Types of Lumber:
There are two types of lumber: softwoods and hardwoods. Softwood lumber comes from conifer trees like pine, fir, spruce, and cedar. These woods get their classification for a reason; they can be easily dented with just your fingernail. Softwood lumber also absorbs and loses moisture much easier than hardwoods.
Hardwood lumber comes from deciduous trees, which have broad leaves that fall off in the cold months. Hardwoods trees take a much longer time to grow to maturity, so the lumber they’re turned into is much more expensive than the softwood variety. Consequently, hardwood lumber is typically used in fine woodworking, furniture construction, cabinetry, and flooring.
Most common hardwoods used in Shutters:
1. Poplar: One of the fastest growing and most economical hardwoods. It has a pale appearance and is easy to work with. It has a nondescript grain and is mostly used for painted shutters
2. Basswood: Is the softest of all hardwoods and is used primarily for stained shutters because of the fine, even grain texture, uniform look and the way it absorbs pigment into the cell structure.
3. Paulownia (Phoenix wood): Relatively new species used by some Chinese manufacturers. It is very light and fast growing. It is the softest species used in making shutters and is more inherent to warping and moisture changes.
From Log to Louver:
1. Logging, milling and grading: Trees are harvested and cut into industry standard sections (width and length) according to their purpose. They are then graded based on the quality of the lumber into a number of categories. The grading refers to the amount of surface area free of defects, starting with FAS (first and second) being 80+% clear in rough mill form and no. 3 common only being 33% clear. Grading determines price and suitability for different woodworking purposes.
2. Kiln drying: Is essential to ensure a piece of lumber will remain straight, won’t bleed, crack or warp. It is a lengthy process and over-drying or under-drying can result in serious defects in structural integrity.
3. Molding: Process of turning board lengths into a specific shape, width and height for their intended purpose. The next time you look at a shutter louver, look at the exact curved shape of each piece. Specialized machinery is needed to produce each type of shutter component.
4. Sealing, sanding and painting: The freshly molded lengths must be sealed, sanded and finally painted to provide a barrier to moisture getting in or out - and to provide the specific color and texture required for the finished product. In some applications this process must be repeated up to 5 or even 7 times (sanding and coating) to get the final desired finish.
Understanding engineered lumber:
Most stained shutters are still made from uniform, long lengths of a single lumber species, however, being a living product, natural lumber in long lengths is prone to defects, warping, bowing and other issues. It is expensive to get “perfect” mass produced pieces that all look and act the same. For this reason all painted shutters use some version of engineering to reduce the cost and improve the integrity of the natural lumber. However, please note there is a difference between using engineering to improve the integrity of a true hardwood shutter and substituting materials to reduce cost. Below is a basic understanding:
1. Laminating: Cutting the lumber into long strips and then flipping the pieces and gluing them back together. When they want to warp, they then oppose each other and keep the board straight.
2. Finger-jointing: Takes small pieces of wood and glues them together with a “saw-tooth” join. The small lengths reduce the tendency of wood to bow and warp. It also reduces cost and more of the board can be used. Most processed wood lengths use a combination of laminating and finger joints to achieve improved stability.
3. Particle board: Using processed wood chip, sawdust and glue to re-create a piece of lumber. It’s very cheap, but heavy, not stable in long lengths and prone to expansion and discoloration, especially when exposed to moisture.
4. Laminated veneer: Using a cheaper sub-layer lumber or particle board, then adding a thin veneer of a premium wood (skin) over the top. Common in a lot of cabinetry to reduce cost.
Making true wood shutters is a multi-stepped and laborious process. It takes an average of 5 man-hours from tree to truck to make a single panel. We are also working with a living product, inherent to defects and change over time. It's all part of the craftsmanship, warmth and appeal we love about having real wood products in our home.