Confusing Lumber Term: "Sap and Better?"

      Experts and wood buyers and sellers discuss the meaning of some obscure lumber grading terms such as "Sap/BTR" for white-wood Maple. April 20, 2011

Can someone tell me how many board feet are typically expected when someone is requesting "1 T/L per month"? Also, can someone tell me about #1Com Sap/Btr. I get the Number One Common, but what's the "Sap/Btr"?

One more set of terms. Any idea what this means? "Clear cut stock KD 8-10% Rougher Headed 4 Sides". That "rougher headed" part has me stumped.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I wonder if Sap/Btr means Select (SEL) and Better. The board feet will vary by species, as the weight usually determines when you have a truck load. Also, if it is planed, that will change the answer. As a rough guess, 12 to 15 MBF.

From contributor X:
There are a lot of variables regarding your BF question. Weight is usually the wall you run up against when loading a trailer with forest products not BF. Just ask him what kind of BF he expects per load.

SAP/BTR means Sap and better. Sap is not considered a defect in lumber. Putting both of your posts together I read that he says he wants roughed lumber 4S with at least 66.66% clear cuttings and sapwood in the lumber is acceptable. Minimum width for #1C is 3" and 4' in length but he can call for his own minimums and with roughed 4S specified he probably has.

Rougher heading is the process of using a planer with reeded shaped knives to give the surface of the wood a texture. I don't know if it serves any purpose other than cosmetic. The big boys use lasers to do it now. I think this is mostly done to softwoods though. I'm not an expert on grading so I will be watching for a better reply. Hardwood grading rules differ from softwood grading.

Check out the Knowledge Base article below it may be helpful.

Understanding Hardwood Lumber Grading

From contributor X:
Gene - what about my notion that the buyer is saying sap is okay? Is there a standardized limit to the percentage of sap which is acceptable?

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I have not heard of SAP/BTR, so I was guessing. We certainly would have special sap requirements for walnut and cherry.

From contributor X:
To the original questioner: Ask your prospect for clarification of his terms. You'll have to make sure y'all are on the same page before you can make a quote anyway. I just did a search for the term "SAP/BTR" and got plenty of hits but never found a definition for it. Let us know what he says, and what species this is about.

From contributor T:
Sap and better is a term used by the NHLA grading rules to determine the amount of sapwood required on such species as H and S maple, etc (where the sap wood is desired). Generally it is required that at least one face be sapwood in the required cutting units of any grade, FAS, 1 com, etc.

It is a less strict color selection than a 1 and 2 white grade, but much more strict than unselected for color (obviously). The majority of H and S maple is being sold with some sort of color spec applied, depending on the quality of the lumber - usually sap/btr or 1 and 2 white. This is clearly explained in the NHLA rule book, or on their website.

From contributor R:
Also maple is oft spec'd as sap (white). Although I've seen it many times, Sap/btr doesn't seem like a logical specification.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
There is a grade called SAP HARD MAPLE which requires each cutting to have one clear sapwood face (that is, not the face of the piece is clear, but the cuttings used to establish the grade are clear on one face). This designation is in addition to the regular grade such as No.2A Common, No.1 Common, FAS, etc.

What is confusing to me is the expression SAP/BTR; how there can be anything better than SAP? A piece either qualifies as Sap Hard Maple or it does not.

Maybe the intention is that the regular grade is "No.1 Common and Better" and ALSO that the cuttings used to establish the grade will also have one clear sapwood face (SAP). In other words, the BTR refers to better than No. 1 Common and not better than SAP. So, it would be clearer to me if it said 4/4 No.1 Common and Better, Sap Hard Maple. Note that Sap is used only for hard maple.

In my experience, I almost always see hard and soft maple when sold for color using the designations of "No.1 white maple" and "No.2 white maple." These phases are added to the regular grade designation; for example, "4/4 FAS No.2 white soft maple."

Note: "white" and "sapwood" mean the same thing in this case.

