Buying lumber by the board foot is an exercise in estimation. Board footage is a measurement of volume, and this is the necessary way to measure hardwoods when they're sold in random widths and random lengths.
Here's how you figure out board footage for a project:
Start with a project idea, plan or sketch
Make a parts list, and determine the board footage of each part
Add it up, then estimate a waste factor
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Here's the basic formula for board footage: