Board Feet....Did I get "swindled"?

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Forum topic by DylanC posted 10-23-2011 05:19 AM 2741 views 1 time favorited 41 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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204 posts in 2699 days

10-23-2011 05:19 AM

I stopped at my local hardwood dealer today yo pick up some lumber (maple) for one of my first projects. I know enough to know that when you buy hardwood, its usually not fully prepped. The lumber I picked up is Surfaced Two Sides (S2S) but still needs the edges to be dressed up on the jointer, there are a few split ends that need to be addressed, and similar things. I know this is normal. I also know that if you want specific dimensions, such as a 6” wide board, you’re probably going to pay extra. The dealer I was at does not allow customers to pick through the stack to get the widths you want. You start at the top of the stack and work your way down. If you want a wider board, you go home and glue two narrow boards together.

Anyway, The owner of the place looked at my cutlist and figured I’d need ~30 board feet or so (See the cutting diagram for the LATERAL FILE here, disregard the diagrams for the PRINTER CABINET). Also, he didn’t have any 8’ stock ready, but we figured I’d be fine with a few extra 6 footers. So, we loaded up a dozen boards or so (4/4 thick), he wrote me up for 32 board feet (plus the plywood) and I was on my way.

So, I get home and figure I better make a plan on how to glue up some of these narrow boards to make wide boards, and minimize the amount of waste. Most of the boards measure 3-3/4” or 3-1/2” wide, with two or three measuring between 6 and 9 inches. Again, most are between 72 and 75 inches long, but one is about 81 inches long.

Now, just for grins, I figure I’ll double check how many board feet I have. For example, first board was 3-1/2” wide and 75” long. So, 3.5 times 75 divided by 144 equals 1.8 board feet. I do this for the remainder of the boards, using conservative measurements. For example, rounding down to the nearest quarter inch on the width, and subtracting a few inches on the length for a split end here and there. The grand total: 24 board feet.

Now my question: Did I get what I paid for? Are board feet measured like a quarter-pounder at McDonalds?...i.e. rough dimensions prior to drying? And even if this is the case, a 25% difference seems a bit steep to me. I’m just looking for a few “expert opinions” on the subject.

Thanks for any advice…


-- Dylan C ...Seems like all ever I make is sawdust...

41 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3602 days

#1 posted 10-23-2011 05:28 AM

This might help

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Alan S's profile

Alan S

181 posts in 3342 days

#2 posted 10-23-2011 05:30 AM

I wouldn’t do business with him again. I wouldn’t put up with being forced to buy a bunch of 3” wide boards. I feel like my local lumber yard ripped me off too, so now, I mail order wood from Wall Lumber.

EDIT: After actually looking at the plans, maybe you only needed 3” wide boards. Anyway, I would expect if I paid for 32 bdft of wood to get 32 bdft.


View pintodeluxe's profile


5705 posts in 2838 days

#3 posted 10-23-2011 05:33 AM

Most suppliers will charge you for the full width and length of the board, regardless of defects. Because of that I only shop at dealers where I can pick the best stock from the pile.

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

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2951 days

#4 posted 10-23-2011 05:35 AM

Our wholesaler will measure a 3.5” board at 4”, 6.25” will be 6, and so on. I always check my boards and try to buy as close to the inch as possible without going more than 1/4” over.

This may account for some of your discrepancies. Also the length might be rounded up if you have something longer than the midway point. We also pay 5% shrinkage, which is charged on any hardwoods here. They say they are charged and must pass it on.

Your example of a 3.5” board figures up to 2.08, which would end up 2.1 + 5% shrinkage = 2.2 board feet, and so it may add up closer than what you had figured.

The shrinkage “scam” doesn’t make me happy but there is no way around it, although one supplier here has now included it in his board foot price.

You could check if that is the practise there.

All the best!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View DylanC's profile


204 posts in 2699 days

#5 posted 10-23-2011 05:44 AM

Tomorrow I plan on re-measuring my lumber and rounding-up to estimate the nominal size of the boards and include the split ends, etc. If I don’t get pretty close to 32 board feet, I may end up paying this guy another visit…

-- Dylan C ...Seems like all ever I make is sawdust...

View Drew's profile


46 posts in 2713 days

#6 posted 10-23-2011 05:45 AM

Take it all back, ask to see the owner or whoever higher than the sales person and get your money back if they don’t provide you with a proper explanation as to why this person ripped you off.

