Cheap lumber for practice (besides pine?)

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Forum topic by DustyCellist posted 04-03-2014 05:15 AM 2874 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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71 posts in 1731 days

04-03-2014 05:15 AM

My local orange store doesn’t have much variety. I have severe pine allergy and all they have is pine (and cedar, which I’m pretty sure is a pine…). They have oak and walnut, but only trim. I will check local lumber yards next hoping for cheap sloppy seconds to practice joinery, but what woods should I look for?

Poplar used to be cheap, but there must be a shortage… I live on 42 acres with plenty of maple, but I don’t know how to mill it myself. There must be an answer!

Anyone know what “white wood” is? Orange store has 1”x kiln dried whitewood for cheap… Sound like pine?

31 replies so far

View thedude50's profile


3603 posts in 2680 days

#1 posted 04-03-2014 07:47 AM

Poplar is still cheep here look for a new source

-- Please check out my new stores and

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Monte Pittman

30061 posts in 2540 days

#2 posted 04-03-2014 10:45 AM

Poplar is probably next. Do some shopping and wear a mask regardless. Higher grades of pine lumber are easily as expensive as many hardwoods.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View NiteWalker's profile


2738 posts in 2779 days

#3 posted 04-03-2014 11:26 AM

Yep, poplar.

IIRC, “whitewood” is a generic big box term used for a few species (spruce, pine, etc.) of common characteristics.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


1302 posts in 1836 days

#4 posted 04-03-2014 11:45 AM

If you are alergic to pine, are you sure your not allergic to all woods?

Look in your newspaper in the back, look for guys selling wood, you’ll find sawyers who also sell. Unless you live in a city.
I buy from a lumber mill, and from sawyers. My lumber yard is much more expensive since it’s sold by the linear foot.

You’ll have to surface it yourself.

-- Jeff NJ

View bigblockyeti's profile


5286 posts in 1923 days

#5 posted 04-03-2014 11:52 AM

With 42 acres of maple, I would think you could work out something with someone who has a sawmill where you could get some wood for little more than your own labor and few missing trees. Slab wood could be another source as you can usually get a little more off what the mill is selling for firewood.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View Marcus's profile


1163 posts in 2221 days

#6 posted 04-03-2014 11:55 AM

As others have mentioned, poplar is probably your best bet. Craigslist is another good place to look for lumber…oak seems to be dirt cheap in the places I have lived on Craigslist.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2571 days

#7 posted 04-03-2014 11:55 AM

Do you have a jointer and planer? Or hand planes? There are often good deals to be had on hardwood on Craigslist, but the cheap stuff is usually rough. I just bought 100bf of rough cherry for $80 a couple weeks ago.

If not, my local hardwood place sells S4S poplar for less than the cost of pine. It’s not as cheap as rough cut wood, but it’s cheaper than HD’s pine.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2295 days

#8 posted 04-03-2014 12:01 PM

Don’t get your lumber at Home Depot. The prices for their hardwoods are insane compared to a lumberyard or even a Woodcraft or Rockler.

Poplar is probably the overall cheapest hardwood you can get. If there’s a surplus of a particular wood in your area you many find something else cheap.

You could also look at birch or aspen.

Whitewood is analogous to to SPF wood. Which stands for: sprue, pine, fir. Basically the most common softwoods. And probably the ones that will aggravate your allergies.

Even if you had the equipment and ability to mill your maple trees into boards you still have to dry the wood which will take a long time.

But in the longer term getting the maple trees milled may be a good idea. You an hire someone to come out there with a portable saw mill. Then air dry the lumber. You could end up with a lot of maple that ends up being much cheaper than store bought maple.

View paxorion's profile


1107 posts in 2247 days

#9 posted 04-03-2014 01:35 PM

I’ve found that big box stores tend to charge more than 2x the price that I can find elsewhere for any non-construction lumber. In addition to CL, check out Woodfinder

Lumber costs are very much affected by locale and it would help to understand what locale you live in. If you have an abundance of other species of trees in your area, maybe some alternatives would be cheaper (e.g. soft maple?).

