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Buying rough cut lumber

by Dinger
posted 07-20-2012 08:58 PM

23 replies so far

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3582 days

#1 posted 07-20-2012 10:14 PM

I just did the same thing I bought a large pile of sawn sycamore and ash. It was not 100% dry but quite good I will store and use as I need .Hopefully since it is well stickered it will dry ok not really wet but not really 100% dry either but reasonably dry to work with .Please watch what your doing if you save enough and it is quite dry I would go for it but not at near shop prices. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View AandCstyle's profile


3052 posts in 2254 days

#2 posted 07-20-2012 11:01 PM

Any wood can warp, it has to do with internal stresses in the wood. Even wood that has been dried can warp if care is not given to keeping it stored so moisture enters and leaves the wood from both sides at approximately equal rates. This may cause a long discussion, but there is little difference for your application between kiln and air dried wood IF each process is done correctly. Ideally, the wood should be dried to the 6-8% moisture range, then stored in your shop for a few weeks depending on the thickness of the pieces.

If you already have your design in mind, how many BF will you need? What will be the cost of having the tree milled, dried, transported, etc. You can also check to see if there are other vendors close to you that may have a more favorable price.

Finally, not all qswo has the great ray pattern you want. If you have the wood milled you may not get exactly what you want. If you buy it already cut, you can pick and choose (to some extent) so you might end up with less waste and possibly therefore a lower cost.

This advice is worth what you paid for it. :)

-- Art

View HerbC's profile


1755 posts in 2856 days

#3 posted 07-20-2012 11:02 PM


It can be a good way to buy but there are also potential pitfalls.

Yes quartersawn wood can and will warp. The good things are that the warping will normally be a bow rather than cupping or other more troublesome warpage. The bow can generally be dealt with by ripping a straight edge on one side and then ripping to width. Quartersawn wood is frequently prefered for furniture because it “moves” (expands and contracts across the width of the board) less with moisture changes than does flatsawn. Also, quartersawing tends to reveal the rays in white oak, enhancing the appearance.

If the wood has been properly air dried it may be dry enough to use for furniture making. You need to stack it with stickers (strips of wood to provide air flow space between boards) in your shop if it is dry enough to use. In that case it may need only a week or two to aclimatize to the conditions in your shop. On the other hand it may still be “green” and need to dry much longer (months) before use. It would be best to get a moisture meter to check the moisture level.

Of course you’ll also have to finish the process of milling the lumber to the finished product you’ll use to build the tables. Planing and jointing will require time and effort but you save a lot of money and may get much better products from a small sawmill.

Cultivate your relationship with the sawyer and you never know what you can get from them in the future.

Good Luck!

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View waho6o9's profile


8189 posts in 2574 days

#4 posted 07-20-2012 11:04 PM

You probably have a volt ohm meter at home, so you can do the moisture check
If it’s a good price, and you trust the sawyer with your concerns, I’d purchase
the lumber.
Hope to see your project on the project page. Good luck my friend.

View Woodmaster1's profile (online now)


957 posts in 2584 days

#5 posted 07-20-2012 11:54 PM

Try ll Johnson lumber in Charlotte MI. I bought some quartersawn oak from them two weeks ago and it is great stuff. They will plane it s2s for .10 bdft. or 10.00 min. It is about 100 mi. From you. Be careful not to browse the rockler store there it could be an expensive trip.

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 3234 days

#6 posted 07-21-2012 01:36 AM

Rough cut sawmill lumber is the deal of the century at least when you compare prices at the big lumber stores. It’s just about the only way to get lumber at a price normal people can afford to make a lot of projects. I spent big bucks buying my own sawmill because I needed specialized lumber and if I had to pay retail, my profit would disappear. When you buy green or airdried lumber it’s not going to be usable for a while so buy in advance. I’m in East Tennessee and here it takes 30 days this time of year to air dry 1” thick rough lumber to 20% moisture content. It must be stacked at least 18” off the ground, with 1” X 1 1/4” stickers every 24”. Also make sure the line of stickers lines up for each layer. Also the stack needs to be covered or shaded while allowing good air flow through the stack. After air drying, I move the lumber to the attic in my old 2 story farmhouse. It’s like a solar kiln, it gets very hot in the day and cools off at night. 30 days this time of year and the lumber is ready to check for moisture. The Virginia Tech website on building a solar kiln has a section showing how to calculate moisture content by weighing a sample, then drying it overnight at 170 degrees in a home oven. The calculations are on this webpage. It’s easy and simple.

