Jointing boards is an important process in many but not all scaff board projects
We are often asked about jointing two boards together, more specifically whether or not our scaffold boards are suited to this. Many of you wish to make a table or bar top, or various other projects where two boards will be layed side by side and jointed. As the boards are generally uniform in thickness this is a great way to use them, and it would make sense to to assume that they would butt up neatly to each other, so the question of whether or not they can be used in this way is a good one. Unfortunately it's not simply a "yes" or "no" answer. More of an "it depends" one.....
Why is it not so simple?
The easiest way to explain this is by thinking of the nature of the board. Timber which is produced for the purpose of making furniture is usually machined square on all sides (planed all round or PAR), or this process is completed by the carpenter working with the wood. Scaffold boards, whilst being great for all sorts of furniture, cladding, or various other decorative uses (we're not biased, honest), are not originally intended for this use, as we all know. So whilst they will have been machined to a uniform size, the tolerance in terms of how square they are is a little greater than with other finished timbers.
On top of this, if you're buying reclaimed boards rather than new boards, these have had a good amount of weathering and usage and will have shifted away from their original uniformity. So you can begin to see why these boards may need some extra consideration before making that dream table top that you have in mind.
So what does it depend on?
It really depends on what you will be using these boards for. What makes a scaffold board initially perhaps not so well suited to furniture, as described above, is also what makes them perfect for it (bear with me). It's the rustic character and non-uniformity of each board that makes them so great to work with, and means that every item of furniture produced with them ends up so unique and full of character. On the other hand, when you buy PAR wood it all looks exactly the same...as it should...but somewhat boringly so.
So for many of our customers the boards are just perfect how they are. You can absolutely make a table top with them and it will have all sorts of gaps, dinks and dents, with nothing perfect about it, but this is what makes it look so good. If you're using boards for outdoor furniture or cladding you will usually include gaps anyway to allow for the expansion and contraction of the timber, so any natural waviness or lack of straightness in the edge is not a problem at all.
When is it important?
The time where it does matter is when you would like the boards to butt up very closely without any gap between the boards. For many of us we love the character of the board, but we still want closed gaps and a tight finish. It is a little bit of "having your cake and eating it" but hey, it's both possible and it looks good, so why not.
How to achieve this
The first rule of thumb is that the older and less finished the boards are, the more out of square they are likely to be. If you buy our new boards rather than old, then these will be closer to square, and boards which have been machine sanded will be closer still.
However, the best way to achieve a square edge (by edge I mean the narrow sides rather than the main/widest faces of the boards) is to have them "ripped down". A rip cut is a cut along the grain of the wood, so one which reduces the width of the board (from the standard width of 225mm). This is great not only for custom size projects, but also for allowing jointing of two boards, as we're looking at here. The rip cut is completed on a machine saw with a guide set in place, so will keep the cut incredibly straight, giving it much more of a flat edge to butt up against another board.
We would generally advise having any joining edge ripped. So for boards used in making a table that would usually mean ripping both side faces, but if you're having a raw edge front to a table or counter top then you would leave that edge not ripped, to keep it a natural edge (ripped edges don't generally look so good).
If you see the photo of the table above you can see an example of boards which have been ripped before being jointed, and how much of a nice tight finish it gives.
How to order this on our website
If you see one of our board listings (for example here) you can see in the description that we explain in more detail the process of adding a rip cut. It's £1 per foot of rip cut, so this of course is worth considering when pricing your project. But for how much easier it makes to work with the wood after, or comparing to planing these down yourself at home, this is often considered by our customers to be well worth it.
When you order a board and you wish for it to be ripped, you just need to add the "Rip Cut" service to your basket (just add a quantity of 1 to begin with), then when you view your basket you can edit the quantity to match the number of feet you require ripped. For example if you have a 4ft board which you require ripped down on one side, that would be a quantity of 4, at a cost of £4 for the rip cut, or both sides ripped would be £8 and a quantity of 8.
Remember that we're here if you have any questions at all so if any of the above seems a little complicated, don't hesitate to ask!
We'll write more on this topic in the future, but this is one of the most common questions, so we'll leave you with this for now.