Woodworking Tips
Woodworking Tips Index
Buying Lumber through the Newspaper
I got a question a while ago from a reader who was considering buying lumber from an ad he read in the newspaper. It was only a dollar a board foot for oak and walnut, but he was still wondering if it was a good deal.

A barn can be like an old gold mine. You either dig up gold or dirt. We've had mixed results with the wood we've seen advertised. Some beautiful wood purchased this way has been used for Woodsmith magazine projects. But there's a lot of "firewood" that's advertised, too.

Either way, be prepared to spend more time and energy than if you were to go to a lumberyard or woodworking store. Before making any trip, I would try to get as much information as possible over the phone.

Here are two questions I would start with:

1) How has the wood been milled and dried?
Actually you're not concerned with the specific tool used to mill the wood, or the specific method used to dry it. Asking this question helps you get a feel for how much care the sawyer took in milling and drying the wood.

How the wood was dried is especially important. If dried properly, there should not be a lot of rot, sticker marks, split ends, or severe bowing and cupping.

Also, if the wood has been air dried, you may need to store the wood in your house or garage until the drying process is complete. Note: If you do decide to look at the wood, take a moisture meter with you, if possible.
2) Can I pick and choose the boards I want?
Lumber stored in someone else's shed probably hasn't been sorted or graded professionally. There may be furniture quality wood right next to boards you couldn't build a pallet with. So you need to make sure you're comparing "apples to apples" when comparing this lumber to the lumber available at a retail store. The wood may not be as much of a bargain as you think.

If you're able to pick and choose, however, you can be your own "grader." Then, if you get satisfactory answers to these questions, go and see the wood for yourself. But remember, "All that glitters...."
Go to Tip #45
Woodworking Tips Index ©August Home Publishing Company