Fair warning: this weblog entry has absolutely nothing to do with computers.
I’m doing some minor remodelling in my house, which is a somewhat older house built in the early 1950s. Tonight I’ve been installing furring strips for a new basement-bathroom ceiling, and all that working with wood has resurrected some long-standing questions I’ve had about lumber sizes.
Consider the lowly 2×4, that staple of home construction. The 2×4s I buy today are actually 1 1/2 x 3 1/2. Ok, I understand, and maybe I’m wrong about this, that half an inch in either dimension is lost to the kerf from the saw blade and the subsequent sanding required to get a smooth finish on the board. Frankly, that seems a lot to lose from sawing and sanding, but ok. However, in my house are many old 2×4s, and all of those are 1 3/4 x 3 9/16. Why? Were saw-blades thinner in the old days? At what point did this great transition occur, and why? It’s not just my house, by the way. Consistently I see 2x lumber in older houses that is 1/4-inch thicker than any 2x lumber I can buy today.
My second long-standing question concerns edges. I can go to the homestore and buy all sorts of 1x lumber with squared-off edges. But any 2x lumber that I buy always has rounded edges. Why is that? The rounded edges don’t blend too well with the squared edges on all the 2x lumber in my house. You see, whenever it was that 2x lumber shrunk in size, that must be when it picked up the rounded edges too.
In the grand scheme of things, these are trivial questions, but I’m sure there’s an interesting story behind the answers. And that’s what I want, to find the interesting story.
Do you know why lumber sizes changed, and when? Do you know why the edges of 2x lumber are rounded instead of squared? If you do, please post. I want to know too.