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  • the two by four dimension, a history question

    Does anyone know the history of the demise of the 2x4?
    I wonder when they first started to shave off wood to where we have the 2007 version of the 2x4 which is now around 2 1/2 x 3 1/2????

    I might as well ask the same question regarding plywood...the 3/4" is now 23/32 or sometimes even a bit less.

    Cactus Man

  • #2
    Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

    I actually did read up on this once, though I can't for the life of me remember the answer.

    Frankly, I still think it's dumb. They should call the damned things 2.5 by 3.5's!!

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

      i know you all mean,,,1.5 x 3.5 , right?
      9/11/01, never forget.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

        2" X 4" is the rough sawn lumber size. Today we allow for shrinkage and milling which they did not do in the old days.

        Mark
        "Somewhere a Village is Missing Twelve Idiots!" - Casey Anthony

        I never lost a cent on the jobs I didn't get!

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

          Originally posted by ToUtahNow View Post
          2" X 4" is the rough sawn lumber size. Today we allow for shrinkage and milling which they did not do in the old days.

          Mark
          Apparently, in the old days they *did* account for shrinkage and milling... and the end result was 2" x 4". I'm in my third old house, and the lumber is this darn place is actually 2" x 4"; 2" x 10", 4" x 4", etc.

          My theory is that at some point some business egghead / accountant had the bright (profit driven) idea of turning the "variance" for shrinkage and milling on its ear, and applied that "variance" to the finished product, instead of the raw product.

          Anyway, I'm sure I'm with everyone in saying... it's annoying! Plywood especially. You can tell it's totally instituionalized by the fact that there's an official name for this deceptive game: "dimensional lumber". HA!

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

            rough lumber was sawed normally 2" x 4" at one time lumber could be bought S1S surfaced one side, and 2S2, or surfaced 2 sides, and for many many years lumber 1 5/8" X 3 5/8" in size, and some time in the mid 70's they changed to 1 1/2" X 3 1/2" first I think some of it was they could cut the rough lumber slightly smaller thus more 2Xs from a log, and ease of figuring Is what the rumours were when the change was taking place, During the change you had to watch very carefully, as some of the lumber was 1,5/8" and some 1,1/2" some times the 2x4s were one size and the larger was the other. it was at times it was fun.

            this pdf looks like it cover the actual history very well, http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/misc/miscpub_6409.pdf
            Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
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            • #7
              Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

              Let me take this question one step further. Why are 2x4-2x6 precut studs actually 3 1/2" and 5 1/2" but 2x4-2x6 plates are 3 5/8 and 5 5/8. Has anyone else noticed this or is this just a local oddity in my region.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

                must be an oddity in your area
                9/11/01, never forget.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

                  Please note there NailBanger is located. They may not have changed over to the same measurements we in the USA have for finished lumber. The old 1-5/8 by 3-5/8 version of 2 x 4s made us think harder. The current ones of 1-1/2 x 3-1/2 and other 2 x lumber being 1-1/2 think by X-1/2 wide make figuring things out less work. I really would like it if lumber were exact sized.
                  Last edited by Woussko; 11-23-2007, 08:17 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

                    I remember a few years ago when I was taking a Drafting class (a lot of years ago) that the 2x4 size----height is double the width, etc., etc.,---that this was the most pleasing size to look at and was used as a standard in building------long before a saw mill was even thought of.

                    The 2" nominal thickness came into being when calculations were made as far as strength was being determined for various species of lumber---apparently 1" material was more than 50% weaker and was not a suitable sample to be tested. I can't quite remember how the whole story goes but I am pretty sure they stayed with the 2x4 ratio in the building trade to make things simpler----I think you can understand why we Canadians hate the metric system when it come to building magerial.

                    Can you imagine the look on the guys face when you go to order a lift of 19 mm x 1200 mm x 2400mm G1S plywood?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

                      Can you imagine the look on the guys face when you go to order a lift of 19 mm x 1200 mm x 2400mm G1S plywood?
                      But is the 19mm actually 19mm?
                      Around here when buying 3/4" ply you get 18mm, but with MDF you get a true 3/4"

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                      • #12
                        Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

                        I know your frustration--it seems to be different with every manufacturer---hence "measure lots-cut once"

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                        • #13
                          Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

                          with MDF you get a true 3/4"
                          I just bought some 1/2" MDF at HD, and it's 15/32" thick. I guess it behooves us to bring our calipers wherever we go to purchase wood, if true thickness is important.

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                          • #14
                            Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

                            Originally posted by steveKane View Post
                            I just bought some 1/2" MDF at HD, and it's 15/32" thick. I guess it behooves us to bring our calipers wherever we go to purchase wood, if true thickness is important.
                            Yes it does. If you really need 16/32 check several sources. This is all getting out of hand. Plywood is not the stated thickness anymore either. They cheat all out of greed for more of our $$$.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: the two by four dimension, a history question

                              In adding an addition to my father's house, which he built and moved into 50 years ago this Thanksgiving, there are three sizes of 2X4; 1-1/2 X 3-1/2, 1-5/8 X 3-5/8, and 1-3/4 X 3-3/4. That old 3/4 stuff looks huge compared to today's small stuff. Straight, sharp cornered, and mostly knotless, too. Wish I could get lumber like that now!
                              Steve
                              www.MorrisGarage.com

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