-- paxorion

View exterminate's profile


136 posts in 2230 days

#10 posted 04-03-2014 01:43 PM

Beech is another alternative – Similar in hardness to Maple, but less expensive. In my area, its typically goes for the same, if not less than Poplar. Good Luck!

-- Albert Einstein - "I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right."

View DustyCellist's profile


71 posts in 1731 days

#11 posted 04-03-2014 03:17 PM

Thanks for the suggestions.

AFAIK, I am not allergic to other woods. As a cellist, I have differing levels of allergy to different rosins, but seem to be almost OK with English rosins (from the Scott’s Pine), and smelling the inside of a (spruce top) cello mildly bothers my asthma, but guitars of all maple I think do not, whatever not-quite-mahogony used for ukulele’s do not bother me either.

Ikea makes me ill, as does generally browsing Home Depot, though my house is from the 1850s and made from pine and I’m pretty OK here – maybe it’s the wet pine?

Anyone here with allergies notice that it is more tolerable when it is drier?

I like the idea of Maple or Beech, but for just throw away practice joints, I feel like that would be prohibitively expensive (compared to a $5 1”x8”x8’...). Or I could wear a respirator when using hand tools… how unfortunate. If/when summer arrives here in the mid-atlantic, maybe I will acquire a work-mate and work pine outside…

View jmartel's profile


8233 posts in 2352 days

#12 posted 04-03-2014 03:26 PM

If you have 42 acres of Maple, I would hire a local sawmill operator to come in and cut up 3 or 4 trees and give you enough lumber to last you for years.

Woodmizer has an area on their website that lists where local sawmill operators are.

I’m sure you could get it done pretty cheaply, though it may be a few hundred dollars up front and you would have to wait a year for it to air dry. Maybe send some to a kiln to dry it so you will have it in a couple weeks instead.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View LiveEdge's profile


594 posts in 1822 days

#13 posted 04-03-2014 04:37 PM

I find it interesting that Ikea would bother you. Generally, for people with wood sensitivity, a chunk of wood sitting there isn’t going to bother someone unless they handle it or there is dust in the air. One could speculate there is enough dust in HD to provoke symptoms, but I wouldn’t think Ikea has a lot. You have likely hit on the link with rosin being a common sensitizer (I assume you found this out with your playing). I have a similar sensitivity and speculate it is rosin. I currently have a rash from working with some juniper this weekend. Doh!

View HerbC's profile


1790 posts in 3061 days

#14 posted 04-03-2014 05:08 PM

Just to clarify one thing, none of the “cedars” are a member of the pine family…


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

View DustyCellist's profile


71 posts in 1731 days

#15 posted 04-03-2014 05:09 PM

Yeah, rosin application (rubbing the bow against a brick of sap…) and sometimes the beginning of playing (when lose rosin dust flies off the bow hairs) is when I get respiratory symptoms.

IKEA upstairs store doesn’t bother me at all, it’s the “warehouse” part where you pull your own boxes onto flat carts right before checkout. That’s the part of IKEA that gets me.

I’m thinking now that maybe any wood that is heavy with sap would be a problem for me – and I assume that pine has more sap (that “lovely pine scent” everyone loves…) than other woods? Maybe I need to find the least “fragrant” wood to work…

What smells like nothing?


HerbC: I just looked it up. “Red Cedar” which is actually a juniper, is a conifer, but you are correct, not Pinaceae. True cedars (of lebanon, etc) are of the genus Cedrus (commonly referred to as “Cedar”) which is a genus of coniferous trees in the plant family Pinaceae.


It is likely that the chemical in pine that some people are sensitive to is also found in juniper (I have severe allergic reactions to gin these days), as well as harder melons and sometimes even banana and kiwi. Most people with allergy to melons are actually allergic to pine but there are some chemicals in some melons that “trick” the body’s immune system into believing it is pine. This is what I have learned from conversations with my doctor and other health professionals.

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