What Does S4S Mean?

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What Does S4S Mean? In this post, you’ll learn exactly what this term means, and the hidden extra part that you really need to know about.

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Woodworking Lumber Types

What-Does-S4S-MeanThere are lots of different lumber types when you go to the hardwood store. You’ll notice it right away, especially if it’s your first time in the building. Everywhere you go, there will be different levels of finished wood, and they are easy to pick out.

If you look at some of the larger bunkers and piles in the woodworking store, you’ll notice that the wood looks a lot more rough and fuzzy. This is because it’s only been sawn at the mill, and the surfaces have not been smoothed out.

In other areas, you’ll notice that the boards are very smooth on all surfaces, though they may be a little bit smaller, and sold as individual pieces rather than by the board foot. This is just another level of finishing, and at one point these boards looked like the fuzzy ones.

One of these types of lumber is called S4S, and I’ll tell you everything you need to know about it coming up, including one hidden thing that you need to know before you buy it.

See Also: 15 Great Places to Get Woodworking Wood

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What is s4s Lumber?

S4S lumber is lumber that has been surfaced on four sides. This means the two large faces, and the two long edges have been smoothed with a planer and a jointer, and sometimes a sander.

What this does is it creates a piece of wood that is easier for a beginner to use, because the surfaces are already prepared, and the edges are squared to the faces. This makes a lot of your cutting and building processes easier, because the wood is already prepped.

If you don’t have the tools to do this process yourself, buying wood is already surfaced on four sides can make a significant difference in your projects. You can also reduce the time that you have to spend sanding the wood to make it smooth.

See Also: 5 Easy Tips for Using a Wood Rasp

What’s the Hidden Part?

The hidden part in s4s lumber is the extra price. In order to create these nice smooth surfaces, the manufacturers have to use their own tools, equipment, and payroll to mill the boards more than normal.

Due to the increase in costs to manufacture this type of wood, the price is increased proportionally before it is sold.

This is a good thing and a bad thing. If you don’t have the tools to produce this kind of wood yourself, it’s a good thing because you can spend a few extra dollars and you don’t have to buy the tools.

However, if you do have the tools, you’re spending double. Not only do you have the ability to create these surfaces yourself, but when you buy the wood already surfaced, the only thing you’re saving is time.

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If the time you’re saving is worth it, then by all means go ahead. If not, you can save some money by buying rougher lumber and milling it yourself.

See Also: 15 Amazing Tips on How to Become a More Productive Woodworker

Making Your Own Surfaced Lumber

You would be surprised at how inexpensive the tools for milling rough cut lumber into S4S lumber really costs. In reality, all you need is a basic planer and a jointer, and you’ll have everything you need to get the process started.

The first thing you need to do is run the large flat surfaces through the planer to clean them up. Only remove as much material as needed to make the surfaces smooth, and stop once the surface is all the same level.

Do not remove any additional material at this point, because all you’re doing is wasting the thickness of the wood and not improving the surfaces anymore.

After that, run the pieces on the edge through the jointer, and clean those up as well. This will square them to the faces, and make them nice and smooth. Just like that, you’ve made your own s4s lumber and all for the price of a jointer and a planer.

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See Also: 6 Genuine Reasons You Need a Jointer Planer in Your Shop

Lumber Buying Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tips and tricks for buying lumber, in particular buying s4s lumber:

  • Only by surfaced lumber when you don’t have the ability to surface it yourself, or when the time involved is just more than you want to spend.
  • You do pay a significantly higher price for surfaced lumber, and that’s mainly because of the extra work involved, and the fact that the stores know you don’t have the tools to do it yourself.
  • Almost every time you buy wood by the piece rather than the board foot, you’ll tend to spend more. There are exceptions of course, but that’s in general how the prices work.
  • If you have the ability to mill the pieces yourself, pick up rough sawn wood by the board foot and create those beautiful flat surfaces in your own shop. It’s actually pretty quick and easy.

See Also: 10 Helpful Tips for Buying a Used Planer

Your Action Assignment

Now that you know the definition of s4s lumber, it’s time to get on into your shop and take action on this new found knowledge.

Hopefully if you don’t have the tools already to process this type of lumber yourself, that you’re saving up in order to get them. In reality, a few hundred dollars on a thickness planer and another few hundred dollars on a jointer is really all you need.

There are of course larger and better versions of these tools, but for most hobby shops anything more than a benchtop planer and a benchtop jointer are probably too much.

If you have any questions on s4s lumber or any other type of surfaced lumber, please post a question and I’ll be happy to answer them. Happy building.

Post Author-

  • More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
  • 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
  • Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
Buy My Books on Amazon

I receive Commissions for Purchases Made Through the Links in This Post.

 

You Can Find My Books on Amazon!

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