Poke around enough old woodworking books and two things will happen. You’ll become a tremendous bore at parties (“Aye, but I could find no mention of the ‘pricker’ tool in Nicholson, so I knew the usage had shifted…¦.”), and you’ll encounter the word “deal” over and over.
What’s deal? It’s easy to get the impression that deal is merely an English word for dimensional pine. But if you dig around, it’s more complex than that. In one early text the author instructs you to build the project using “pine or deal.” Huh?
Let’s hit the books.
In my library, the accounts I dug up agree that deal is a plank of pine or spruce that is 9″ wide. But they disagree on the thickness. According to Bernard E. Jones’s “Practical Woodworker” (10 Speed Press), deal is 9″ wide and no more than 4″ thick. Charles H. Hayward’s “Carpentry for Beginners” agrees that deal is 9″ wide, but says the thickness is between 2″ and 4″. And Paul N. Hasluck’s “The Handyman’s Book” states that deal is 9″ wide and 2-1/2″ thick.
What is also helpful to know is that deal is just one word that English books use to describe standard sizes of wood. According to Hayward, here are the others:
Plank: A piece of wood that is 11″ wide or wider and 2″ to 4″ thick.
Batten: A piece of wood that is 5″ to 8″ wide and 2″ to 4″ thick.
Board: Anything that is more than 4″ wide and less than 2″ thick. This term is usually used with floor boards and tongued-and-grooved boards.
Scantling: Small bits that are 2″ to 4-1/2″ wide and 2″ to 4″ thick.
Strip: Pieces that are less than 4″ wide and less than 2″ thick.
But that’s not all. There are different kinds of deal. Deal that is Northern pine (Pinus sylvestris) can be called Baltic red deal, Dantzic deal or yellow deal. And Spruce (Picea excelsa) shows up as white deal. And Canadian spruce (Picea nigra) can be called New Brunswick spruce deal.
So there you go. Now you can read the old books and understand that word a little better. And you’ve enhanced your ability to induce ennui at will.
– Christopher Schwarz
Looking for More Free Woodworking Information?
– Sign up for our newsletters to get free plans, techniques and reviews HERE.
– Like tools? We do! Read our latest tool coverage HERE.
– Looking for free project plans? We have hundreds. Click HERE.
– Learn a new woodworking technique today. Click HERE.
– Want more videos? See all our free videos HERE.
– Check out our selection of half-price woodworking books HERE.
– Get 8 years of Popular Woodworking on one CD. Click HERE.
Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.