Dunham Hardwoods - Amazing Customer Service!

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Review by Steve Erwin posted 10-18-2012 03:43 PM 2751 views 4 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Dunham Hardwoods - Amazing Customer Service! Dunham Hardwoods - Amazing Customer Service! Dunham Hardwoods - Amazing Customer Service! Click the pictures to enlarge them

I never write reviews, but I am so impressed with the customer service I have received so far from this company that I’m telling everybody.

EDIT: I’ve decided that my original preface to this review was too negative. The point of me taking the time to write this review was to highlight the positives of the lumber mill I’ve found. Not to single out the negatives of the lumber mill I’ve been going to. With that in mind, I’ve revised the beginning to speak a little more gently about my experiences with my current mill.

I’ve been really dissatisfied with the service at the lumber mill I’ve been going to since 2009. I’ve never really had a great experience there. Adequate at best. I think, perhaps, a lot of my feelings stem from the owner not being a woodworker, and it seems like he doesn’t really understand what I’m looking for in lumber for a furniture project. I’m willing to chalk it up to a personality difference and say “It’s not him, it’s me” and leave it at that. He’s an alright guy, and the prices there are good, but I want more than just good prices. I guess I’m looking for a partner that’s going to help bring my furniture projects to the next level.

So I’m about to start my next project and I don’t really want to purchase from the same mill as before. I spent an entire week researching alternatives around the area and online, reading forums and reviews of lumber mills around the country to find out where other furniture makers buy their wood.

So I found Dunham Hardwoods out in Iowa. Sent them an email and within a few hours Zach Dunham replied, answering my initial data gathering questions. We exchanged 3 or 4 more emails and each time he replied in a timely manner with a fully detailed response, answering every question I had.

Here are the highlights:

- his father, his brother and he own the business and have been doing it for 30 years
- they are woodworkers themselves, so they understand what woodworkers are looking for
- they throw away 10% of their inventory that is technically up to grade and acceptable for sale, but since they wouldn’t want to use it for their own projects, they don’t sell it to their customers
- they touch every board that comes in
- they hand-select boards for your order trying to match color as much as possible.
- if you order quartersawn white oak, he won’t put a board into your pile that has little to no ray flake
- if you ask, he’ll pick out the widest boards he’s got (again, at no extra charge)
-they surface plane every board down to final thickness and joint one edge for no extra charge. This is not hit-or-miss planing. It’s full final thickness planing where it just needs to be finish sanded or hit with a smoothing plane and you’re good to go.
- You have the option of hit-or-miss planing or rough-cut lumber by walking into their retail store, but for mail orders there’s no price drop for buying rough-cut lumber because Dunham won’t be able to see the boards as well and there’s an increased chance that the customer won’t like what they see and want to return the wood.
- To date, they’ve never had a return.
- He spent 10 minutes on the phone with me going over my cut list asking me at what lengths I’d like him to cut the 10’ boards, 11’ boards, and 12’ boards across the thicknesses I needed to make sure that he didn’t cut them too short for the parts of my project, but also to try to stay under the 5’ mark to avoid the $7.50 UPS surcharge for over-long packages. Again, for no extra cost.

Here’s the amazing part… all of this is $25 less than what it would have cost me to get lower quality, rough cut, ordered-sight-unseen lumber from the mill I’ve been going to…..and that’s after shipping it right to my doorstep!

I compared Dunham Hardwoods along with 14 other lumber mills, getting quotes from all of them. It’s an amazing value, especially when you consider that you’re getting S3S lumber.

I kept my first order small on purpose (55bf) just in case I want to shop around to some other mills for future projects, but if the wood is as good as the customer service has been, Dunham Hardwoods will be gaining a very loyal customer.

I’ll update this review with photos once I receive the wood (should be 6 days from now).

Zach from Dunham Hardwoods just called me back. We originally decided on 12’ boards cut in 4’ lengths, but he found two 10’ boards with “absolutely unbelievable grain” and wanted to know if he could cut them in 5’ lengths and if it would work with my project cut list.

He’s also not going to be able to get the order out today because the 5/4 stuff he had on hand has some rough spots, and if he’s going to cut it so close to final length he doesn’t want to risk it, so he’s going to pull some more inventory and sift through that to find cleaner stuff.

I continue to be amazed at the care and attention he’s putting into this. He doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall and I feel like I’m getting treated like royalty.

Zach from Dunham Hardwoods called me a couple more times while he was hand selecting boards for me to make sure I was getting what I need for my project. He got the shipment out Friday 10/19 via UPS. Shipment was received today, 10/24. Each bundle was carefully wrapped with the ends cushioned with extra cardboard and tape holding the cushions in place. There was no damage from shipping, and the boards look awesome!

The poplar is wider than I expected (in a good way), and clean and check-free. Nice!

The Quartersawn White Oak has prettier and more dynamic grain than I’ve ever seen in person before. There are a few rough spots on some of the 5/4 boards I ordered where the planer didn’t smooth it, but Zach notified me before he shipped them, asking me if it was OK or if I wanted him to order some new 5/4 inventory. I told him I can make it work, so it’s not a problem for me.

