Lumber buying question

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Trade & Swap forum

Forum topic by Praki posted 08-25-2007 10:41 PM 1957 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Praki's profile


201 posts in 4200 days

08-25-2007 10:41 PM

Hi All,

I am a rookie wood worker and have a question on lumber that I bought. I just got myself 20 board feet 4/4 of Basswood from Internet Lumber. I got six boards of 84”. Four of them are 5 1/2” and two are 4 1/2”. (4 X 5.5 + 2 X 4.5) X 84 /144 works out to 18 board feet.

My question is, do the lumber sellers have any allowance for waste when it comes to width and length as they do for thickness? Should I raise an issue with Internet Lumber about the missing 2 board feet?

Thanks for your advice!


-- Praki, Aspiring Woodworker

13 replies so far

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4165 days

#1 posted 08-25-2007 10:54 PM

Generally 4/4 will measure 15/16 and almost all lumber dealers measure up to the next inch. By doing that you have 4 boards at 6 ” and 2 boards at 5” x 84 ’ long which would be 19.83 BF. Up to you what you do. I buy where I can go in and pick the boards. Once in a while I get a freebie to sample. I also get to go through all the lumber I want to find just what I need.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Karson's profile


35149 posts in 4603 days

#2 posted 08-25-2007 11:01 PM

Praki: Normally what you are buying is rough cutting size as it is cut at the sawmill.

Boards shirnk as they dry. You normally have to pay for that shrinkage. As Tom said you are paying at the next larger size. I had some 24” wide boards from the sawmill. after they dried they were 22 1/2. So they lost 1 1/2” in width over the 24” size.

If you are looking for full size lumber. Saying you need 7” then you would probably have to buy 8” lumber in order to get your 7” width

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia †

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4517 days

#3 posted 08-25-2007 11:03 PM

That is pretty common on the wholesale level. It seems wrong to me to. What can we do?

View edp's profile


109 posts in 4163 days

#4 posted 08-25-2007 11:05 PM

Don’t know about the 15/16” as 4/4. Where I buy lumber, 4/4 (4 quarter) is 1” plus. Which typically will finish out at ¾”. Remember your fourth grade math, 4/4 (4 quarter) is the same as 1/1 or 1 full inch.

However, by my calculations, using the information you supplied. You have in fact recieved 18.083 bdft. Another reason to find a hardwood source you can drive to.


-- Come on in, the beer is cold and the wood is dry.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4165 days

#5 posted 08-25-2007 11:14 PM

Yeah, Ed, I sometimes get boards that are over 1”. Usually they are African like Sapele or Mahogany. I think that the boards are 1” when they go into the kiln but shrink by the time they are finished. Like Dennis, I don’t like it but what can we do.When I do estimates and bids I always figure at least 1/3 waste.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Praki's profile


201 posts in 4200 days

#6 posted 08-26-2007 02:33 AM

Thanks everyone. I was also surprised by the knots in the FAS grade lumber. Being in the SF bay area, it is a little difficult to find reasonably priced lumber. Some of the lumber stores here make Home Depot prices seem like a bargain! Thus my online lumber purchase experiement. I will take this as something to remember when calculating the lumber needed.

Again, thanks to everyone. You have been very helpful :)

-- Praki, Aspiring Woodworker

View Matt's profile


43 posts in 4280 days

#7 posted 08-27-2007 03:35 AM

When I sell lumber, I try to specify the exact dimensions if its just a few boards I’m selling. If it’s a larger bundle, then I’ll try to throw in several extra board feet to cover any miscalculations and/or waste. I can only comment on what I do though.

View MattD's profile


150 posts in 4147 days

#8 posted 08-28-2007 08:42 PM

Praki -

I’m fortunate to have a local source that always seems to give me a few extra board feet for free instead of what you experienced, but this is an interesting topic, so I looked for the actual guidelines on this.

According to the Illustrated Guide to American Hardwood Lumber Grades, you can expect to receive about 7% less board foot from a seller because of shrinkage in the kiln drying process as Karson explains. By your calculations, you’ve lost about 10%.

However, you might have a legitimate complaint on the quality of the FAS lumber as you say you are suprised by the knots. Basically, FAS should be about 83% clear of knots and at least 6” in width according to this guide.

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View che's profile


123 posts in 4229 days

#9 posted 08-28-2007 11:39 PM

If this is S4S I would expect that the bf was calculated at 1/2” larger than there actual measurement. IE they cut 1/4 off each side to get them straight. If you do the math with 6” and 5” boards then you get 19.8 bf which is pretty close to the quoted 20 bf.

-- Che.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4165 days

#10 posted 08-29-2007 01:19 PM

Pretty close but on the wrong side of the 20 BF from a businessman’s point of view. To the customer it would look a lot better if it was 20.01 BF. We don’t make a profit by giving things away but we don’t keep customers by having our thumb on the scales.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View markrules's profile


146 posts in 4318 days

#11 posted 08-29-2007 01:33 PM

Do you think the person who cut this order cares about keeping a customer? Think about your typical saw operator…..

View Praki's profile


201 posts in 4200 days

#12 posted 08-29-2007 03:20 PM

After hearing all these opinions, I realize that the vendor may be technically right (some of the things are debatable though. I remember reading a woodworking magazine editor take the position that buyers shouldn’t have to pay for the shrinkage). But now I know of one vendor who will not get my complete trust.

I am trying some ebay dealers and hoping they are better in this regard.

-- Praki, Aspiring Woodworker

View Woodminer's profile


69 posts in 4140 days

#13 posted 09-05-2007 08:30 PM

Che has the right idea.

Remember that a 2×4 is not 2×4!

In your case, you’ve paid a small price to have your boards planed and/or jointed so that you end up with solid material, straight on at least a couple of surfaces so that you can use it without having to prep it much if at all.

You’re going to face this sort of thing unless you buy raw or rough-cut boards. And then you have the joy of planing it to your own satisfaction. If you’re like I am, though, you DON’T have a planer and would have to do all of that by hand. That’s worth something to me.

This is one of those questions that we have to learn to ask before we actually buy. Six inch boards seldom are. 8^) Your vendor would probably be embarrassed to know that you were not aware of the way they do business and would probably do something for you on your next order to help re-establish trust.

-- Dean, Missouri

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