Say I buy some two-by lumber from a Big Box retailer. But, for my project, the lumber is a little bit too wide and thick. So in addition to cutting it to length, I need to plane it down to the right thickness, and also make some length-wise rip cuts with a table saw. Finally I might need to run it through a jointer to make sure I'm working with 90° edges all over.

Is there a term for all of these cuts/preparations? Is milling the correct term, or is it something else? Essentially a term for "taking rough lumber and caressing it down to the exact right dimensions."

(I'm looking for a term to search for so I can ask Google if there's someone near me who does this as a service, because I don't have $2K to spend on all these tools!)

  • You'd run it through a jointer first. The jointer renders one side smooth, so you have a baseline to start planing from. And the table saw is what gives you the 90 degree edges. You could also buy lumber from better sources. Your local family-owned lumberyard generally has better wood at a competitive price. Sep 29, 2022 at 22:44
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    Custom woodworking be my best guess. Adding in the custom will point to the places that will do work for a customer off the street, instead of doing their own work/jobs or only from companies.
    – crip659
    Sep 29, 2022 at 22:44
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    "small custom cabinet shop" Sep 29, 2022 at 23:26
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    For the love of god don't mill 2x construction lumber and use it for projects Sep 30, 2022 at 3:54
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    Either you're much more picky thank I am, @whatsisname, or your lumber supplier has much worse lumber than mine. Granted, I have to pick through the piles to get good lumber, but I rarely run into serious knots, sap pockets, etc. Let's agree to disagree on this one, as it sounds like we're each coming from personal experiences and that ours are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 3, 2022 at 18:51

1 Answer 1


Who ever you find, the correct term for the woodworking you described as needing is milling, so you got that right.

The normal sequence for prepping lumber/boards that aren't quite perfect or the dimensions don't meet your needs is to flat plane the board first on a jointer, yeah, flat side down to make a perfect surface. Then plane it to the desired thickness. If you plane a warped board you end up with a planed warped board, which is why best practice is to get one very true surface first. Once planed to the desired thickness, using the jointer make an edge pass to true up one side of the board, then using a table saw cut it to the desired width. I know you may not have all these tools, but hopefully this provides some guidance if you decide to proceed with a mill shop. They should know all of this, but if they don't, go someplace else.

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