Question on my first trip to a true lumber dealer

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Forum topic by Dave11 posted 02-01-2013 10:07 PM 1500 views 1 time favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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33 posts in 2766 days

02-01-2013 10:07 PM

Took my first trip to a serious hardwood seller today. They had a slew of different hardwoods leaning everywhere, separated by species, but almost none of the boards were marked for size, and none was marked for the price, in board-feet or otherwise.

This surprised me, but I didn’t want to look like an amateur and ask them why. But is that standard practice? Seems to me you’d need to call someone over every minute and ask them the price, then make your own measurements and do the calculation. Sort of a a hard way to shop.

I also felt like, maybe, the price depends on who you are (or who I am). As in, regular customers pay less? I know that happens…

Would appreciate any feedback.

21 replies so far

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 2991 days

#1 posted 02-01-2013 10:11 PM

Sounds pretty much like the place that I go to.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2455 days

#2 posted 02-01-2013 10:40 PM

Some places have a price list at the counter they update regularly. Or they can print one out. It depends on what kind of customer they cater too.

View Stevedore's profile


73 posts in 2223 days

#3 posted 02-01-2013 10:40 PM

I went through the same thing yesterday with my visit to a place I hadn’t been to before, to buy some quartersawn white oak. (Boards & Beams, in Fairfield, NJ) The lumber was all rough, and the ends only had the length of the board marked. Friendly & helpful guys working there though, and they would use an app on their smartphone to calculate the board feet for you so you weren’t surprised at checkout time. Next time I go, I’ll the app on my phone so I can estimate the price myself for whatever I’m looking for.

A couple of comments regarding Boards & Beams, for anyone in the area: It’s a huge place, with loads of stock in about 20 different wood species. Very helpful staff, as I mentioned. I have nothing to compare the prices to, but I’m just a hobby woodworker using relatively small quantities, so that’s not as important to me as availability. One of the boards I got is 8 ft long & a little over 13” wide. My planer is only 12” wide, so I had them plane it for me. Their listed price for surfacing is $.50 per bd ft, but it showed up as $10 on my bill; I guess $10 might be their minimum charge. I wouldn’t do that again though; their planer needs some work. Lots of grooves, waviness, etc., in the surfaces. Nowhere near ready to use for a project. Still a good place, and I’ll be going back.

-- Steve, in Morris County, NJ

View me5269's profile


43 posts in 2365 days

#4 posted 02-01-2013 10:40 PM

Sounds like the place I go to also. If I ask, the office will usually give me a current price list.

-- Mike

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3167 days

#5 posted 02-01-2013 10:52 PM

Timber here is priced by the cubic foot, the guy who does the docket calculates the volume of timber by measuring the width for each board.
The price goes up for certain species depending on the thickness of the plank, a 2” walnut plank costs a bit more than a 1” plank per cubic ft.
Come to think of it, it’s only the North American imported timber that goes up in cost like that, African hardwoods are the same per cube no matter what the thickness.

A 12’ 9×2” white oak plank = 1.5 cu ft (9×2 = 18 รท 12 = 1.5) or 18 board ft.

A 10’ 7×1” plank = 0.486 cu ft or 5.83 board ft.

Don’t know what it’s like where you are but they round down below the 1/2” and round up above the 1/2”,
so 6 3/8” is priced as a 6”, 6 5/8” is priced as a 7”

View brtech's profile


1052 posts in 3120 days

#6 posted 02-01-2013 10:58 PM

I bring a tape measure with me. The calculator on my phone is easy enough to use (l x w x h / 144).

Usually, you go in with a plan of some sort, knowing what you need (including your wastage, stupid errors, etc), and usually what species you are going to get. I ask before hand what the BF cost is, so I know what to expect.
Then choosing boards is much more trying to fit into my plans than pre-calculating what a specific board is going to cost me.

For a big project, I call ahead to find the price, because I may decide to travel farther to get a better deal. My local store is only a couple of miles from me, has excellent quality and decent selection. So, unless it’s a large project, it’s my default place to go. But if I need 100 BF, I might travel quite a ways to a sawyer.

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3483 days

#7 posted 02-01-2013 11:21 PM

That’s the way most of the hardwood suppliers I’ve dealt with over the years. Some may have a retail/wholesale price list depending on if you are a business or not, but I believe most just do a price break depending on the amount you buy.

You may not see a price break until you purchase 100 bd/ft, 200 bd/ft.. and again 500 bd/ft.

That way a volume buyer gets a better price then say a hobbyist that only needs 10-20 bd.ft. I’ve found a couple places that really did not like dealing with retail because they only wanted to deal in volume and even though I was a business, I didn’t need 100bd/ft. of lumber every time I went, so I found the suppliers that appreciated my business no matter how much I bought each time.

Some will have a price list they will give you, some you just have to check in the office or ask one of the warehouse people and some will have a web-site that will list their prices and you can check before you even go.

It’s always good to carry a tape measure with you so you can do some of the figuring yourself.

-- John @

View Dave11's profile


33 posts in 2766 days

#8 posted 02-01-2013 11:33 PM

Thanks everyone. The guys behind the counter saw me walking around and around, and never offered a price list, but I didn’t specifically ask.

Their website did list some prices, but they had far more in stock than was listed there.

I saw so many interesting woods I’d neve heard of, and was curious of their cost, but it would have seemed odd to keep calling them over and asking the price. And I guess next time, I’ll bring along a tape measure.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3011 days

#9 posted 02-01-2013 11:41 PM

Price per board foot should be posted, but each board will not usually be marked. It would be nice, but it is easy to figure. I always take a tape measure and calculator to my local wood store.
L x W x Thickness in inches divided by 144 = board feet.

Good luck

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

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3483 days

#10 posted 02-01-2013 11:43 PM


The next time you go there, ask them so many questions, they will either never want you to come back or they will give you a price list! LOL.

When I first started woodworking, I would go to a local dealer that handled all the big name woodworking tools, but never had a price on anything. Every time my friend and I would go there we would bug him for an hour or so about the different machines and kept asking why he didn’t have things priced.

We went in one day to see he had a price tag on each tool…..........don’t know if we had anything to do with it, but I’m sure we weren’t the only one that kept bothering him about prices. Just saying.

-- John @

View Dave11's profile


33 posts in 2766 days

#11 posted 02-01-2013 11:50 PM

LOL. I think if I had done that, these guys would have preferred I not come back. They were both talking to what looked like a regular customer, and it seemed I was invisible, though I don’t hold that against them at this point. It seems like the kind of place that isn’t much interested in people wandering in.

View 9FINGERTIM's profile


54 posts in 2138 days

#12 posted 02-06-2013 11:52 AM

i hate not knowing the price of anythjng im looking at,not just lumber, iwould guess that stores overall must lose billions in sales by not telling consumers the price of products.many stores now have bar code scanners to tell you prices but no scanner to tell you where the scanners are.these stores with scanners need to check how many things have been scanned as an indication of how many items werent priced. american stores need to look at their stores and check to what is making it hard for us to give them our money. iknow stores cant hire enough help but make it a prioritiy to make it easier to buy whatever they are selling i cant count the times in stores that i dident buy something because it wasent priced or the times i left items with the cashier because i needed it priced checked and found it too expensive


View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3489 days

#13 posted 02-06-2013 01:24 PM

Don’t let the fact that you’re not a regular discourage you. That paper or plastic in your wallet is what makes them make time for you. At any rate, this sounds like the place I go to. They don’t even have a price list; their price is whatever the daily market fluctuations say it is, but the guy at the counter will tell you if you ask. It’s a bit intimidating to have the guys in the back measure your boards for you, because they have special rulers that read directly in board feet. Everything is the same thickness and length, so the width alone determines the board footage (these rulers are not uncommon in the lumber industry and are available online if you want your own).

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View johnstoneb's profile


3054 posts in 2370 days

#14 posted 02-06-2013 01:57 PM

Pretty much the way my hardwood lumber is sold. I like it that way. The owner takes me out points out the bunks of lumber I need and lets me go at it. I take the lumber I have picked out by my pickup he comes out measures it. We load it up. I go in a pay and leave until next time. He does cut to length and plane if the customer needs it. The cutoffs go in a bin by the door. I call it the goodie bin because I always find some exotic piece in it that I take home and can work with with out costing an arm and a leg. I learn something about working with that type of wood. That in turn increases his sales down the road.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View bondogaposis's profile


5086 posts in 2549 days

#15 posted 02-06-2013 02:27 PM

That ’s the way every place I’ve been to does it. They usually have a price sheet if you ask for it. Prices are based on the board foot. Bring a tape measure and a calculator, (length (in inches) x width x thickness) /144 = bf.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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