Does everyone 4S4 Dimesnion their lumber by hand?

//Does everyone 4S4 Dimesnion their lumber by hand?
Does everyone 4S4 Dimesnion their lumber by hand?2015-10-24T14:54:26+00:00
  • Creator
  • #2027526

    Greg B
    Post count: 2

    I’ve been working with 99% hand tools for everything I do in the shop for the last year and half roughly and pretty much every project I make, I go 4S4 dimensioning by hand, which takes a ton of time depending on the project and I started really thinking that really only one side and edge need to be square for most hand tool woodworking.  Does everyone dimension their wood by hand and go 4S4 or do most just dimension one flat face and an edge and the rest of it is just rough?

  • Author
  • Sides
    Post count: 53


    For some small projects I do. Sometimes I buy it already done. I am lucky where I live, I have four hardwood stores close by. For larger projects I have a surface planer and jointer stuffed in the corner.

  • Mike in TN
    Post count: 284

    There are some fine example or early woodwork that shows that the worker often left some surfaces rough, sometimes including rough from splitting. Even the better pieces were often brought to rough dimension with the least effort and refinement necessary and then the exposed or important reference surfaces were then brought to the best condition. Peter Follensbee has presented a lot of information on this in his work. Modern woodworkers often do s4s  just because the equipment helps take the work out of the process and then we don’t have to worry as much about maintaining reference surfaces throughout the process. I think it is good to do the full traditional process on occasion jut to maintain the skills but I also admit to using machinery to reduce the physical work. It all depends on my mood, the project, and condition of the material when I get it.

    Have fun

  • TikhonC
    Post count: 3

    Not clear

    What does “4S4” mean?

    1 user thanked author for this post.
    • Mike in TN
      Post count: 284

      Hi TikhonC,

      I think what Greg B meant was S4S which is lumber lingo for “surfaced four sides”. Lumber can be bought rough from the saw, surfaced two sides (S2S) where the faces are planned and the edges are left rough from the saw or from the tree (called live edge), or skip planned (lightly planned on the faces to help in reading the grain). His reference to S4S was in relation to planning and closely dimensioning all of the sides and edges as part of the process of building projects.

      Back in the “good old days” when furniture was made with just hand tools it was normal practice to not worry too much about the surfaces that didn’t show unless you needed to do that as part of the process for that particular part. It was common to just surface and square an edge and face, and to use those two reference faces for laying out all of the features such as overall dimensions, mortise and tenon dimensions and locations and from which to judge conditions such as squareness. There are a lot of situations where the final dimensions don’t have to be all that close and the surfaces don’t have to be finely finished and you still can have a good looking quality piece. That is one of things looked at when determining whether a piece is an original antique or a modern reproduction. Modern manufacturers use different techniques to make furniture and they normally surface all of the sides and edges to pretty much the same degree. There are advantages to making parts S4S, especially with machine work, but it requires more effort with hand work and has fewer benefits.

      2 users thanked author for this post.
  • Greg B
    Post count: 2

    Sorry S4S……I had a few beers before I typed that and it sounded perfectly right to me at the time haha!  Thanks for the feedback.  I usually go through the trouble of s4s, but after watching peter follansbee, I just wondering if that’s what everyone does these days when working exclusively with hand tools or it just depends.  Thanks again!

  • MervilleHomesteader
    Post count: 10

    I just got finished reading a real good dovetail book by Ian Kirby. And he mentions doing two face sides and kind of cleaning up the other two, and then he always keeps his face sides on the inside and bottom of his project. He also cuts his pins about 1/32 or so shy of the the surface and finishes his box down to to the end grain. He claims it was standard practice in the old days for crafstmen to do this. I have been doing carpentry for a good 20+ years and only new to taking joinery serious ( ie doing more than just screws glue and the odd rabbet) So trying to wrap my head around it is rather brain damaging. But staying on topic,I have been s4s ing every piece of wood I can find at the moment. Getting pretty good if I do say so myself.

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