After you dry your lumber, it will need to be planed and one edge jointed. So you may need more equipment. 300 bft of walnut at $5 a bft is $1500. (if you can find it that cheap) 300 bft of rough cut walnut at a small sawmill might be bought for $1/bft or at the most $2/bft. You may also get the chance to buy all your lumber from one log so the color and grain is the same throughout your project. That’s especially important with wild cherry. So, $1500-300 = $1200 you can spend on tools and still break even with the first 300 bft. That sounds like a lot but it’s only 60 boards if they are 6” wide and 10’ long. You can use up that much lumber pretty quick. The cheaper price for lumber will either let you make more projects or make more profit if you have a woodworking business.

I started buying lumber from small sawmills. Then I learned how to dry it, and how to surface it. Next I needed a more reliable supply of high grade walnut, maple and cherry lumber, so I saved the money I made woodworking and bought a Timberking 1220 sawmill. I only have a few acres of hardwoods that I’m willing to cut for my use so going to use my trees to make products I can sell so I can buy some mountain land with lots of hardwood timber.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View tomd's profile


2155 posts in 3767 days

#7 posted 07-21-2012 02:04 AM

Buy it, dry it.

-- Tom D

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3316 days

#8 posted 07-21-2012 02:47 AM

To quote several Adam Sandler movies….

Yu can duuu it, Yuu cahn guo Ahll the way!!!!

I just bought a bunch of rough cut cherry. If jointing and planing long, wide, and awkwardly size pieces worries you, take a look around the site. There’s a bunch of ways to do it beside a jointer and planer. Heck, I have a jointer idea in my projects and a planer in a comment in the Skill Share forum. And there are tons of solar kiln ideas out there!

Go for it and good luck!

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View WDHLT15's profile


1741 posts in 2473 days

#9 posted 07-21-2012 10:59 AM

I wish that you were closer to me. I have a bunch of quarter sawn white oak for half that price. I am not sure where you are located.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View DrV's profile


6 posts in 2132 days

#10 posted 07-21-2012 05:10 PM


View Dinger's profile


145 posts in 2259 days

#11 posted 07-25-2012 05:21 AM

Thanks for all the info. Now I know what to ask when selecting lumber. The guy I found is in the Gladwin area and I’m located in Saginaw, MI. I’d rather spend my money on the tools needed to dimension the lumber than the lumber itself. Now if only there were a way I could present it to my wife that a new Grizzly jointer will actually SAVE us money….

-- "Begin every endeaver with the end ever in mind."

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2283 days

#12 posted 07-25-2012 10:57 AM

Wives want to see real numbers. I’m remodeling my kitchen. Needed a new table saw to do it so I said, “Here’s how much the saw costs. Here’s how much the wood costs. You go see how much to buy cabinets.”

In this case, the difference was staggering. Be sure to add up everything needed. In my kitchen cabinet example, I had to add in the cost of hardware because you’d obviously be getting hinges, drawer slides and handles if you bought cabinets.

Preparing lumber takes TIME so consider that as well. And on rough cut lumber there can be significant waste, depending on the project.

I also bought a planer. It has already paid for itself as I was able to plane some walnut for counter tops. My whole island counter top, 8 feet by about 3 and a half feet, is costing me about $400.

Lots of considerations. Be realistic. There’s a ton of money to be saved if you have the time to do all the prep yourself.

Oh….. and from a contractor who installs kitchens…”To get this quality in custom cabinets….. you saved yourself close to $15,000 on these…” So the tool expense was well worth it.

View builderbru's profile


5 posts in 2187 days

#13 posted 07-25-2012 01:24 PM

Hi DInger I also live in Saginaw and buy rough lumber from gladwin. Lived there for many years. I cannot pm you, not enough post yet. But pm me if you like maybe I can help you out with more info. Pat

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2561 days

#14 posted 07-25-2012 02:15 PM

Try buying flooring if it can fit your dimensions, or laminate it together to fit your needs. I work for lumber liquidators an we sell 3/4” x 3 1/4” QS WO for somewhere around $3.50 a sq ft (national not local price). Certainly a lot better than your $7-9 bf price, if you can make it work.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8037 posts in 2325 days

#15 posted 07-25-2012 02:44 PM

I’m located in Saginaw, MI

I’ll bet Stumpy could point you in the right direction for a good rough cut lumber source…

He lurks around the thumb (though denies he’s from Flint…. who wouldn’t)

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2261 days

#16 posted 07-25-2012 04:15 PM

If I were you and considering doing this, the first thing I’d get (after buying the wood of course), would be a cheap moisture meter at the least. $20-30 could go a long ways to keep you from having a headache from twisting, joint-popping furniture due to working with the wood too soon. We can sit here and tell you all day long how long it should take for the wood to dry, but we could never be 100% sure.

