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Thread: Tips on buying rough lumber

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
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    Western Ohio
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    Tips on buying rough lumber

    I have always purchased s4s lumber for projects but I am going to buy rough lumber for some cabinet frames and door frames for a project. I have a 6 inch jointer, planer, and track saw. What are some tips for buying boards that will minimize waste? Thank you!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    West Lafayette, IN
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    If you need 10 bdft of finished material, buy 20 bdft of rough lumber to ensure you have enough, that accounts for waste and cutting errors
    Just with S4S, make sure you aight down the board and pick the straightest material you can.
    I try not to buy one really wide board and rip it into 5 skinnier boards. The wood tends to react and warp. So buy material thatís close to your final size, or double to get two boards.
    Watch for checking.
    Bring a block plane and ask the staff if they mind if you take a shaving off each board to get a better idea of its color.
    If you need to, bring a saw to cut to length if youíre squeezing it into a car.

    Thatís what I have off the top of my head.

  3. #3
    Hi Jason
    In many ways buying using rough lumber is similar to using s4s. Avoid cups, bows, knots, checks and other defects or at least determine how you can work around them. How dry is the lumber? I mill and dry my own lumber, but here in Western NY the best you will achieve is 12-13%. A moisture meter would be very helpful here and plan on drying further in your shop to get to the desired moisture. For me a week or two can be all I need along with careful prep. Assure that the lumber is clean to keep your tools sharp, but a greyed out surface may hold a beautiful face underneath. You could take a block plane or knife to check this out. You will have the luxury of choosing the thickness you want to achieve but remember that getting there may cost some shavings and thickness so plan accordingly. Your track saw will be great for straight lines, but your 6" jointer will limit width unless you break out the handplanes. For me rough sawn is the way to go and has multiple advantages.
    Good luck and enjoy the freedom,
    Bob

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
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    Lebanon, TN
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    I've bought two batches of rough sawn lumber and milled it to size using my jointer, planer, tablesaw and bandsaw.

    I was fortunate to have a large lumber distribution warehouse, close by, that would sell to the general public at a minimum order level, $200 at that time. They've since changed their policy and now I still buy from them but through a third party.

    So call around a few places and and see what lumber they carry and whether they will actually sell to you.

    The warehouse, when I bought both batches of mine, did not allow you to pick and select the boards. They showed me the stack of lumber, in the warehouse, to make sure that was what I wanted, and then just brought it out to my truck on a forklift. And you get a bit more than you request, although you still pay the for quantity that give you. I guess they estimate the lumber bd/ft based on cubic capacity, so in my case I ended up with boards all about the same length and thickness but widths varying from about 5" to 14". You may also get quite a few boards that vary in width so you may not get a full length piece of a width that minimizes waste.

    Most of the time, I could get the rough sawn saw marks out by removing about 1/8" overall thickness, but I found a few boards required more where there were signs of strapping or some other mechanical method used to process the wood.

    I built in about 10% more than the estimate of what I needed and this seemed to work out pretty good with minimal left over.

    It's a cool feeling getting a truck bed full of rough sawn lumber and then comparing it to the finished product.

    Hope this helps.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    beavercreek oh
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    In addition to what the others have said, look for insect invasion(damage). Especially little holes if it's freshly milled, could be PPB (powder post beetles). I also see you're from western Ohio as am I. There's a lot of rough sawn lumber for sale on Craigslist. I've bought a lot, met some really nice people. I've never paid more than $2.50 a BDFT, mostly white Oak, walnut and curly maple. Good luck

  6. #6
    I'll stick to your post about wood for cabinet frames and door frames. I am assuming you have a vender that let's you pick your boards. I would say start by considering the frame width's. 6" wide boards would work with your jointer, but if your frame width is 2" that creates a problem since you will not get 3 rips of 2". If your stiles and rails are 1 1/2" than 6" would be nice. If you are considering matching color, look at lengths and widths that will allow a complete face frame from the same board. If the boards have knots, measure from the ends to the knot and see if that makes for a lot of waste considering the lengths you need. For face frames I would not worry about grain direction. For doors you want quarter sawn or as straight grain as possible and wood that starts out flat in the rough. If you have cash and some storage space by some extra. It will get used sooner or later.

