Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I lived in a place where I didn’t have easy access to clear, wide wood.
Then I realize the answer: I would move.
Today I picked up about 300 board feet of 5/4 and 6/4 sugar pine – most of it 18” wide – for some projects I need to build this year for my “The Furniture of Necessity” book and for a customer. I bought it from Midwest Woodworking in Norwood, Ohio, which I have written about before. And I’ll say this one last time: If you live in the Tristate and haven’t been there, then you have no right to gripe about your lumber problems.
But if you don’t live in Indi-hio-tucky, then here are a couple tips I can offer you.
1. Buy local species. I’m not going to find good alder or yew in my area. But walnut, maple, hickory and cherry are everywhere. So I’m more likely to find super boards in those species than in non-native species.
2. Be prepared to pay. Clear and wide boards are expensive. Yes, some jokers are going to score 24”-wide sapele for $1 a board foot. But if you are waiting for that kind of deal before building your project, you will never build anything. I’ve never regretted the money I’ve spent on good stock. I have regretted a few of the “deals” I’ve gotten on sketchy stuff.
3. Put out the word and build relationships. Wood is waiting for you in surprising places. If you tell your friends and coworkers that you are always looking for old lumber, it will come your way. When you find people who sell it, nurture them. Round up when you pay or calculate your board footage. Pay cash. Pay on the spot. Make yourself their favorite customer. Restack their lumber that you picked through and didn’t buy. And buy enough so they remember you. Selling boards to individual woodworkers is a lot of effort for a lumberyard. If you realize that and try not to make yourself a pain in the butt, you will be welcome back.
And for those of you who live in a desert, develop these relationships with lumberyards that ship nationwide. Call Irion or Steve Wall Lumber. Buy a half-decent load of lumber and you’ll be on your way.
Or call a moving van and start looking for land in Pennsylvania.
— Christopher Schwarz
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