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I've found a DIY shelving project that interests me and am setting about researching the best place to obtain the wood required for it.

In this project, and others I have seen, the American instructor commonly refers to the wood in use by the size, either 2 by 4 or 1 by 2 (only 2 sizes are used in this project).

I know from reading around that size wise this would roughly equate to the UK's 44 x 96 and 25 x 44 but it is my belief that in the US if someone refers to 'Using a bit of 2 x 4' then more is understood than just the size. It is also known what the type of wood it is, the cut, whether it is sawn / planned and so on.

So my question is:

Does the UK have a piece of wood that is universally commonly used for hobby / domestic projects that it is simple referred to by a common name and is this typically a suitable substitute for the US 2 x 4? If so is there a common place to purchase this wood (B&Q, Wickes, etc)?

If location makes a difference, I am located in northeast Scotland.

  • What are typical residential walls framed with in your area? Or is post-and-beam construction more common? – isherwood Apr 20 '16 at 13:11
  • I would hazard a guess at post and beam but I'm afraid I don't know enough to give a definitive answer. – RyanfaeScotland Apr 20 '16 at 13:26
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    In B&Q, I've bought 2x4 (actually around 1.5x3.5 as grfrazee notes) but their labels all use metric (mm). You'll need to sort through the pieces yourself very carefully to get the straightest pieces - the twist and curve can be horrendous on some of it - and as stocks run low, thats all thats left. Specialist local timber merchants may have a better selection. If, like me, you don't own a pickup truck you might want to take a hand saw with you and cut the longer lengths down in the car park, to fit into your car. – RedGrittyBrick Apr 20 '16 at 17:36
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    When a Yank talks about 'a hunk of 2x4, it's construction lumber, surfaced on 4 sides, theoretically straight and square but rarely that, with rounded corners. It'll vary across geography, but it's always a softwood and typically spruce, pine or fir. In my time in Auld Reekie, I never found likeable wood at B+Q or the like -- I had to go to the specialty timber places. (And the wood there was pretty nice.) – Aloysius Defenestrate Apr 21 '16 at 1:05
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    I had great service from my specialty timber place (St Andrews Timber Supply, Edi). And the vast majority of the time, I was getting incredibly small quantities of wood and sheet goods. Price-wise, I can't remember exactly, but I do know that I wasn't shocked by anything they charged. I suspect you'll see the same in other places. – Aloysius Defenestrate Apr 21 '16 at 13:37
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Does the UK have a piece of wood that is universally commonly used for hobby / domestic projects that it is simple referred to by a common name and is this typically a suitable substitute for the US 2 x 4?

If Paul Sellers is any yardstick for how things are done in the UK, you use a 2x4 in the same sense that Americans would. There are plenty of instances where Imperial units are used in the UK instead of metric, and this is one case for that.

This question on DIY.SE also discusses this issue.

I know from reading around that size wise this would roughly equate to the UK's 44 x 96 and 25 x 44

One weird thing about dimensional lumber is that the size (ex. 2x4) is nominal, meaning that it's only the approximate size. For example, a 2x4 is actually 1.5" x 3.5" (38mm x 89mm) in cross-section. There are various rules depending on the size of the member, so check out Table 1B of the NDS Supplement for Standard Dressed Size (of North American dimensional lumber, at least).

If so is there a common place to purchase this wood (B&Q, Wickes, etc)?

This is a regional thing, and really outside the scope of this SE. However, any large home improvement store should have dimensional lumber for sale. I don't know what your local UK stores are, so I can't help you there.

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    Thanks for this answer, I thought the last part to the question may be out of scope but hoped it would be in keeping enough with the rest of the question and useful enough to others that it could be sneaked in the end as a little aside. – RyanfaeScotland Apr 20 '16 at 13:26
  • One thing to beware of its that not everyone uses the same "standard". For example B&Q planed 2x1 is 44x18mm. Other places sell 44x21. I've had similar issues with 4x? as well. – Chris H Apr 20 '16 at 17:31
  • @ChrisH, is that a difference between the stores, or it is just variation between boards of the same nominal size? I know in the US, you can expect a 2x4 to be 3.5" +/- 1/8" in depth. – grfrazee Apr 21 '16 at 12:52
  • @grfrazee that's between stores. The dimensions are those on the label, with tolerance on top of that. – Chris H Apr 21 '16 at 13:38
  • @ChrisH I guess that's one way to build customer loyalty - sell lumber in dimensions they can't get anywhere else. When you suddenly realize you've run out of stock, your only choice is to go back to where you got it, or buy something bigger elsewhere and plane it down. Yikes!! – FreeMan Apr 29 '16 at 19:38

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