Monday, March 9, 2015

long beds

Lumber is yet another miracle of the industrial age we don't even notice here in the richest country in the world. Any homeowner can run down to the closest Lowe's, Home Depot, Menards, or whatever chain you are near. Not too many actual old time lumber yards out there, but there are still a few around. And that homeowner can buy materials cut to size and build anything from a birdhouse to a three story mansion if he has the time and money. In my opinion, lumber is shockingly cheap for what it is. Just imagine the effort to cut and hew wood to shape for building a simple cabin as in days of yore. There was a good reason the cabins were simple logs with minimal whittling on the ends to facilitate locking together.

And something else about lumber I hadn't thought about till we finally bought a farm truck this week. Why does lumber have the dimensions it has? I'm sure there is a real, historical and technical reason, but here is my pure speculation without researching it.

I think it is because of how tall humans are. While lumber can be had in any number of lengths, your basic framing stud is eight feet long, the height of the typical wall in a wood framed house. All the sheet goods, plywood and any other amalgam of glue and sawdust you'd care to consider, are four feet by eight feet( the great majority anyway). Once you have some parameters like that settled on, the other dimensions, thickness and width, are a function of how much strength is needed for a member that is eight feet long to handle the loads it will experience.

So, maybe now I'll read and see if there IS any history on the evolution of lumber. 

Where I'm heading with this is our truck shopping experience. I am not a car guy. My brothers read Car and Driver, and other mags focussing on trucks, of which I don't even know the titles. They know a LOT about trucks. I only recognize maybe 10% of the cars on the road, because of their distinctive design, but many guys know all of them, what year they are, what city it was made in, which engine it has, what the major good and bad aspects of that model (and year!) are, and how much it would cost new or used. There: I've admitted it, I've failed my shade tree mechanic father.

One thing I did know, or thought I knew, was that you buy a pickup so you can haul stuff, including and especially lumber. So we soon found out that hardly any truck on the road these days has an eight foot bed to haul lumber in. If there was a standard ( which there isn't, nothing is standard anymore) bed length, it is 6 feet, 6 inches, and a short bed, of which there are many, is 5 feet, 6 inches. The average man couldn't even lay down in the bed of his truck, or dispose of bodies I suppose, without bending the knees a bit. 

And get this- a bed which is eight feet long is now called a long bed. The pickup truck these days is a fashion statement, or a confirmation of rugged manhood, or a result of hypnotized consumers falling for advertising once again. It is not a working truck, that is for sure. Not even sure why they mostly have four wheel drive, but ours will need that.

We finally found one, so I am done cramming eight foot lumber ( only maybe a dozen or so) into the car, and my "new" truck ( used, but in immaculate shape) will soon be getting the dents, scrapes and mud it was meant for.

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