Engineers will occasionally come to us with a pallet design that specifies the use of red oak. After all, red oak is the best performing wood out there. The reality is, however, that it is very difficult to cater to wood species selection. Why? Because lumber shipments come in grades and not in species. The wood we use is called low-grade, meaning it comes from core of the tree. The species of tree depends on what is in demand by industries such as furniture and flooring. We rarely get a shipment of lumber that is specifically red oak, or any other single species. When we design a pallet, we do so by using a low-grade mixture of hardwoods or softwoods, such southern yellow pine.
Low-grade Does Not Mean Low Quality
All pallets are made from the core of the tree, called the low-grade lumber. The outer part of the tree is typically a clearer product without knots and imperfections. That lumber goes to other uses such as furniture or flooring. Do not be fooled by the term low-grade, however, as it is not an indicator of the quality of lumber used. Whenever we receive a shipment of wood, we perform quality checks to ensure that all of our pallets are made of high quality lumber.
If Not By Species, How is Lumber Classified?
Because we do not get to choose what type of tree is harvested, we categorize lumber as low, medium or high-density hardwood or as softwood. Pallets are designed based on the characteristics of those categories instead of by species. For heavier loads of fragile goods, the type of load that may prompt the desire for 100 percent red oak, we would likely design a pallet from a high-density hardwood. Lighter loads may call for a pallet made of softwood. Using these classifications, we can ensure that we consistently produce a quality product that will serve our customer’s needs, instead of being at the whim of the lumber market to provide a certain species.
Guaranteeing a pallet made of a single type of wood is unrealistic because pallet companies do not dictate what type of wood is harvested. Instead, we use a grading system that distinguishes between softwood and hardwood, and the different densities of hardwood. Designing pallets based on this classification system means that we can construct quality pallets regardless of the specific species of wood delivered.