Buying rough cut lumber

  • Advertise with us

« back to Wood & Lumber forum

Forum topic by Dinger posted 07-20-2012 08:58 PM 16037 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Dinger's profile


145 posts in 2408 days

07-20-2012 08:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question oak

Hey everyone,

I’m in the pre-build phase for some Craftsman end tables for my wife and I. I want to do it right and use quarter sawn white oak. Since my local lumber yard carries this at $7-$9/bf I was a bit dejected. I’m on a tight budget but not a tight timetable. I found a gentleman who rough cuts lumber with a portable saw mill and was wondering if there are any pitfalls to buying this way. Since its quarter sawn do I need to be worried about warping? How long should it dry? Does kiln-dried vs air dried matter in this case? How long should I let it acclimate? Any advice on questions I’m not asking? Thanks jocks!

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

23 replies so far

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3731 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


3165 posts in 2403 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


1790 posts in 3005 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


8423 posts in 2723 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


1044 posts in 2733 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 3383 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


2167 posts in 3916 days

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

Buy it, dry it.

-- Tom D

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3465 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


1778 posts in 2622 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 2281 days

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


View Dinger's profile


145 posts in 2408 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 2432 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 2337 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 2710 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

8427 posts in 2474 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)

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

showing 1 through 15 of 23 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics