How do you buy wood?

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Forum topic by MikeInPenetanguishene posted 02-14-2010 06:36 AM 1380 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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57 posts in 2484 days

02-14-2010 06:36 AM

ie. how do you decide what wood to use for a project, then how do you find it and what do you look for when purchasing it?

-- Mike Guilbault, Penetanguishene, Ontario

10 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 3001 days

#1 posted 02-14-2010 06:45 AM

Hey Mike
The type of wood you buy depends on what your going to build. As an example if you building and out door project you want a wood that will hold up well out doors. Another consideration is a woods strength for example your would not want to build a rocker out of balsa wood. The other considerations are availability, cost, and appearance.
Were to find it depends on sources in your area. Here’s a link that might help.

-- Custom furniture

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 2493 days

#2 posted 02-14-2010 06:47 AM

I ask my customers to show me pictures of cabinets they like. This usually suggests the wood species they prefer as well as the “style” of cabinets they want.

I’ll also show them samples of different woods with various stains/finishes.

I buy almost all of my wood from a local cabinet hardwood and plywood lumberyard. They carry a great selection of stock and they don’t keep it in stock can often get it.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Glen Peterson's profile

Glen Peterson

555 posts in 2480 days

#3 posted 02-15-2010 08:52 PM

I agree with both of the comments above. I also consider tradition. For example I’m going to build a Morris chair in the near future and I’m going to use quarter sawn white oak, because that was the traditional material. I also consider the characteristics of the wood. I like working with both cherry and walnut for furniture because they are easy to work with hand tools. Other projects, such as workbenches, require hard woods that can take a pounding. I also consider the color of the finished product. I don’t like to use stains so I will choose a wood for its color as well.

-- Glen

View Waldschrat's profile


505 posts in 2860 days

#4 posted 02-15-2010 09:12 PM

Jim and the rest make a good point and shorty presented.

Glen makes a very good point too! If a wood is used inside for interior furniture, then most woods (hard woods) are relatively equal as far as durability goes. Soft woods too for that matter. But its important to choose a wood with a beautiful natural color… I do not like using stains that much either, especially if there is a wood that produce the color I want naturaly… its just more authentic somehow. There is the whole cost factor too, that I understand… but I have the opinion that if I want to take the time and energy to build something then, the material is actually a very small percentage of the cost compared to the time or the tools to work the wood.

Point I wanted to make was, if I like cherry then I would use cherry and not take the time to stain and match another cheaper wood to match the real mccoy. Not to save 30% of wood price… that furniture will hopefully be around for many years, build it the best you can with the best materials available. There is an exception to my practice, thats when it comes to tropical woods or endangered or non certified woods. I do not use them, then I would rather take a maple and stain it to look like ebony, or maybe stain a chestnut to look like mahagony, or whatever.

my 2 cents

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

View MikeInPenetanguishene's profile


57 posts in 2484 days

#5 posted 02-17-2010 07:02 AM

Makes a lot of Glen & Nicholas. I’ve tried stain a few times, but not liking the results. I built a step stool recently out of oak and finished it natural – and love it! I need to get me a book or something (is there an App for that) on wood types so that I can pick out the natural colour I want for a project.

-- Mike Guilbault, Penetanguishene, Ontario

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2506 posts in 2862 days

#6 posted 02-17-2010 07:39 AM

Whatever I use, I’ve begun buying it RGH (unplaned). It’s less expensive and I have to face and plane it anyway to start out with straight stock. I still find it amazing how the unplaned furry lumber comes out looking like the 4 sided planed stuff you also find at the wood suppliers. Also, since RGH lumber is about 1” thick you can end up with wood that is greater than 3/4” if you want to.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Brian024's profile


358 posts in 2824 days

#7 posted 02-17-2010 07:24 PM

If its for a commission, I ask them to show me a picture of the piece or what it is they want me to build. I then show them 3 or 4 different woods that I “think” might work. One of them being the cheapest wood and the other being the match, and a few others. The hardwood dealer I go to has certain domestics on special prices; cherry, red oak, walnut, poplar; though they are only 6’ boards they usually come out of that group. When looking through the boards at the dealer, I usually look at the color and if its possible, the grain. I try to find ones that match the best as possible, which after milling they sometimes don’t. Which is why I always buy 1 or 2 extra boards, just in case that happens. I also get the widest boards that I can find in the pile, I find it gives me a lot more flexibility when using that board, I think Thomas MacDonald said that in one of his video’s.

If its for me, I usually just get something that I haven’t worked with before, like my current project which is made of walnut and spalted maple, neither of which I had worked with before.

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3318 days

#8 posted 02-17-2010 07:34 PM

customer or me decides what wood specie then I shop

auctions, estate sales,
garage sales
word of mouth

the rare occasion, I go buy the trees, fell them and hire a portable saw mill to cut it up.

I look for straight boards, no bends, curls, twists, severe cupping. I look at the ends of the boards to avoid heartwood (pith areas), no honey comb. I look at the edges for springwood/sapwood cause I dont like the look of severe colour change. I look down both edges to look for consistant thickness and prefer the thicker boards. I look at both faces for knots, grain direction, flower, defects etc and of course I look at the price.

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

View Mark's profile


1801 posts in 2698 days

#9 posted 02-17-2010 07:57 PM

plus different styles of furniture prefer certain woods….mission style furniture is done in oak or ash hands down, and country style furniture is done with pine, cedar, or any knotty soft wood. You also want to check the grain of the wood. You dont want to make a random picture frame with 3 sides quartersawn and the fourth side looking funny because its riftsawn

-- M.K.

View rcs47's profile


182 posts in 2554 days

#10 posted 02-18-2010 02:20 AM

Who makes the decision – the person I’m making the piece for, with my help.

Others have covered have already covered why, i.e., historically certain woods are used for different styles.

I buy my lumber from local lumber yards. Not HD or Lowes, but a hardwood lumber yard. I have four within an hour drive. Because I don’t have a planer, I buy surfaced material (4/4 = 13/16”, not ¾” like the sanded material HD carries). Some of these yards sell rough, others sell “hit & miss” (had one pass through the planer) too. You should look for similar hardwood yards in your area.

When I start a new project, I check the yards to see who has what I need in stock, and/or the best price. I’ll go through the entire stack(s), first setting aside straight, flat boards. You will find the boards with the best figure toward the bottom of the stack because most people just take from the top.

From the boards I’ve set aside, I pick the material needed, looking for the best color and grain match. I use a cut list to ensure I have the material needed for drawer faces, or other needs. I will also pick up a couple extra boards for the “just in case” problem that can happen. If you have a special width area, I make sure I have extra to cover this area.

Lately I’ve been watching craigslist. Doing quick searches for lumber has given me the names of local sawyers. I plan to contact these sawyers when I have a project with wood native to California. I need to get a moisture meter before I actually buy from one of them.

The internet has also given me the names of a few more hardwood yards within 2 hours. It comes down to economics as to whether I use one of these new yards, or the local sawyer for a project.

I’ve also looked at EBay and online suppliers. But when I calculate the material + shipping cost per board foot, it’s just too expensive. The current Fine Woodworking Magazine has an article on mail order wood. They say if you can get locally, don’t order it unless it’s something special. Plus, buying local lets you pick the boards.

-- Doug - As my Dad taught me, you're not a cabinet maker until you can hide your mistakes.

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