Inflation by Deflation - building materials Part 2 x 2

Posted On: Thursday - November 30th 2023 10:10PM MST
In Topics: 
  Economics  Inflation

After that long treatise(?) about the Great German Hyperinflation of one century ago, I figured this would be Inflation Week, here at Peak Stupidity. In other words, for the same donations, you'll get fewer posts. No, that's not ...

These 2 x 8's have gone way up, but probably down from 2 years back. I didn't even want to go to the store then. This post is not about the price, but about inflation by deflation.

Time really flies! It's been 5 years since I wrote this post about the shrinkage of 1 x 2's, and that came out of my having purchased some pieces of 1 x 2 [sic] for the top surface of an outdoor table. It seems like I did that work recently! You can read that post, but I'll just say here the change was marked and very obvious, even before I broke out the calipers.

Anyway, I started a way O/T discussion on an iSteve thread about the shrinkage of bigger lumber, such as some 2 x 8's, being under the mistaken impression that they had shrunk in width (the "8" inch dimension) recently. I was about to write a post here, but, as much as he won't stop arguing, I'm glad Jack D (along with commenter Res, but he with less certainty) corrected me. I had been wrong for years in thinking that all the "Two by" lumber had actual dimensions of 1 1/2" x [nominal - 1/2"] That is true for 2 x 4's and 2 x 6's, but the wider stuff is 1 1/2" x [nominal - 3/4"]. OK, fine, but I have another example that IS true and is pretty damned egregious.

That would be the cough, cough, 2 x 2's, spit. Maybe a reader here would have a more recent and/or precise date, but I do know that through the fairly late 1990s, I would use these on projects, and they would be 1 1/2" x 1 1/2". Because I'd used a few pieces for that same table 5 years back, I can say that the size of this wood has been reduced significantly before that time. I just don't know how long beforehand. Yes, it's significant when they used to look a bit like lumber, and now they look more like walking sticks.

To get data on the old stuff, I went out to the garage with my nice dial calipers I "obtained"* long ago. After scraping the edges and some dirt off, I got just a couple of thousandths under 1.5" for the one dimension and 20 thousandths over for the other. (You could tell these things were ripped, as in sawn the long way, so that explains the difference. I'm not sure if other 2 x 2's of the day were milled on all surfaces, but ones on my old porch are ripped too.)

Then, I found I had a perfect example of the modern 2 x 2 vs the older ones, side by side:

They are both 2 x 2's. The reason the front one looks like it has a rectangular x-section is because I have a 45 deg. cut there for looks.

That's that very same small table. This holds some firewood. It used to be inside, but the wife demanded it go out, so I replaced the maple top, luckily just screwed on, with those spit, 1 x 2's. I had the old 2 x 2's as part of the structure way before, but 5 years ago put 2 little sections for support (with diagonal cuts for looks), screwed right on. The old and the new are happily both flush with another surface at their tops. So I got to use the depth gauge feature of my nice calipers. They showed 0.098 on the dial. Yep, down from 1.5" square to 1.4" square, old to new.

But, WAIT, as they say, there's MORE! MORE inflation, that is, meaning even less material. I went to the Lowes website:

I enlarged it this time. Wow! They're down to 1 5/16" square now.

Wait, at least one more exclaimation point is needed. Five oh freaking eight?!! (Yeah, 2 will do.) That piece would have been 45¢ or something 30 years ago, and with much more material to boot! (One more.)

I'm too pooped tonight, but I'll do some axial loading, bending, and buckling calculations tomorrow. I'll also figure out an inflation rate based on both price and mass of material. Can't they just up the price but leave the dimensions alone?! This is exasperating.

PS: Sorry to the readers who can only deal in SI units. Being a curmudgeon and an American both, I am happy to stay in English units for most things. Also, though, this wood is all dimensioned both nominally and actually in round numbers in English units.

* There is a story behind that which might be worth a post here. It's about bureaucracy and patience.

Adam Smith
Friday - December 1st 2023 4:50PM MST
PS: Meanwhile, in other news...

The first fully manufactured electric Class A truck in Australia self immolates...

Adam Smith
Friday - December 1st 2023 11:34AM MST
PS: “I imagine that older stuff had more inherent strength.”

You imagine correctly.

Have you ever tried to pull nails out of the old lumber?
Or noticed how straight it was compared to the new stuff?

I once knew an old man who worked in a sawmill in the 20's (or 30's) and he told me that today's lumber (meaning lumber ~20 years ago) wouldn't have made it past the burn barrel.

Friday - December 1st 2023 8:51AM MST
PS: Good point, Adam, with the quality/age of the timber. I imagine that older stuff had more inherent strength. I may want to mention that too. I didn't watch the video yet.

Totally O/T, (besides making iSteve comments - very addictive), I was in the middle of watching a discussion between Peter Brimelow of VDare and one Diane West. She is superb!

The video is just a little ways down in this post by Patrick Cleburne:
Friday - December 1st 2023 8:48AM MST
PS: Haha, Tim, that's a good one. Yes, one of the 4 x 4's I got in a delivered load of a bunch of stuff is so warped (I realized later) that this 12' long piece curves to 4" above the ends!
Friday - December 1st 2023 8:46AM MST
PS: Uhhh, yeah, I got some of that stuff, Alarmist... I have more of the Crown Royal, Maker's Mark, Bailey's and other liqueurs than the wodka, though. Much of that came from very good deals at airport Duty Free stores, back when they had 'em (the deals, that is - they still have the stores).

I meant to say right in this post, actually, but the reason I have some of the older-dimensioned wood was that I was prepping, in this case, just for inflation in the pricing - that was much before the PanicFest and further spending - I recall it being about 12 years back. That's not interesting enough to make a post on, but I might mention it. Had I any decent amount of storage area then, I would have bought a whole lot more wood.
Adam Smith
Friday - December 1st 2023 7:44AM MST
PS: Good morning, gentlemen,

I feel like this post should really have a photo of Achmed's nice dial calipers. I suppose this will have to do...

Talking about shrinkflation...

Cheers! ☮️
Tim Berline
Friday - December 1st 2023 6:56AM MST
then there's the reason
The Alarmist
Friday - December 1st 2023 4:44AM MST

If it’s any consolation, Gold should be priced at $80k ... go out and buy some as well as silver while you can get them at bargain prices so that you’ll have something to spend after the global financial collapse of 2024 and the Great War that will follow.

I’ve also stocked up on vodka and cigarettes in case the Russkies decide to roll through on their way to Den Haag via Brussels.
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