Now, there are some extra considerations if you go this route versus buying “finished” lumber:

How much time do you have? Depending on the environment, moisture content, and thickness of wood, it could take days, weeks, months, or years until it’s ready to use. I know with my wife, none of those build times are acceptable (“Why isn’t it done yet?”).

Do you have a jointer (or at least an accurate, tuned tablesaw that can produce flat cuts or even a bandsaw)?
Do you have a planer?

If no to either or both of those, do you at least have a manual plane and jointer (like a Stanley… get ready for a workout!)?

I’d also check around to see how much local shops charge to S4S the wood. My guy charges 8 cents a board foot. It’s a no-brainer for projects like my fence where I had him run 1,000 board feet. Even at 300 feet I wouldn’t even think twice about letting him run it.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View Dinger's profile


145 posts in 2259 days

#17 posted 07-28-2012 06:33 PM

Already have the moisture meter. Looks like it’s averaging around 10% and no major warping. I think I have a few percentages to go, or maybe it’s the humidty? My shop is my garage, so whatever the RH is outside, that’s what it is in my shop. I also have a good (enough) planer and table saw. I haven’t shopped the charge for someone to S4S it for me. I was only joking with reagrd to my wife. She is in fact quite supportive. and reasonable costs of my hobby are acceptable and I’m sure as my passion and skill grows, I’m sure it won’t be an issue. Dealing with lower quality tools will make me appreciate the good ones all the more in the future. As far as time? Again, it’s a hobby so that’s not really an issue either. I enjoy the process from start to finish. Thanks for all the input friends!

-- "Begin every endeaver with the end ever in mind."

View Post_Oakie's profile


84 posts in 2150 days

#18 posted 07-30-2012 09:09 PM

Finding someone with a portable sawmill that can custom cut to your specs is the way to go. That way you can get exactly what you want at a reasonable cost. Follow the advice on drying. Forestry Forum and Woodweb have great info on air drying and solar kilns, and a listing of custom cutting sawmills all over North America. I’m on my third sawmill (Norwood) and plan on keeping this one. If you want to come to Missouri, I’ll slice it up any way you want it. Here’s yesterday’s project…

-- Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5657 posts in 2810 days

#19 posted 07-30-2012 09:58 PM

It needs to dry one year per inch of thickness. Then it needs to dry for 2 weeks in a kiln, or until 8% moisture content. I have a PVC pipe and tarp kiln in my garage that I set up when I need to dry a batch of lumber. I use a dehumidifier, electric heater, and two 16” box fans. In two weeks my oak goes from 15% to 7-8% moisture content. Then I simply break down the PVC frame for later use.
One nice thing to look for is air dried lumber from a private party. I can often find QSWO for $.75-1.50 per B.F. that is air dried. Then I can have dry wood within 2 weeks.

Quartersawn lumber is less prone to warping due to the orientation of the grown rings. It also expands and contracts less across its width, leading to more stable furniture.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View superk's profile


2 posts in 1448 days

#20 posted 06-06-2014 12:43 AM

I bought some rough cut lumber and it started to grow black mold all over it. Now it want come off. Is this normal ? A family friend just started cutting his own lumber and i was wondering if he didn’t do something that should have prevented this? Your thoughts would be appreciate, as now i have a bunch of lumber that i can’t use for what i bought it for.

View WDHLT15's profile


1741 posts in 2473 days

#21 posted 06-06-2014 01:53 AM

Your rough cut lumber was not dry. It might have been dead-stacked (without stickers or spacers between the layers of wood), and being still green and not dry, mold and mildew had a party.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View IHRedRules's profile


113 posts in 1473 days

#22 posted 06-06-2014 01:56 AM

I know this is not white oak, but for $2/bf that 1/4 red oak It would work for me!
Also the usual disclaimer, not mine nor do I have any vested interest in it.

View WDHLT15's profile


1741 posts in 2473 days

#23 posted 06-06-2014 02:05 AM

That oak looks well prepared, well stickered, and there is no cupping, so it must have been dried well. That is a very good price for some high quality wood, for sure. Somebody should snatch it up. You could buy it all for $1.50/BF, sell half of it for $3.00/BF easily, and have the other half with no cost in the wood.

You cannot even buy a tractor load of 15,000 BF of FAS oak for $1.50 per BF.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

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