How much "on hand" wood? dangerous question...

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Forum topic by JoJo2014 posted 08-21-2014 02:37 PM 1969 views 0 times favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1575 days

08-21-2014 02:37 PM

Topic tags/keywords: materials on hand toys

Hi all – I’m Jo and I’m new here.

I was wondering as I finish setting up my workshop, how much wood does the average worker have ‘on hand’ at a given time? I know that this is possibly a dangerous question (mostly referring back to my grandfather’s PILE of stock over the past years) but on AVERAGE how much say, plywood, hardwoods not allocated to another project or even just the one-offs for jig making.

The reason I ask this is because I have to finish setting up my shop which will mostly be for small hobby projects like kids toys and such, and will have to buy some set up materials and then after that will essentially be ‘cut off’ from the world for at least 4 months or so before I would have access (possibly access) to get any more materials.

For projects all I have specifically in mind is one 8’ X 3’ walnut bookcase, 3 cabinet organizers – bathroom type shelving ones if you know what I mean. 2 shelves with hanging racks in a laundry room. A coffee table. A number of jigs for handling small materials and cuts for kids toys. I just include this so y’all understand what KIND of woodworking I’m doing. Obviously if I were making cabinets for profit and toys for a homeshow, that would greatly effect how much extra I’d have in the shop. Also, I’m just starting off so I wouldn’t have those ‘bits and pieces’ that maybe a worker 10 yrs in would have just accumulated over the years lol.

Taking all this into account, (not asking for estimates on how much material is needed for the above projects) how much etc do y’all have as the amount of filler materials on hand in your shop?

Boy, I hope I make sense with this question, but again, I have to buy a bunch up front, would like to not run short at all, but don’t want to buy so much that I have to skimp on finishing materials etc just to have the overage amount of wood/ply/mdf hanging around so that I don’t get hung up on any one thing due to NOT having materials on hand.

Thanks for any input.

29 replies so far

View Sanding2day's profile


1014 posts in 2047 days

#1 posted 08-21-2014 02:57 PM

Hey Jo, Welcome to LJs… I’m not certain how to answer your question other than to state from my perspective I would attach my local hardwood dealer to my shop if I was able. In other words I’m a wood hoarder and find it painful to throw cutoff 2” in the fire and would have as much on hand material as I have space to hold it.

-- Dan

View ChrisK's profile


2014 posts in 3282 days

#2 posted 08-21-2014 03:02 PM

I always have too much on hand, called clutter by some. However, I have this problem because when ever I go the hardwood lumber yard i buy extra if it is on sale or the cull pile has decent stuff in it. The problem comes in when you can not store the wood correctly or it gets in your way. I have tripped over boards too many times to count. The solution seems easy enough, build more stuff. Hard part for me is finding enough time to do it.

It is nice not having to run out for that last piece to finish a project, but is a balancing act.

-- Chris K

View Redoak49's profile


3663 posts in 2189 days

#3 posted 08-21-2014 03:12 PM

I probably have way too much…but is the way I like it.

I have several shelves in my garage that run a total of 20 fee long and floor to ceiling. These are heavy duty shelves and about 18” deep. I keep my stash of hardwood on them such as red oak, ash, poplar and stuff I would use to make cabinets or furniture. I probably have about a total of 200 board feet right now as I have not gotten any new in a little while.

In my shop, I have 16 feet of similar shelving that holds domestic and imported hardwoods and any wood that has been planed to a certain thickness. This are is climate controlled.

I also have storage for full sheets of various plywood and probably have 8 sheets. I store half and quarter sheets in another location and have quite a few of them in various plywood, mdf, etc.

Then, comes the problem as I have a lot of cut offs around the shop. I really need to get rid of some of it but you just never now when you will need a certain piece…...

I think that as you do more and more woodworking you will find what is comfortable for you, your budget and your space limitations.

View richardwootton's profile


1701 posts in 2156 days

#4 posted 08-21-2014 03:48 PM

Yeah I’m not really sure how to best answer your question except to tell you how much I keep on hand. I should also mention that everytime I see a good deal on hardwood, especially rough sawn, I try and buy some. Anyway, I have about 500 bf of domestics on hand and would love to have two or three times that amount.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1722 days

#5 posted 08-21-2014 07:58 PM

Jo, in your specific situation, I would estimate what projects would be undertaken in the 4 months and calculate how much wood would be required for each, multiply that by about 1-1/2 and get that wood. If you see any other boards while at the lumber yard that strike your fancy, whether of the same speces or not, you may be tempted to pick those up as well. They could be good for contrasting handles or brackets or trim.

Another approach, if you’ve got the the funds to go this way, is to calculate how much space you have to devote to wood storage and fill it up.

Some woodworkers also make space for wood drying for when they go the the sawmill. That may be an approach for down the road for you.

View handsawgeek's profile


650 posts in 1596 days

#6 posted 08-21-2014 08:32 PM

Hi’ya JoJo,

I picked up on your key word ‘TOYS’. As one who builds a lot of small projects, including toys, I find that I save even the smallest of scraps, only because I always end up using most of them at one point or other.

To keep this all under control, my small scrap is housed in a series of 8” wide by 20” long, by 6” deep wood bins, each labeled as to what species is contained therein.

At the moment I keep one bin each for pine, cherry, oak, walnut, maple, poplar, miscellaneous exotics, dowels, and thin plywood. If any of these bins gets too full I do a small housecleaning to discard the less desirable pieces.

It’s basically the same MO with larger boards and cutoffs. I try to keep this under control, but my penchant for scrounging makes it difficult. Again, confining the wood stock to a specific limited space forces me to do periodic culling.