  • personable, familiy-run business
  • high level of care and attention even with a small order
  • careful hand selection of boards, rough length, widths to serve your woodworking project
  • quick and reasonable shipping
  • low costs, high quality lumber, beautiful figure, no significant flaws
  • every step of the way I’ve been given the royal treatment.

I’ll be buying from Dunham Hardwoods again.

-- I've been creating problems to solve since I was born.

View Steve Erwin's profile

Steve Erwin

96 posts in 872 days

10 comments so far

View lab7654's profile


255 posts in 1067 days

#1 posted 10-18-2012 04:38 PM

Great find! Right now I’m looking around for lumber mills, and I’ve only found one. Hopefully it’s a winner. A good lumber mill is basically the foundation for woodworking, unless you cut and mill your own lumber… without it, you’re left with wood that it just a pain to work with and doesn’t look nearly as well as it should.

-- Tristin King -- When in doubt, sand it.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


1616 posts in 1189 days

#2 posted 10-18-2012 05:47 PM

Nice review. I see you’re from Syracuse, I grew up there and am now in the Binghamton area. Mind if I ask what the shipping was on that 55bf order?

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Steve Erwin's profile

Steve Erwin

96 posts in 872 days

#3 posted 10-18-2012 06:51 PM

@BinghamtonEd: The shipping costs are based on weight and weither the bundle is over 5’ in length. So some species are going to be heavier than others.

I ordered 30bf 4/4 Q/S White Oak, 15bf 5/4 Q/S White Oak, and 10bf 4/4 Poplar. And my project allowed me to accept 5’ lengths and under.

Shipping as ordered was estimated at: $78.20
Shipping with over 5’ lengths was estimated at: $102.80

UPS charged $7.50 per package that is over 5’ in length. He doesn’t add extra, he just passes the $7.50 onto the customer, which is fair, in my opinion. I’ve seen some mills adding to this already painful fee.

The exact shipping won’t be known until he weighs the packaged order, but this was close enough for me to compare prices with other mills.

-- I've been creating problems to solve since I was born.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


1616 posts in 1189 days

#4 posted 10-18-2012 07:51 PM

Not bad, their prices with shipping are about what I pay down here at my local place. If you’re ever down in the Binghamton/Owego area, swing by Southern Tier Hardwoods. .

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View robdem's profile


343 posts in 1426 days

#5 posted 10-19-2012 12:55 AM

gildedrain you can also try Lakeshore hardwood in pulaski ny .I have not used them but but friend of mine have and have had good results and loved the wood

View Steve Erwin's profile

Steve Erwin

96 posts in 872 days

#6 posted 10-19-2012 02:36 AM

@All: I’ve edited the preface of this review. (see above)

@robdem: I’m reluctant to say so, but Lakeshore Hardwoods is the lumber mill I’ve been disappointed with. It’s not a bad mill and I’m sure a lot of woodworkers are perfectly happy shopping there. It’s just not a good match for me. They just opened a sister store in Victor, NY so it looks like they’re doing well business-wise and I wish them the best of luck.

That being said, I’m going to continue my quest to find those mythical lumber mills you only see on TV shows where the celebrity host is the only customer on site and the owner is the one driving the forklift to pull out full flitches for him to look through. :)

-- I've been creating problems to solve since I was born.

View jtriggs's profile


82 posts in 2637 days

#7 posted 10-19-2012 01:38 PM

gildedrain, you found my secret spot!!

I’ve been going to Dunham’s for about 10 years. I was just there a month ago picking up a large order for a couple remodeling projects around the house. Zach is just as helpful in person.

I look forward to going there and smelling the sawdust and sorting through the nice selection of lumber. They’ve always got some exotics on hand that are fun to look through. I just picked up some lacewood because it was so beautiful. I have no planes for it but know I’ll find something.

I grew up about an hour from there and now live about 3 1/2 hours away but it’s only a little out of my way when I go back to the old homestead to see the relatives, so that’s handy.

Frankly I’m disappointed in myself for not thinking of reviewing Dunham’s. I’m sure glad you thought of it.

-- Jon --Always remember, never live your life by a motto.

View robdem's profile


343 posts in 1426 days

#8 posted 10-19-2012 01:42 PM

gilderain sorry to here that guys from my club here in long island that have used him where very happy . Guess I’am lucky I have great hardwood dealer here in long island called robert’s yardman very help full and you can walk around and look all you want no rush .

View Dusty56's profile


11729 posts in 2508 days

#9 posted 10-19-2012 08:55 PM

Sorry to hear something negative about Lakeshore Hardwoods.
I have bought quite a bit of quality lumber from them when they come to “The WoodWorking Shows” here in West Springfield MA , and their people are top notch and very helpful (at the shows) at least : )
Glad you found your “Happy Place” : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Steve Erwin's profile

Steve Erwin

96 posts in 872 days

#10 posted 10-24-2012 09:45 PM

Hey everyone. Just posting to let you know I updated this review now that I’ve received the lumber I ordered. I had a great experience buying from this mill, the quality of the wood is more than I expected, and the customer service was incredible.

-- I've been creating problems to solve since I was born.

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