• We invite you to join UKWorkshop.
    Members can turn off viewing Ads!

About buying timber..

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

drillbit

Established Member
Joined
19 Jan 2011
Messages
284
Reaction score
0
Slightly embarrassed about asking this question but here goes..

Until recently I have only really bought timber from Travis Perkins, who sell all sorts of sizes.

I now have a P/T and want to get better quality timber from decent wood yards and dress it myself.

Problem is - the wood yards I have asked about prices only seem to stock planks of 'rough sawn joinery' as they seem to call it - ie. flat boards up to 3 inches in width.

So what do I do if I want to buy four table leg size bits of oak - say 4"x4"x72". Would I ask the woodyard for four lengths of oak in this size? And if so, would I be paying the same sort of price for the volume of wood as if I was buying it in plank form, or would it cost more because they have to source it in a 'wider' size?

Some woodyards have said best thing is to give them a cut lilst - so again, say I want to get some longish strips of 1" x 1" x 120" - would I include this on my cut list and expect the woodyard to supply these rough sawn in that length and thickness, or would they expect me to buy a 1" plank and rip them myself to get what I want?

I could ask them of course, but to be honest, I am trying to avoid making it obvious I don't know what I am doing when I deal with them... :oops: So could anyone give me some tips on how to go about obtaining the pieces you need, in the dimensions you need, without paying over the odds or sounding stupid!?

Thanks
 

Grahamshed

Established Member
Joined
14 Apr 2012
Messages
3,066
Reaction score
0
Location
Oxfordish
Not stupid at all but have you tried powells timber in Oxford. They have all sorts of sizes in many different woods and will cut to size for free.
 

RogerP

Established Member
Joined
7 Jan 2011
Messages
3,785
Reaction score
2
Location
Gloucester
I don't know how far you are from Deep In The Wood they are very helpful on the phone and I'm sure if you went there you'd find what you wanted without a problem or embarrassment.
 

beech1948

Established Member
Joined
16 Aug 2004
Messages
2,147
Reaction score
65
Location
Crowthorne, Berkshire
Not an expert ...no sir but here goes.

I buy all my timber as Sawn that is as it comes straight off the saw. I even try to buy softwood this way but you have to watch the sizes you buy to ensure that you don't end up with too much waste. The problem is that most softwood is aimed at the building industry so comes in standard sizes mostly.

I should try talking to as many "localish" timber yards as you can and look at their web sites. If you want hardwood then the web site should show a stock list and have at least the top 15 or so timber types. My favourite timberyard is in a forest, is muddy, has a lot of open drying areas, a saw mill to cut tree sized logs into finished timber.....and has the most spectacular English walnut. My second favourite is in the middle of an industral estate and looks like a giant factory.

Your cutting list will have to go through a few iterations. Usually will prepare two cutting lists ( I do it on a spread sheet to keep it easy)
You need the cutting list to have the rough unfinished dimensions on it as well as a second table with the finished sizes. Hopefully the rough sizes are larger than the finished sizes. At the timber yard you only need your rough sizes.

So your example of a 120"x1"x1" finished size would have a rough size of minimums 122x1 1/4 x1 1/4 inches. The minimum of 2" overlength is to enable you to cut to size cleanly at each end. The 1 1/4 square size is to allow 1/4 inch all round to plane down to a clean and square 1 inch all round. That is taking about 1/8th off each side as you plane. Don't forget that wood when sawn may have a little variation in sizing so 1 1/4 inches may be thicker or thinner than that nominal size along its length.

You should take the cutting list and a square, a tape measure and a block plane with you when you go to the timber yard. The tape to measure your rough sizes, the chalk to rough out the sizes where you will be getting multiple pieces from a timber length, the block plane to check for grain, figure and colour below the sawn surface.

Chat to your timber merchant always. Ask to be allowed to pull timber from the racks to check. ALWAYS put it back in a tidy and orderly state...or you will become a figure of dislike around the yard eventually.

When you pull from the rack check for cupping, wind, shakes, splits, stains, and any other damage. Be prepared to haggle politely over any damage on a board if you still want it and get the price reduced.

Try not to wince over sticker shock when you learn the exact prices.

Try to calculate the cubic footage of your pieces to give you some idea. wxlxh

If you need larger pieces such as 4.5x4.5 oak or what have you then just chat and ask. OR phone round. You may be forced to decide to laminate pieces together if you can't find the size you want. I recently bought 4 legs for a kitchen table pre-turned so consider that as an option.

Hope some of this helps.