My best advice to you is to keep as much material as you can that will fit into a designated storage area without overflowing and becoming a problem in your workspace. Don’t be afraid to houseclean if things start getting out of hand. If you can’t bring yourself to throw wood away, think of some item that you can knock out a bunch of to use up the excess stock. I did this years ago with some 1-by lumber, when I scrolled out a whole slew of simple toy cars and gave them away at a church yard sale.

-- Ed

View ellen35's profile


2739 posts in 3633 days

#7 posted 08-21-2014 08:53 PM

You can never have too much wood on hand!
I buy wood when I see it and it looks like a good buy… I also go on dedicated trips to the “wood store” to stock up when I think I have too little or I need a specific species.
Every time I go into a bog box store, I check the maple – I have gotten curly and birdseye at a fraction of what I’ve seen at the wood store.
I also keep all kinds of scraps… you never know when you might need a box handle or some small piece. I just made 15 small (4×6) cutting boards of varying designs with just scraps. Now I will sell them for $13 each and voila’ – something for nothing. Then I’ll buy more wood… I think you get the picture.
I can stop any time I want… and when they have a wood-a-holics anonymous meeting in my area, I’ll avoid it like the plague.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View Sprung's profile


97 posts in 1917 days

#8 posted 08-21-2014 08:59 PM

I would do as Yonak suggested. Estimate how much you’re going to need for each project and then add extra. I’ve only got a handful of projects I’ve done, but I’ve purchased 20% to 40% extra for each project. Since it sounds like you won’t have an opportunity to go back for a single board if you’re short, I’d probably go on the high side for extra – 40% to 50% extra. And whatever you don’t use you can save for future projects.

The other alternative is to buy as much as you can afford and start building a stockpile of lumber. Even with limited finances I’m starting to do this whenever I can find really good deals on Craigslist on lumber. I’ve got 60+ BF of 4/4 and 8/4 walnut, a little bit of soft maple, hard maple, red oak, and poplar on hand. On Sunday I’m going to pick up 200+ BF of KD 4/4 soft maple because at 50 cents/BF even my wife agreed that I can’t pass up on that deal. I have no projects in mind right now for that maple, but it’ll be real nice to have lumber on hand for future projects. I’ve also got a growing collection of exotics and figured woods – some small boards and pieces for flatwork, but much of it is turning stock.

And, remember, you can never have too much wood. If you’re going to be in this hobby long term you will use it. Create a specific area to store your lumber in and whenever you can find a deal you can’t pass up on lumber, buy some and try to fill that space. If you find your lumber through smoking hot deals on Craigslist and you someday find yourself with more wood than you can comfortably store, if you got a real good deal on it there’s always the chance you could sell for a profit, or at the very least get back out of it what you paid for it. If you pay full blown retail for lumber and then need to sell some of said lumber, you’ll end up taking a loss.

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3569 days

#9 posted 08-21-2014 09:50 PM

I normally have 3-4 hundred ft of Walnut, 100 ft of Birds Eye, and 50-100 each of Oaks, Cherry, Butternut and Poplar. I keep about 10-20 bd ft of each exotic I can find like purple Heart, yellow heart, padouk. I have a 3ft x4ft pile of plywood and MDF just for jigs and fixtures when needed.

View JoJo2014's profile


3 posts in 1575 days

#10 posted 08-21-2014 10:08 PM

Wow – thanks for the very valuable replies guys! I love that you all have different perspectives and yet in some ways y’all say the same thing. I never thought to put my mind towards the issue in a Time dependant phase – good idea. I think overall I can safely move forward in the “Buy as much as I can without killing myself figuratively or literally, hoard it, use it and hide it” style of woodworking lol. Your actual figures help too – gives me a nice practical guideline knowing all those things like shop size and type of product effect us all. Again, thanks for taking the time to throw your info out here.


View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2687 posts in 3122 days

#11 posted 08-21-2014 10:23 PM

I currently have 700 board feet of eastern red cedar in my garage. Should last me over a year.

-- No PHD just a DD214 Website>

View JustplaneJeff's profile


268 posts in 2104 days

#12 posted 08-22-2014 01:41 AM

After being in business for 30-plus years, I have accumulated more than I should have. Currently, I have around 25 to 30 thousand ft of 10 or 12 different species of mostly hardwood. 700 to 800 ft of exotic wood, and 18 to 20 thousand sq ft of veneers from all over the world. Did I set out to collect all of this? NO It just happened. A good friend of mine owns a hardwood store and when ever he comes across a good deal on a large quantity, He sometimes allows me to buy in with him. The Veneer was mostly bought from 1 man{his lifetime collection after working for a veneer company for 20 years} a year or so ago. That being said, I feel as if what I have is as good as money in the bank, only I enjoy looking at this “investment” more than a statement sent to me once a month. It also helps having a 50’ x 44’ barn dedicated to storing everything listed.

-- JustplaneJeff

View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3014 days

#13 posted 08-22-2014 03:13 AM

I like to have 500 b.f. in the shop, but I’m always looking for more. I can’t stand getting the exact number of boards you think you will need for a project. Invariably you end up a couple boards short.

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

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2688 days

#14 posted 08-22-2014 03:30 AM

Hmmm, I have counted lately.

Maybe this one corner of the side shed will give you an idea…......

Probably 150 bd ft or so, whada ya think?

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Rayne's profile


1108 posts in 1740 days

#15 posted 08-22-2014 03:38 AM

I’m relatively new to the woodworking hobby scene, but I have accumulated a TON of cut-offs after making several of my projects. In hind-sight, I now have enough to make all kinds of organizational projects and jigs, so I think I’ll be using a good portion of it sooner rather than later. I don’t have access to exotics or even domestic like Cherry and Maple that is relatively on the cheap. I normally buy enough to cover my projects and if I’m short, all the box stores are nearby so I have no issues there.

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