If your woodworking projects are of a more utilitarian nature you will not want to spend the money on finished hardwood. However if you have looked at the stack of 2 x 4’s and the local big box home improvement store you may wonder how can I build anything straight out of this pile of twisted boards generously called lumber. Generally they also have too high a moisture content to be considered stable. You can however get something usable at a decent price with a little planing ahead. The key is buying ahead of time and properly stacking.
This will require a little space but your best bet is to buy wide and long boards and then store them stacked and “sticker-ed”. Find the best looking boards that are 2″ x 8″ or wider and 12′ long. Then stack them starting with a level platform with small boards, or stickers, running across the boards between each layer. You want airflow around all sides of each board so it can dry as evenly as possible. It also helps to have weights on top of the pile to keep it flat while it dries.
After several weeks to a few months you will have lumber that is much more stable. You can then cut out of the sides of each board good usable wood for projects like a workbench, shelves and other projects. Looking at the end or a board the best parts has grain that runs across the board from top to bottom. If you see the grain forming a shallow arc starting and ending on the same side of the board, that section will tend to warm and twist more.
Consider a small pile of lumber a good investment to make. You will have it if you ever need something in a hurry and when you do build a project you will find that the wood you have dried a bit to produce better results.