When I was buying the wood for my work bench (6 studs at a time as that was all that would fit in my car) I kept getting home with unsuitable boards. Some of this probably couldn’t be helped. There’s a learning curve and nothing will shortcut it. You need to pick a board, take it home, try to plane it, and then figure out what’s wrong.
But there is one trick to cut down on the wastage. Eyeballing a board to determine how straight it is is a learned skill. And if you’re like me when you’re wearing your glasses you can’t see the near end of the board and without them you can’t see the far end! What I eventually figured out was that while my eye wasn’t straight the floor of the home depot was. So I started laying down (Actually I dropped them. Made quite a racket) the boards I was thinking about buying. If they rocked end to end there was a bend. If they rocked side to side there was a cup. If they wobbled there was a twist. If they were stable on the first side flip them over and test again. Then test the narrow side for crown. Step on one end of the board and look at how high the other end springs up. That will give you and idea of where and how BADLY it’s bent.
Once I started doing this the quality of board I came home with showed a dramatic improvement!
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