From contributor T:
The color spec for maple of 1 and 2 white is better than a sap grade. A sap/better grade would be all pieces which make a sap grade (white one face on the cutting unit) and pieces that make the 1 and 2 white grade (color rules apply on more than just one face). Similar to a select and better product which would include select, 1f, and fas.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Certainly #2 and #1 white maple are better than the minimum Sap Hard Maple designation. However, these three are not together, in the same way as you do find FAS, Sel, No.1 Common, etc. together and a progression from one to the next.

Within the Sap Hard Maple designation, the piece of lumber is either in or out. With a grade like No.1 Common, a piece, if it is better will move up a standard grade. That is why a piece that is #1 or #2 white hard (not soft) maple is always a Sap Hard Maple piece as well.

If I read you correctly, you are saying that is one has a Sap Hard Maple piece and it also could be a #2 or #1 white hard maple, then if the specification is SAP/BTR, you cannot take the #2 and #1 pieces out. I do not think that you will find anything like that in the rule book. Once you have one clear cutting face, it is Sap Hard Maple and there is nothing better.

If you want all the white produced at a given time, then it must be so stated, and the designation would be 4/4 No.1 Common, Sap, #2 and #1 white hard maple. I have never seen that grouping called Sap/Btr.

Have you seen that in the U.S. or Canada? Have you seen it applied to soft maple and if so where is that in the book?

From contributor T:
I think we have some miscommunication here. 1 &2 white vs sap and better are two clearly different specifications. It is common in the US, Canada, and Europe to sell either one or the other. Even the Hardwood market report has different pricing structures for 1&2 white, sapbtr, and unselected.

According to the rules for maple to make a #1white color grade the piece must have all sapwood on both faces and edges in the cutting unit.

#2 white - one face and both edges must be all sapwood, and the reverse face must be no less than 50% sapwood. Sap/btr simply requires each cutting unit to have 100% sapwood on one face. No regards to back face or edges.

Therefore not all pieces which fall into the sap and better grade would necessarily make a #1 and 2 white grade, which is the main reason why maple or other species sorted as 1 and 2 white are substantially more expensive than sap/btr or unselected.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
My confusion was with the term Btr when used with the color grade of Sap. I am fully aware of the grade of Saps with HM. First, Sap is only with hard maple in the rule book. We did not know if the original was referring just to HM did we?

Second, I am not clear what is better than Sap, as it is not a progressive grade like the standard grades. (I do believe that all #2 and #1 white will also grade as SAP if they are hard maple, as they are better quality...more white. I did not see a reference to Btr in the link you provided.

In my work with sawmills, I cannot recall any that sold saps. It seems that grade is not popular here or else I missed that. Does the HMR list Sap and better or just sap? If you had better and it would meet #2, wouldn't the money be better to sell that way?

From contributor P:
How about someone specifying: #2 Clear? I thought all #2 lumber is full of knots. So isn't that #2 Clear a contradiction of terms?

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Thanks for the info about using better with the grade of SAP for hard maple. (It still does not make sense to me, as it is like saying "Rich and Better" as the grade of SAP is either YES or NO, so there is no better quality. Apparently, the marketplace has decided that #2 and #1 are indeed better, even though they are SAP grade hard maple. As SAP applies to hard maple only (in the rule book, I wonder if it is also used for saft maple).

Note: There is a the regular grade of maple (FAS, Select, No. 1 Common, etc.) and then added to this grade can be a color specification, #1 or #2.

From contributor R:
#1 and #2 can be without knots "clear", downgraded because of the width.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Perhaps the confusion is that the clear really means white (or sapwood) without any heartwood. However, this applies to the cuttings used to determine the grade and not to the entire board surface. So, you can have No.2 Common that is #1 white. This applies to lumber. It is also possible that they are referring to No.2A common rather than 2B. #2A has clear cuttings, while 2B admits stain, etc. in the cuttings.

When applied to cut stock and not lumber, then it applies to the items produced. Cut stock can have pin knots, stain, etc., so it is important to indicate what the definition of a defect (not clear) will be. Again, the grade of SAP only applies to hard maple in the rule book. It does not have the designation of BTR defined.

Bottom line: Communication between buyer and seller is certainly important. Another example of confusion is the term "kiln dried" or "KD." This is a term without a good definition in the NHLA rule book. For softwoods, it is fairly well defined.

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