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A commonly held belief is that 2x4s have rounded edges to reduce splinters when carpenters are handling them. That sounds nice, but it seems like an unnecessary step for sawmills to add to their production. Especially since workers moving a lot of lumber can simply wear gloves.
Another theory is that rounded edges won’t damage drywall if studs aren’t perfectly square. This is definitely a benefit, but 2x4s had rounded edges long before drywall was common.
Other reasons people give is that rounded edges won’t get damaged as easily or they won’t catch fire as quickly.
These are all good reasons for end users, but don’t explain why a sawmill would be bothered to spend the extra effort. Or why they would even care what happens to boards once they leave the factory. Especially considering there were no laws concerning rounded edges when this practice began.
So while there are a lot of benefits to using studs without sharp edges, nobody actually knows the original reason why 2x4s have rounded edges.
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