    Read all the post here and you will gain insight from people who have learned along the way.

    My 2 pennies, good luck!

  7. #7
    There’s some good information here. I buy all my wood here.

    https://www.woodworkerssource.com/

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Silicon Valley, CA
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    Avoid twist.

    Bring a cutlist so that you know what you need to get. Anything that needs to be especially thick, long, wide will need to select specific material. And good to plan out your show surfaces when buying the raw lumber, as well.

    Buy extra -- this allows you some flexibility in selecting boards and arrangement for matching grain.
    Expect to have waste (plan to cut around things like checks / knots / wane)

    I'd recommend milling in two stages. The second milling is to correct for any movement after the first. Hopefully not much.

    Matt

  9. #9
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    One thing you can do, too, is to look for skip planed material which will show you the board a little better than fully rough but is not processed to S4S, letting you work out how best to create your component parts and mill them. Not all lumber providers have it, however. In lieu of that, what Matthew mentions about taking a little bit off first to 'see what you got' is always a good practice with rough lumber. You'll want to sticker that for a day or three before you proceed to final milling when you can for best stability. One thing I always do is take a small block plane with me when I'm getting material as it helps insure I get boards that are compatible in color and general grain pattern...but you ALWAYS ask the seller first if they are ok with you hitting a small spot with that block plane before doing it.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Daily View Post
    There’s some good information here. I buy all my wood here.

    https://www.woodworkerssource.com/
    That "Project Planner Worksheet" looks like a handy tool (if I were that organized)

    Matt

  11. #11
    I think you've gotten great advice. If you like using a couple species more than others, I'd think about buying more than you need. You'll use it for your next project anyway and having more will let you be a bit more careful about picking out the right pieces as you go, without trying to work out your full cutlist while you're buying. It's always nice to have some decent lumber around for small projects, and you can always use some soft maple or poplar for things like drawer sides and to machine test pieces before you commit with the cherry/curly maple/etc.

    Bruce

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    ...One thing I always do is take a small block plane with me when I'm getting material as it helps insure I get boards that are compatible in color and general grain pattern...but you ALWAYS ask the seller first if they are ok with you hitting a small spot with that block plane before doing it.
    Ha! One local exotic wood dealer would not let me shave even a 1/4" spot of the weathered grey surface to see the color on some 8/4 Tarara (Canary) I was considering buying. I saw a few years later he was going out of business.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
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    North Dana, Masachusetts
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Winterrowd View Post
    I have always purchased s4s lumber for projects but I am going to buy rough lumber for some cabinet frames and door frames for a project. I have a 6 inch jointer, planer, and track saw. What are some tips for buying boards that will minimize waste? Thank you!

    Look at how the lumber is stored and handled. I know of one rough lumber retailer that has a crushed rock in the yard, and the wind blows fine rock dust on to all the lumber. At another place that went out of business, customers who didn't know any better would take lumber out of the racks, and stack it on the concrete floor, mashing grit into the faces.

    Buying retail rough lumber usually requires being ready to really dig through the pile, pull a lot of wood out, and carefully check all faces for unacceptable problems. Having a junk power plane handy in the shop lets you clean up gritty wood before you mill it.

  14. #14
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    Nov 2007
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    olmsted falls,ohio
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    I live near Hopkins airport.i donít know where in western Ohio you are.i bought some rough lumber at Yoder lumber in Berlin Ohio.all in all pretty happy.paid a little extra and they hit skip plane and straight line rip cut

  15. #15
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    Check for lumberyards in your area. I am in Galveston County Texas and have lots of choices in the Houston area.

    Go by a construction site and inquire about yards in your area.

    Google "Lumber Yards" and see what pops up.

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