Al
 

AndyT

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2007
Messages
12,028
Reaction score
498
Location
Bristol
It's not easy is it?

The trouble is, the hobby woodworker who only needs £100 worth of wood is never going to be as useful or important a customer as the builder who wants a lorryload every week, and some merchants really only want the big trade business.

I've had most success by going to local merchants who clearly set out to supply both sorts of people, and being open about what I don't know. It's a really good idea to go at a quiet time - not first thing in the morning; not on a Saturday. Fortunately, Bristol still has some such places!

The other thing to bear in mind is that there is a big difference between buying softwood and hardwood. I get the impression that most of the joinery grade softwood available is going to be already planed, so there will be more waste and cost if I want a non-standard size.

With hardwoods, only the merchant will know what size boards he has in stock at the time you go there, and will be trying to add up your cutting list into those sizes - easy if you don't need anything very long or wide or thick!
 

Sheffield Tony

Ghost of the disenchanted
Joined
2 Aug 2012
Messages
2,078
Reaction score
89
Location
Bedfordshire
This is something I'm struggling with at the moment too. I like the idea of starting with sawn boards rather than timber already machined to size. But - one of the smaller suppliers I tried wanted to dissuade me. Partly I think because he doubted that I'd be able to thickness it etc with hand tools. Partly because I'm sure he'd like to make the extra profit from the machining. His third reason was so that you can see what you're getting, and the price can be adjusted for splits and other defects.

I'm not sure I'm convinced. The machining still leaves me work to get a decent finish; it is often slightly trapezoidal rather than square edged, and - this is air dried oak I was shopping for - if the timber then moves when I've brought it into the workshop, I have no way to rectify it.

The other problem I have is the actual quality of the timber. I've tried a few places so far - I'll not name them, but:

Merchant A is a long way away, ordered by internet, timber was French, and fairly good and reasonably priced, but I can't go and rummage.
Merchant B sold me a really nice board of oak; 4m x 200mm x 27, really nice to work, straight grain, only one tiny knot - but that's all he had left.
Merchant C sells air dried English timber, sourced from local parks and gardens, Variable, once planed up it looks as if it is not all European oak, and the 2" stuff had little pockets of decay within. Probably only 50% useable for anything critical, but the 50% was quite nice to work.
Merchant D sells KD French timber which seems very splitty and brittle, not so nice to work.

Do I need to keep looking, or am I being too fussy ?
 

RogerP

Established Member
Joined
7 Jan 2011
Messages
3,785
Reaction score
2
Location
Gloucester
Sheffield Tony":3eeozivv said:
.............. I like the idea of starting with sawn boards rather than timber already machined to size........
It depends so much on the job and what sizes the merchant can supply.

I recently replaced all the doors (cupboards and drawer fronts) in our kitchen and by careful buying of various stock sizes of PAR oak I was able complete the job with next to no waste at all. The price I paid for the timber seemed expensive but had I bought much cheaper waney edged rough sawn I'd have needed at least twice the quantity and a great more time and work - not to mention the cost of all the electricity used sawing and planing.

I bought from British Hardwoods They delivered very quickly and the timber was knot and fault free and beautifully machined - but expensive!
 

Gerard Scanlan

Established Member
Joined
5 Mar 2011
Messages
322
Reaction score
9
Location
The Netherlands
A benefit of the crisis is that fewer builders are turning up each week for a truck load of wood, so amateur woodworkers are suddenly proper customers too. I picked up a plank of rough sawn 50mm thick American walnut at a timber yard last week for 65 pounds and they were more than pleased to see me especially since I did not require a receipt...wonder why. I would encourage you to keep looking for someone local who might not have a massive assortment but who can supply what you need. Your reasons for starting from rough sawn boards are right. Not everyone can make a mess in the place they call a workshop so they need to start from planed boards. And if you need oak, old damaged furniture is a good cheap sustainable source :D
 

drillbit

Established Member
Joined
19 Jan 2011
Messages
284
Reaction score
0
Thanks for all the replies. Makes me a feel a lot less stupid!

Graham - I have tried Powells and they are always friendly, but I always feel like I don't know what I am doing and don't fit in with their usual customer process. For example, I would love to sort through their stock and choose nice bits of wood -but it's all stacked horizontally in piles 6 foot high in 8 inch planks 10 foot long and 2 inch thick - getting to the bottom plank without a forklift would be a challenge! Anyway, I will keep dealing with them, particularly because they open on Saturdays unlike many.

Al - thanks for the information. Very useful indeed and gives me some confidence.

