Don't Trust Menards S4S

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Forum topic by TheDane posted 10-20-2010 08:23 PM 9186 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View TheDane's profile


5914 posts in 4634 days

10-20-2010 08:23 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tip oak finishing sanding

I made a big mistake a week or so back, and wound up making a mess of a weekend project.

I wanted to knock out some Little Tables like the one Bob A in NJ built … Click for details .

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any 4/4 or 3/4” stock, and the only decent millwork shop in the area keeps hours that would make a banker blush.

I decided to take the easy way, and pick up some S4S Red Oak at Menards … you know, the shrink-wrapped stuff. I bought two 6 foot long 1×10’s, one for each table. According to the store, the face sides are sanded to 180-grit, which AFAIK should be ready for finishing.

The lumber looked fine when I unwrapped it, so I marked and cut the pieces, and did a minimal amount of sanding (after all, this stuff is S4S, which means Surfaced 4 Sides). The 2 tables looked absolutely perfect before I stained them.

My daughter likes dark furniture, so I used MinWax Dark Walnut Gel Stain, which looked fine when I applied it. But when I did the wipe-off, the parts for one of the tables had large areas where the gel stain just did not penetrate. On further inspection, it was obvious that something had been smeared on the board, then wiped off … there was even a distinguishable thumb print! They looked worse than terrible.

I let the gel stain cure for a few days, then sanded it off (thankfully, my drum sander made short work of this), then re-stained the pieces from table #2.

Hindsight is always 20/20 … I should have wiped on some mineral spirits to check the grain appearance, but I normally do that looking for glue stains and since I didn’t use any glue … it never occurred to me that shrink-wrapped S4S stock would exhibit such a problem.

I mentioned this to the manager at the store where I bought the lumber, and though he was sympathetic, said there is nothing they can do once the plastic wrap is off these boards. They get a premium price for this stuff … a little over $7 per board foot.

I won’t be buying any more shrink-wrapped hardwood at Menards.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

14 replies so far

View bobkberg's profile


440 posts in 4044 days

#1 posted 10-20-2010 09:15 PM

Thanks for the reminder! I’ve not had that particular experience, but I’ve encountered enough others that it’s a good tip – and a potentially huge labor saver.

One other thought – I’ll bet that no matter what the store manager said, that corporate hq would like to know how they’re irritating customers.

-- Bob - A sideline, not how I earn a living

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 3851 days

#2 posted 10-20-2010 10:15 PM

I don’t want to seem out of line at all but is that not to be expected when you buy lumber off the shelf at any store? With the lumber on the racks at the store its right there for anyone to touch. You have to keep in mind that there are many different people from the employees to the customers that are touching the wood. Even though its S4S and very expensive I think a good sanding and close inspection is still a must. I also use mineral spirits but I make sure to apply on everything before I finish. Not just to make spots stand out but to clean any dust or dirt off before I apply the finish.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View popmandude's profile


109 posts in 3991 days

#3 posted 10-20-2010 10:23 PM

I have had the exact same experience. Another problem I have had with big box lumber is when running it through my table saw it puts a death grip on my splitter a bit too often. Sometimes I wonder if they are selling wood cut from the limbs of trees. This is why I shut down my shop until I could get a planer & joiner an mill my own wood. Sure it coulda been wet wood, but the pucker factor got to me, not to mention the price.


View NathanAllen's profile


376 posts in 4115 days

#4 posted 10-20-2010 10:30 PM


The challenge though is the Menards S$S is wrapped in plastic off-site, which means the board came in contact with wax at some point during production.

Even given TheDane’s bad experience of the three big box stores in my opinion the Menard’s S4S is consistently the best in terms of quality and appearance. The price is the same as HD and Lowes, but the plastic wrapping does help reduce twist and curve since the moisture content is sealed.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 4045 days

#5 posted 10-20-2010 10:47 PM

At the Menards I go to they also sell random oak. It is around the corner and you have to know where it is. It is not wrapped and it is only semi-smooth on 2 sides. It sells for about $2.50/bf. It takes a little more work but, in general, I have had good luck with it.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View dq2's profile


71 posts in 3775 days

#6 posted 10-20-2010 10:56 PM

I wish we had a Menards in Phoenix. I used to go there all the time when I lived in Minneapolis. Now I am forced into HD or Lowes. That’s why I go to Woodworkers Source, because it’s real wood and only 2 miles from my house.

The only time I use wrapped wood is for shelves. I agree with Rich, the random oak works great and I like to do the extra work anyway. (Something about controlling your own destiny.)

Sorry for the problems, but glad to hear that the final product works.

-- - DQ in Phoenix -

View mafe's profile


12844 posts in 4060 days

#7 posted 10-20-2010 11:30 PM

What a story!
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View TheDane's profile


5914 posts in 4634 days

#8 posted 10-20-2010 11:47 PM

Dan—How closely can you inspect a board that is labeled and shrink-wrapped? And once you take the plastic off, the store’s attitude is ‘Sorry … you bought it’.

Rich—Neither of the Menards big boxes here had any random oak in stock.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3894 days

#9 posted 10-21-2010 12:27 AM

I’m with dq2, wish we had a Menards where I’m at.
Wish I could find some of that “random oak” Richgreer was talking about.
Sorry about your bad experience and rightfully so it agravated you(would have me too) but I still have had better experience at Menards than the other two big box stores.

-- Life is good.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


20022 posts in 4647 days

#10 posted 10-21-2010 01:33 AM

Thanks for the tip. sorry about yoiur trouble ;-(

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View TheDane's profile


5914 posts in 4634 days

#11 posted 10-21-2010 01:47 AM

I should add … NOBODY DIED! I was able to finish my project (albeit a week later than I wanted to get it done), and the end result was satisfactory.

The only reason I posted this little rant was to (hopefully) help others avoid making the same mistakes I made.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View chrisstef's profile


18127 posts in 3977 days

#12 posted 10-21-2010 01:59 AM

thanks for the heads up dane … another one to store in the back of the old melon

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View mess33's profile


1 post in 3744 days

#13 posted 10-22-2010 06:08 PM

What it comes down to is that dark stains are very tough to do right but look great if done right. You should not assume anything if you want a great finished result. Dark stains telegraph every potential issue. Red Oak is not to bad but Hard Maple and Soft Maple can be the toughest to work with. Menard’s has the best selection by a long shot.

View Sawmillnc's profile


150 posts in 4025 days

#14 posted 10-26-2010 12:07 AM

Find you a local sawyer..or mail order stock for cheaper than you can buy @ the mentioned store for less including shipping.

-- Kyle Edwards,, Iron Station , NC (near Charlotte)

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