How to Save Money by Buying Lumber From a Distributor, Not a Seller

When you’re ready to start woodworking, it’s time to start buying wood directly from your distributor, rather than from major retailers. You will have many more options to choose from, and you will save money in the process.

Visiting a lumber distributor can be a daunting process for the uninitiated. First, the terminology and prices differ from what you find at Lowe’s or Home Depot, as well as the sheer number of wood options in terms of species, grade, thickness, and type of cut. This guide will walk you through these options in the hope that your first visit to the lumber yard will not be your last.

Know How They Measure Board Thickness

When purchased from a distributor, hardwood thickness is measured in quarters, not inches. A 1 “board is referred to as 4/4 (referred to as” four quarters “), a 2” board is referred to as 8/4 (referred to as “eight quarters”).

Lumber can also be in less common thicknesses such as 5/4, 6/4, 12/4, and 16/4. Remember that lumber is often pre-milled and then dried, so a board that starts at 4/4 inches thick will be closer to 3/4 – 7/8 inches.

Regardless of the actual thickness declared, you will be charged a maximum rate of 1 “for 4/4 stock and 2” for 8/4 stock. There is no discount because the wood is thinner.

Understand the volume of “board legs”

Wood from the distributor is sold by volume, which is measured in “plank feet”. This makes it easier to price hardwoods, which are cut to various lengths, widths and thicknesses.

The basic formula is length (inches) x width (feet) x thickness (inches) / 12 = 1 board foot (BF). The illustration above from Popular Woodworking illustrates this measurement.

If you forget your calculator on your trip to the distributor, remember this tip from Wood Whisperer : A 4/4 board that is 6 “wide and 8 feet long is 4 feet of board . Since many boards are cut to this approximate size, you can easily estimate board legs on the fly by multiplying your 4/4 board by 4.

The main types of wood cuts

The sawmill will cut the log in three main ways that produce lumber with different characteristics: lumber, quarter-cut lumber and lumber.

Regular lumber is the most common cut you will come across, produces the most wood per log and is the least expensive cut. About 90% of lumber is sawn timber.

Quartersawn is cut when the wood species and grain are more attractive and is mainly used for countertops, cabinets and floors. Riftsawn is similar to Quarter Zones but is cut at a slightly different angle that shows very uniform lines and, like Quarter Zones, is popular for flooring.

Important grades of lumber

You can delve deeper into lumber grades, which represent the amount of material used in a board. The higher the grade of wood, the fewer defects, such as knots, are in it.

FAS and Select boards have the highest rating, followed by general # 1 and # 2.

Your choice of wood grade will depend on the type of project you are working on. For a general DIY project, you can get by with # 1 or # 2 Common and save a lot of money. If you are assembling furniture or installing moldings, you will need a higher grade of wood.

Mill or not grind yourself

Rough lumber is rarely straight, so it needs to be routed to even out thickness and even out edges. If you have a planer and jointer , you can save money and do it yourself, but a distributor can offer these services for a small fee.

In the video above, The Sawdust Maker shares his tips for routing lumber. He mills himself and explains why he thinks this is the best option for him.

How to find a distributor

If you are ready to make your first trip, contact your local woodworkers guild or association and ask them for recommendation of hardwood distributors and dealers. Avoid regular lumber yards and building material yards as they cater more to the commercial builder crowd and will have fewer timber options. For more information and advice on buying lumber from a distributor, visit the Hardwood Distributors Association and Popular Woodworking .


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