So on the question of table legs, it sounds like if I want a 4x4inch piece of oak, it would not be a stupid request to ask for...but I might need to ring around some timber merchants to find someone with stock that thick..is that right?

Thanks again..
 

drillbit

Established Member
Joined
19 Jan 2011
Messages
284
Reaction score
0
Gerard Scanlan":1h64xllj said:
Not everyone can make a mess in the place they call a workshop so they need to start from planed boards.
When I bought my P/T I also invested in Axminster's cheapest dust/chip extractor (100mm two bag type) and the fine cartridge for it.

Even though it is the cheapest model, I am constantly amazed when I thickness down stock how much ends up in the bag, how little ends up on the floor, and how little dust there is in the air. And my favourite part of the day is when I switch the hose back to the little sweeper attachment at the front and use my broom to brush what chips there are on the floor towards it where they get sucked up and away.... I know I am sad...but it gives me great pleasure :)
 

Togalosh

Established Member
Joined
22 Sep 2011
Messages
507
Reaction score
2
Location
Enclave Des Papes, France
(I've said this before but) I go to a saw mill in Warwickshire - very near Studley- where you can pick through an assortment of off cuts of very different dimesions or you can order exactly what size you want in whatever quantity you want all without any impatience, finger drumming, huffing n puffing, eye rolling.. as long as it's green Oak or Larch you want.

Some tree surgeons mill timber too but again it's likely to be green or semi green
 

Hudson Carpentry

Established Member
Joined
4 Nov 2010
Messages
2,289
Reaction score
0
Location
Nottingham, UK
If you wanted 4x4 oak then you can ask for just that. They will either say yes they can or no they can't but it can be brought as such and I have (with oak though at that size its probably green). You will how ever probably have to buy the length and not all merchants will cut it down for you. The ones that cut it down will more than likely charge you more per meter than the ones that want you to take the whole length. So be prepared to pay for wastages regardless on how it comes. If you need 4 meters of the 4x4 and they have only 1x 2.2m length and 1x 3m length in stock you will have to buy the 5.2 meters.

If you wanted 1x1 in non par and non building grade though I think they would want to supply you a minimum width board of 3" or a 2x2" depending on the timber. With the cutting list they will see what widths they have in and supply you with on width enough to get the quantity required out off. If you wanted them to rip it down and supply like that then be prepared to remortgage. It maybe well suit you to by a bandsaw to rip down timbers brought this way.

My supplier has a price limit. If I have spent say £500 on an order and needed them suppled to a dimension specified they happily get on with it but if its only say a £300 order then will want £45 for setting up the 4 sider and 50p a meter to size it. Although they will deal with the hobbyist and be very friendly large orders are better value.

Now naturally I am one of them that buys lorry loads of furniture grade timbers but my old supplier Brooks Bros once charged me over £100 for 4 meters of no more then 5" wide and 1" thick and no it wasn't walnut or an exotic, they ever refused to supply that small quantity sawn even though I went to them and was happy to trawl through myself. Its just because they don't like small orders, even though I had big orders from them they never really wanted to help me out for a little of x without first making me wait 45mins and charging me well over the odds.

The ones that ask you for cutting lists will normally find the boards that will give you the least wastage and not just charge you for the first board they pick up of the top. No fun if you ask me, imagine what you could build with them off cuts hehe. Then if you see my current wood store, workshop and what was my cinema you will see I never have time to make something with them off cuts.

On that note if your having trouble, give me a bell and see if I have what you need as off cuts. Some off cuts I have are the size of trees. I keep meaning to put some timber on here.
 

mind_the_goat

Established Member
Joined
25 Jan 2012
Messages
628
Reaction score
0
Location
Dorset
You could also try a reclamation yard, most will have a few stacks of old beams, but watch for nails, they will play havoc with your p/t blades (one of our local yards also sells new oak). Alternatively if planks are easier to come by, glue some together to get the required width.

Rob
 

Gerard Scanlan

Established Member
Joined
5 Mar 2011
Messages
322
Reaction score
9
Location
The Netherlands
I mean't that not everyone can make a mess because some people work on projects at the kitchen table, obviously if you have got a shed, garage, dedicated workshop, there is nothing to stop you.
 

drillbit

Established Member
Joined
19 Jan 2011
Messages
284
Reaction score
0
Good idea on the reclaim yards...I've never thought about just butt joining two thicknesses together to make a square section..but it seems obvious now. Especially if I turn them, it wouldn't show the join so much.

Hudson - thanks for your advice offer. I may take you up on it, although you are a bit of a drive... :)
 
Top