Cheaper wood alternatives

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Forum topic by Eric_S posted 10-16-2009 01:55 PM 8598 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1565 posts in 3195 days

10-16-2009 01:55 PM

I’m almost done with the Sketchup drawing for the nightstands I’m going to start in a few weeks now that my new Grizzly G0555 bandsaw and Delta Planer are on there way :)

Anyways, my wife and I were hoping to use Cherry or Black Walnut for the bedroom furniture. However, after looking at wood prices it seems I can only find cherry at around $5 bd. ft which means the wood alone is going to be more than I would like to spend for the nightstands and then even more when I start the bed frame and dressers. What would be a good alternative?

It sounds like I’ll have to do a dye/stain instead with some kind of cheaper wood. Can anyone give me a few good suggestions for a wood that will stain well and resemble Cherry or Black walnut(we haven’t decided). Also a good suggestion for stains to use? I’ll post the sketchup drawing hopefully sometime this weekend for critique since this is my first design and I’m not sure if I can make some of the pieces thinner and if tennon lengths are long enough or even too long.


-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

19 replies so far

View Julian's profile


880 posts in 3525 days

#1 posted 10-16-2009 02:18 PM

Eric, I would keep my eye on craigslist. I see cherry and walnut all the time for $2-$5 in the Chicagoland area.

-- Julian, Park Forest, IL

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1565 posts in 3195 days

#2 posted 10-16-2009 02:23 PM

Julian, thanks. I’ve been paying attention to the Indy area craigslist and there was some a few months back but I didn’t know how much I would need and hadn’t decided on species yet. I think chicago 8 hr drive roundtrip may be too much for me just for getting wood. I think next time I see cheap prices I’m just going to buy!

Socalwood, any suggestions on stains to use?

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View missionworks's profile


64 posts in 3232 days

#3 posted 10-16-2009 02:34 PM

You might try this guy.
I got a good deal on some quartersawn white oak.

-- MW |

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8016 posts in 3375 days

#4 posted 10-16-2009 03:00 PM

Butternut can be stained to be “walnut like” and is very nice to work with, usually run under $3 BF here (usually closer to $2). Maple stained dark can resemble cherry a bit.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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1094 posts in 3294 days

#5 posted 10-16-2009 03:14 PM

Wood prices seem to be like gasoline prices, not a lot of logic for the regional prices.

In trip to the mill this week I bought Ash, Rustic Maple, Sassafrass, Basswood and Hickory for between $2 and $2.50 a bd ft. The Cherry and Walnut I bought were $4 and $3.75 a bd ft.

Alder at this mill was $4.95 bd ft.

All of these were in less than 12 bd ft of any one type, 4/4 R1E and under 10” width. Mill was in Toledo, Ohio.

Later in the month I am going to the west side of Michigan and expect to get some Cherry at greatly reduced cost from a different mill.


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2656 posts in 3526 days

#6 posted 10-16-2009 03:48 PM

I have some of socalwood’s alder and it is great! Wonderful straight grain to work with and the natural color is perfect like it is but takes stain rather well.

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

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1565 posts in 3195 days

#7 posted 10-16-2009 04:22 PM

Wow. I love LJ. I can write any question and I’m surprised how fast people respond. Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Since I wont be purchasing wood for a couple of weeks I have some more time to look around at prices.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

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409 posts in 3472 days

#8 posted 10-16-2009 04:54 PM

Have you tried to locate alternate suppliers? You can set the search region by zip code and I think radius in miles.

Since you have a bandsaw and planer (I’d suggest a jointer or at least a few hand planes too) you can deal with rough cut or skip planed wood. The fewer machining steps applied before you get it, the cheaper it will be. Maybe you can find a small sawmill within 100 or 150 miles (or pick your driving distance) and get your wood there.

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

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117093 posts in 3577 days

#9 posted 10-16-2009 05:12 PM

Hey Eric
These are all good suggestions In my area black oak and ash, are in the $3.50 Bf range If you what to overcome some blocking issues when you finish you could consider poplar,and pine both around the $1.85 bf in my area. If you buy wood you have to do some more milling instead of buy s4s you can save $ 1-2 BF.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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1565 posts in 3195 days

#10 posted 10-16-2009 05:13 PM

RWyoung, I have #4,5, and 7 hand planes and for the time being that will be used for jointing until I get a jointer.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

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5032 posts in 3893 days

#11 posted 10-16-2009 05:37 PM

I can match “Poplar” to “Cherry” and only an expert could tell them apart. If I was not an honest man it would be easy to “rip off” a client. Its inexpensive, strong, machines easily, sands easily, and takes a finsih well. Its density is close to cherry as well. Poplar is also a fast growing tree and often its commercially grown. For customers who are budget oriented, I highly recommend it.

Good Luck.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View dbhost's profile


5712 posts in 3232 days

#12 posted 10-16-2009 05:43 PM


That GO555 you have coming, if you have it fitted with the riser block, and a good resawing blade, can solve your problem. Build yourself a resawing jig, and look at Craigslist for someone posting free wood. I have gotten plenty of free Pecan, Mesquite, Oak, etc… that is sitting and drying, stickered in my attic right now, for no bucks…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

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711 posts in 3471 days

#13 posted 10-16-2009 05:56 PM

Typically…what width is available in poplar commercially?
Oh and Eric…lets see the Model! That way we can compare it to photos of the finished product and see if you made any mistakes…oops…I mean changes.

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1565 posts in 3195 days

#14 posted 10-16-2009 05:59 PM

Dbhost, I may have to do that. I did buy the riser block since I didn’t want to buy nice blades only to regret not having the riser and then buying more blades. So I thought it would be more economical to get it upfront :) It’s being delivered on Monday and I can’t wait. I think I will create a resawing jig for it, thanks for the suggestion. I see a lot of free “firewood” and trees chopped down (you move) on craigslist that I keep eyeing and now that I will have a bandsaw I will be paying much more attention to.

Roman, Poplar or Alder might be the way to go for this project. However, if I did poplar for the nightstands and stained it and then later decided to do the bed frame or dresser in actual Cherry, could I match the two easily?

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View a1Jim's profile (online now)


117093 posts in 3577 days

#15 posted 10-16-2009 06:00 PM

Hey Roman
Is your secret for making poplar look like cherry somthing you can share with us. I would like to know since your work always looks so great.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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