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I picked up some 1x4 #2 pine at Kent last week thinking I would start framing a section. I tried to cherry-pick but when I got it home I could see that half are probably unusable due to notable crowning. I'm going to take these back but the Select grade honestly wasnt perfect either. I'm wondering if something like 3/4 ply cut into 3.5" strips would do better? It would certainly me truer but would it take screws on the end as well etc?
 

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If you do this you will have to be very careful screwing into end or side grain in plywood. Screw & glue.

My 1x4's were pretty good, but my benchwork is still all screwed & glued. Solid as a rock.

 

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Michael's layout structure looks great! 1"x4" wood can be made to work and it is not heavy. My layout structure is all 3/4" plywood. The end result is great but it is heavier and harder to build correctly. Mine was done by a professional with all the correct power tools to cut all the plywood beams and make make the tongue and slot connections.
 

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I picked up some 1x4 #2 pine at Kent last week thinking I would start framing a section. I tried to cherry-pick but when I got it home I could see that half are probably unusable due to notable crowning. I'm going to take these back but the Select grade honestly wasnt perfect either. I'm wondering if something like 3/4 ply cut into 3.5" strips would do better? It would certainly me truer but would it take screws on the end as well etc?
Sunsanvil;

Really good quality plywood can be cut and used for beams, instead of dimensional lumber. I too don't recommend screwing into the ends of either plywood or lumber. It can be done, but both can split too easily. Using 3/4" thick plywood is gross overkill for model railroad benchwork, in my opinion. Yes, hundreds of layouts have been built on 4' x 8' sheets of 3/4" thick plywood, and it has also been used as framing. However, the stuff is very heavy and fairly expensive too.
A layout's benchwork needs to be strong enough to support model trains. If designed properly, it should never be necessary for a person to crawl on top of it, but even if that ever were to become necessary, there are lighter, and frankly better, ways of doing it than creating an overweight monster.
A sheet of two inch thick extruded foam can support model trains, track, structures, & scenery without any plywood under it. If set on top of open grid benchwork with stringers every 16", it will even support a grown man. L-girder is even stronger than open grid, requires fewer stringers, and most importantly is practically warp proof.
Fairly thin, lightweight, wood can be assembled into L-girders, or box girders, and will support many times its own weight. L-girder is commonly made from a 1 x 3 and a 1 x 2 glued together. (See photo #1) However, it can be made from other materials. Since your having trouble finding straight, un-warped wood, here are two suggestions.

1) It's possible albeit a pain in the posterior, to straighten the warped wood.
In the process of building a small layout for my grandson, I wanted to make an L-girder frame. The only 1 x 2 boards available at Lowes, or Home Depot, were curved "hockey sticks." I screwed and glued them to some straight 1 x 3 stock I had at home. In the process, using heavy-duty 'C'-clamps, I was able to straighten out the worst of the bends in the 1 x 2s.

2) Luan plywood sheets are available at those same stores. 1/4" luan, cut into 3" strips, can be glued into an L-girder. I would use a 1 x 1 piece of lumber (ripped from larger stock) in the corner to reinforce the joint. An alternative would be to use a piece of commercial moulding.
Luan can also be glued around foam to make a box girder. The 2" x 2" beam in photo #2 is actually stronger, and much lighter, than the normal 2" x 2" beam in the background.

So, you have plenty of choices, just pick the one you want.

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Not sure what "Kent" is -- a home improvement big box store? You will generally find better quality lumber at a dedicated lumber yard. I have picked through entire tracks of lumber at big box stores and not been able to find half a dozen acceptable boards. If I buy from my local lumber yard, I pay half again as much per board foot, but I rarely get an unusable junk board.

As far as the choice, this is one of those cases where there is no clear advantage either way. You can do either, or mix and match. And FWIW, pre-drilling and countersinking is always a good idea when woodworking.
 

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I usually use finishing washers instead of counter sinking, even less chance of splitting the lumber.
 
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