Getting To Know Your Lumber
This blog is pertaining to lumber for furniture. We've been asked a lot lately about the different ways to source your lumber as well as general lumber information, so here it is! Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Where Do I Buy Lumber?
There are many places to buy lumber. The most common place is from your local big box store such as Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, and even some hardware stores. Some of these stores even carry select hardwoods! The other places you can find lumber at are local lumber yards and online forums such as craigslist and facebook. Lumber yards are not as common as big box stores so here is how to best determine where you should buy your lumber from!
Big Box Lumber Stores
The big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes carry a large variety of lumber, but a great majority of it is pine that is intended solely for construction. If your new to woodworking or building a deck, these places are perfect! This is actually how we sourced our lumber for the first 6+ months of our business. We simply weren't aware that there were better options so close to home. One downfall for beginners is the fact that the staff at big box stores aren't generally always the most knowledgeable about their lumber. The reason for this is simple, because the store is filled with a huge variety of items and each employee isn't required to be an expert on all of them. Luckily though, they are always more than willing to help and one benefit is that a majority of these stores will cut lumber for you at no cost, so you can fit it in your vehicle or have a jump start on your project! That is, if you are willing to wait.
Another, and probably the most important downfall to big box stores is the moisture content of the lumber they carry. It is typically pretty high in moisture because they go through such a large quantity on a regular basis, meaning that it's not always processed as thoroughly as it would be at a lumber yard. Keep in mind, this doesn't mean you can't build quality furniture with construction lumber- many woodworkers use it on a regular basis, it just means you need to pay more attention to the moisture content and possibly let it dry out for a while in a humidity controlled environment. If you are new to woodworking and still honing your skills or you don't have a lumber yard in your area this is the best way to purchase lumber, just be picky and choose the straightest boards you can. Another great tip is to bring a moisture meter with you to find the boards with the lowest moisture content. Details below-keep reading!
If you have access to a lumber yard nearby and the ability to buy and store a small amount of lumber, then this is the place for you! It helps to have a general knowledge of the basics of woodworking as well, but it's not necessary and it's always easier to learn on higher quality material that is straight and dried properly. In most cases, local lumber yards will have a larger selection of hardwoods and softwoods available than the big box stores. Some even have awesome showrooms full of lumber to pick through and design inspirations throughout.
It can be intimidating going to a lumber yard for the first time, but fear not, because the people who work there will have a lot more knowledge on lumber being that this is all they do! We have also found that they are more than willing to help answer questions and guide you to the right materials for your projects. Lumber is what they specialize in and you can be a lot more confident that the materials you buy have been cut and dried properly meaning they will be more likely to stay straight and be easier to work with.
The price is also something that people expect to be a bit higher, and this does depend on your location and how easily lumber can be sourced, but we have found that in many cases it is actually cheaper! Typically if you buy a larger quantity as well they are more apt to provide discounts than big box stores. Our local lumber yard has a nice spread sheet available so we can easily quote projects before we even order the wood. A majority of yards will also offer services to process the lumber so it doesn't just come to you rough sawn. It's generally an affordable process and it's so much easier to have the wood come to you ready to go vs. having to process it yourself. I would say this is the biggest downfall to a lumber yard. If you buy the wood unprocessed you'll need to have the tools and knowledge to process it yourself. Lastly, another possible perk is that they may offer free delivery if you purchase enough at one time! And who doesn't love free delivery?!?
If you're curious, stop in to your local lumber yard or give them a call! We get our lumber HERE.
"The Guy on Craigslist" / Facebook Marketplace
The guy on craigslist, or local listings online are also another option to source your wood. This method requires the most knowledge because unfortunately a lot of people aren't very honest or possibly they just don't know all the information themselves. If your going to purchase from someone local, be sure you have a solid understanding of the wood species you are intending on purchasing so you are not lied to or ripped off. The pricing of this lumber may be cheaper, but the wood might be poor quality or not dry. Always bring a moisture reader with you- even if they claim it's "dry" because if it has a high moisture content, it could be months or years before you could actually use it! Be sure to call the nearest lumber yard to compare their pricing so you can ensure you're not overpaying on your purchase. If you're confident in your wood ID and understand the moisture in lumber though, you can get some smoking deals on these platforms!
Check out these moisture meters below! Any moisture meter is better than no moisture meter. The one linked above is the meter we use on a daily basis. The links above and below are affiliate links- meaning they give us a small kick back on your purchase, so thank you for reading and supporting us!
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