-- If A equals success, then the formula is, A = X + Y + Z, Where X is work, Y is play, And Z is keep your mouth shut." -Albert Einstein.

View ChunkyC's profile


856 posts in 3279 days

#7 posted 10-23-2011 05:47 AM

I think Randy is on the track. They round up a LOT. Instead of using 75” for the length, try using 7 feet. I’ll bet you get closer to the 32 bf that you paid for.

If he won’t let you browse the stack, then it’s time to find somewhere else. I just got back from the Hardwood dealer today. Mine not only allows it, but he will sort the pile finding the best boards for you! He even cut off a piece of Purpleheart for me. I couldn’t believe that at $8/bf he was willing to whacked off 4’ and he whacked off the best end, the other end had a knot. He said, “Oh you don’t want the knot…”

Find a new source…

-- Chunk's Workshop pictures:

View ShaneA's profile


6956 posts in 2623 days

#8 posted 10-23-2011 06:15 AM

Find another place. Like most retailers it sounds like they figure it at 4/4 thick, even thought its probably 25/32. That would explain 25% difference. You gotta be able to pick your own sticks! This is non negotiable.

View HerbC's profile


1763 posts in 2884 days

#9 posted 10-23-2011 06:37 AM


I believe the rules and standards for determining board feet of American hardwoods say that any thickness less than 1” (4/4) is treated as being 1” thick.


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

View tom427cid's profile


294 posts in 2496 days

#10 posted 10-23-2011 06:40 AM

I have a rule——if I am buying material I want to “pick the pile”.Period. If that guy told me “off the top” I wouldn’t ever shop there again and would gladly drive 100 miles out of my way to be treated better than that.
The other side of the coin is if I pick the pile I am damn sure to restack it better than or just as good as it was before I got there-and that is rule number two. Maybe thats why I can pick and others can’t. Anyway thems the rules.

-- "certified sawdust maker"

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3185 days

#11 posted 10-23-2011 06:41 AM

I’m with Andrew(Edit: and Tom), take it ALL back and get your money back. Take your business elsewhere. I’ve heard of the the ‘shrinkage’ scam but noone around here trys it.

”...start at the top of the stack and work your way down…”, that’s a load of crap. And if you need a 5” wide board, find a 5.25” wide(or wider) board to start with. No gluing required(unless YOU decide to).

Shane, I believe he already figured 4/4 so that shouldn’t be any different.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3076 days

#12 posted 10-23-2011 10:05 AM

I am with rance and all who say take it back. First gripe is not being allowed to pick through. I don’t mind restacking, but I have to be able to pick. At one of the best around here, Harold White Millworks in Morehead, Ky. I was looking for rift sawn white oak to repair a 100 year old desk. He didn’t run rift, but as it can happen in milling and he knew where he had seen it, he lead me straight to a stack, burrowed into it and came up with 30 bd/ft of perfectly beauytiful rift sawn and loaded it for me. Next time I asked to paw through his stacks, he asked what I wanted, showed me where to find it and wished me well. As I loaded I wrote down what I was getting using the full sizes, he measured and deducted split ends and came up with a lower figure than I had. I will go there again.

Vote with your feet if you can’t get satisfaction.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3035 days

#13 posted 10-23-2011 10:57 AM

This happened to me early on in my hardwood purchasing as well. I’ve learned that the guys at my favorite yard all measure differently – one guy rounds up, another rounds down, and so on. 32 to 24 is pretty bad though. It might be that he ripped you off on purpose, but more likely is a board was just left laying around somewhere and not loaded up into your vehicle (or a board you didn’t want was included in the total).

I make sure to premeasure now and calculate the board feet before they ring me up. If they do have any intent to rip you off, they won’t do it if they’ve seen you measuring.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 3828 days

#14 posted 10-23-2011 12:41 PM

Between being off by a third, forcing you to buy without regard to quality, and lack of sizes in inventory, unless this guy is by far (more than 33%) cheaper than anyone else in your market, move on. Any one of those three is reason enough to look elsewhere.

View ChuckV's profile


3124 posts in 3552 days

#15 posted 10-23-2011 01:56 PM

Since both faces are surfaced, he is probably charging you as if you were purchasing 5/4 rough instead of 4/4.

24bf * 5/4 = 30bf (still not 32bf)

If you are already paying a premium for S2S, then something is really wrong. As many others have mentioned, the “no picking through the stack” rule would send me running elsewhere.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

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