indicating following information. Ideally boards will be stacked in order of flitch cut, the top of a board being the skyward side when on the mill. 

 Based on the taper of the log, this is the ground end. Markings are placed on the ground end, with the milled skyward side facing up. This may be difficult to determine for purchased wood.

Based on the taper of the log, this is the ground end. Markings are placed on the ground end, with the milled skyward side facing up. This may be difficult to determine for purchased wood.

If rough cutting, mark before end seal if possible. Marks are in priority order, so lower priority marks can be eliminated due to lack of space. Write all marks with black permanent marker or silver paint pen depending on wood color.

  1. Species
  2. Tree Orientation
  3. Flitch Position
  4. Date Cut
  5. Grain Direction
  6. Face Defects
  7. Thickness
  8. Length

Species

Species codes assembled from those listed here and here. The code list below is canonical, adaptations to the linked lists made for common name compatibility.  Code placed on upper left corner of board.

 This wood is Black Walnut. 

This wood is Black Walnut. 

Code Species
AP Apple
AYC Alaskan Yellow Cedar
BA Black Ash
BB Black Birch
BC Black Cherry
BE Beech
BL Black Locust
BO Black Oak
BS Black Spruce
BT Buckthorn
BU Butternut
BSW Basswood
BW Black Walnut
BX Box Elder (Ash Maple)
CC Choke Cherry
CH Chestnut
CO Chestnut Oak
CT Catalpa
CW Cottonwood
DF Douglas Fir
EC Exotic Cherry
EL American Elm
ES Slippery Elm
FD Flowering Dogwood
GA Green Ash
GB Gray Birch
GD Gray Dogwood
HA Hawthorn
HL Honey Locust
HN Hinoki
HO Hornbeam
IW Ironwood
LA Largetoothed Aspen
LL Lilac
LR Larch
MA Mountain Ash
MM Mountain Maple
MR Red Mulberry
NM Norway Maple
NS Norway Spruce
PC Pin Cherry
PE Pear
PH Pignut Hickory
PO Pin Oak
POC Port Orford Cedar
PP Pitch Pine
RA Red Ash
RB River Birch
RM Red Maple
RO Red Oak
RP Red Pine
RS Red Spruce
RW Redwood
SA Sassafras
SB Serviceberry (Shadbush)
SG Sugi
SH Shagbark Hickory
SM Sugar Maple
SO Scarlet Oak
SP Scotch Pine
SR Star Magnolia
ST Striped Maple
SV Silver Maple
SYP Southern Yellow Pine
TA Trembling Aspen
TP Tulip Popular
TS Hemlock
WA White Ash
WB White Birch
WH Witch Hazel
WI Willow
WM White Mulberry
WO White Oak
WP White Pine
WRC Western Red Cedar
WS White Spruce
X1 Unidentified
YB Yellow Birch
YW Yellow Wood
ZK Zelkova

Tree Orientation

If known place a small stylized arrow in the top right corner of the board indicating direction of North as well as basic geography indicator, noting placement of try on major features, mountain, plain, etc.

 Imagine the board standing as it existed in the tree, when rotated so that this arrow points north, that is how the tree previously stood.

Imagine the board standing as it existed in the tree, when rotated so that this arrow points north, that is how the tree previously stood.

 The basic symbol is the same, the line tells you about the tree location. Here it is midway up a mountain or hill.

The basic symbol is the same, the line tells you about the tree location. Here it is midway up a mountain or hill.

 In this symbol, the tree is on flat land or near a valley. 

In this symbol, the tree is on flat land or near a valley. 

Flitch Position

In flitch stacks indicate position with a number within a circle, under the species mark. Number indicates position and/or order of cut. For example, a fully flat sawn log will have numbers ascending from the top of the stack to the bottom.

flitch-position-location-marking-lumber.png
flitch-location-marking-end-of-lumber.jpg

Date Cut

Under the flitch position list month and year cut in the format "6-17" using a dash so as not to confuse with thickness markings. If the date cut is unknown because the wood was purchased, use the marking P instead of the date. P followed by a date would indicate the wood was puchased on that date, rather than cut.

Grain Direction

A long line with major grain direction, on the left side of the board, under the position marks. Redundant in some cases but helpful for quick identification from far away.

 From across the shop it will be easy to see that one board is flat-sawn, and the other rift/quarter. With roughly cut boards, the saw patterns can confuse the grain under end sealant and age. These marks make it quick.

From across the shop it will be easy to see that one board is flat-sawn, and the other rift/quarter. With roughly cut boards, the saw patterns can confuse the grain under end sealant and age. These marks make it quick.

Face Defects

Along eatch edge of the board indicate if there are any face defects with a dot, two dots for generally knotty and a short line for clear.

 Somewhat open to interpretation, my rule will be if there is a short line, it is clear as a winter's morn. Any slight defect or knot gets a dot, something that might be considered a "second" gets two dots. Highly figured, or patterned wood could still get a short line assuming it is free of defects.

Somewhat open to interpretation, my rule will be if there is a short line, it is clear as a winter's morn. Any slight defect or knot gets a dot, something that might be considered a "second" gets two dots. Highly figured, or patterned wood could still get a short line assuming it is free of defects.

Thickness and Length

In center of board indicate thickness as a nominal quarter value and measured, indicate length in inches, separate with an x. For example: 4/4x120 or 8/4x96.

 An example of a fully marked board. This white oak was second in the flitch, cut in June 2017, has minor defects on the faces but none on the sides. The top side of the board faced North, grew on flat ground, and this pieces is flat-sawn at six quarters and 8 feet long. We also know that this end of the board is on the ground end of the tree. 

An example of a fully marked board. This white oak was second in the flitch, cut in June 2017, has minor defects on the faces but none on the sides. The top side of the board faced North, grew on flat ground, and this pieces is flat-sawn at six quarters and 8 feet long. We also know that this end of the board is on the ground end of the tree.