J. Gibson McIlvain, one of the country’s leading lumber dealers, uses the standards set out by the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) to maintain quality across a large inventory of lumber. While the standards of the NHLA and other systems are not a firm final authority in lumber, they are followed closely because of their wide acceptance in lumber markets all over the world.
Because of its roots in the furniture industry, J. Gibson McIlvain decided to rely on more than one grading system. The uses of hardwood and exotic lumber have expanded into a myriad of applications beyond furniture, and the grading system needs to reflect these changes. Architectural millwork, for examples, requires longer lengths than most furniture applications, but the NHLA standards do little to accommodate this truth.
Despite these limitations, J. Gibson McIlvain still primarily uses the NHLA standard because it is such a widespread system. Even international hardwood suppliers follow the NHLA, so building and furniture industries all benefit from understanding the basics of this system. Eight basic hardwood lumber grades are present in the NHLA. Higher graded lumber has larger clear areas, whereas lower grades are more prone to imperfections. Determining these grades starts on the poorest face of the board, regardless of thickness.
Grade 2. FAS 1-Face (F1F)
This grade is second to FAS because only one face is graded FAS on a 6 inch+ wide board. The southern regions the U.S. use this wood, and it is regularly exported.
Grade 3. Select
One face FAS and one face No. 1 Common lands a board in the Select pile. Prices of FAS, F1F, and Select lumber tend to be very similar because of the fact that on all three types of lumber, at least one face is top FAS quality. Northern regions of the U.S. and export markets are the two most common buyers of Select grade lumber.
Grade 4. No. 1 Common
Sometimes simplified to “Common” or “No. 1,” this grade is standard for furniture artisans.
Grade 5. No. 2A Common
Millwork and cabinets come from this grade, and it is also sometimes used in furniture. This grade is often just called “No. 2 Common.”
Grade 6. No. 2B Common
Coloring defects set this grade apart from No. 2A Common. The defects make this lumber perfect for painted applications.
Grade 7. No. 3A Common
This 2nd lowest grade is often combined with No. 3B Common and used for storage pallets or flooring applications.
Grade 8. No. 3B Common
Sound structure, not clear cuts, characterize this lowest grade of lumber. Storage crates and pallets are usually the only application in this grade.
Lumber prices are much easier to understand when you’re familiar with the NHLA grading system. Purchasing wholesale hardwood lumber can be a confusing process due to the intricacies of the lumber industry, but McIlvain Company offers excellent FAS quality hardwood and exceptional sales representatives to walk you through the selection and purchase of lumber for your next project. For more information and to see everything that McIlvain has to offer, click here to visit them online.
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