Quantcast

Buying wood

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

Chris Knight

Established Member
Joined
14 Jan 2004
Messages
6,641
Reaction score
1
Location
SE London - NW Kent
There has been a number of threads that discuss the problem of obtaining good wood and I have been struck by the apparent inability or unwillingness of many folk to visit woodyards.

When you look at the economics of buying wood there are some very clear things to bear in mind including the merits of choosing your own wood to avoid problem boards that must be scrapped or boards with unacceptable characteristics like too much sapwood.

A visit to a yard is a usually great chance to talk to knowledgeable people, to see the sort of facility (like the kilns etc) and care in handling that speak volumes about the likelihood of the yard perhaps sending you good wood by subsequent telephone order. The yard hands are the ones that sort your wood out, the voice on the telephone doesn't.

I recall a visit to a yard early in my woodworking "career" when a yard hand took the trouble to explain to me how to pick out good wood. When I had done this under his supervision, he properly chided me for letting a board fall to the ground, pointing out that it would pick up sand and grit that would ruin planer blades.

There are usually breakpoints like 5 cu. ft. where a load of wood becomes significantly cheaper and so the normal family car doesn't cut it, even with a roof rack. Especially since it pays to keep the wood in as long lengths as possible till you layout your intended work. How often have I said to myself - "I wish I had not cut it there!"

When I need wood I call yards I think will have what I want, try to ascertain quality, MC etc then get a rough quote (£ per cu. ft.). I find out if a yard hand will be available to help me pick out wood and if necessary, make an appointment - it is useful being retired, here. It means I am not confined to Saturday mornings!

With these factors in mind I usually hire a van (a Toyota Hi-Ace is my preferred transport because it is long and yet usually cheap to hire) at a daily cost of about £40 then drive anything upto 150 miles radius to visit yards that I have chosen after my call. I take with me a torch, saw, plane with a mild scrub blade, moisture meter, tape measure, notebook and calculator and leather gloves - all these things being needed to check out the quality and price of the wood - the saw mainly for cutting planks that are too long for the van, occasionally to see the how far end checks run into the board.

At the yard, I try to chat to both the boss and the yard hands before rushing to pick out the wood, you can get clues like statements to the effect that "the walnut is the last of their last big purchase" (translation - it's the dregs - steer clear) or they "Just had a load of ash in yesterday" (translation - it's going to be hard work and a lengthy process to sort through to find what you want). "I think we had some of that in shed number 14" (translation, it's a good job I brought the torch).

Check first but insist nicely on planing a bit of each board you think you will buy. You cannot see below the surface of a rough sawn plank and if you don't look at a clean surface you may have a gem or more likely a bloody great defect. I find a couple of diagonal swipes across the board with my plane is enough to reveal the character. If surface character is paramount, you will have to buy planed timber and check that.

If the moisture meter tells a different story to the yard, believe the meter. This can be good or bad news. I once got a good discount because the yard believed the wood to be rather wet - in fact it was very dry.

I guess the point of this teaching Granny thread is that I believe that the time and money taken to select your wood is well spent and that it will pay for itself very quickly.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Chris

Superb advice, thanks.

I am guilty of always going to the same woodyard (closest) and taking what they give me (they always want to sort the wood out before I arrive) only to find a defect or warped board amongst the pile when I get home

In future it will be' let me choose my own boards from the stock' or no deal - must find other yards that are fairly close :wink:

Thanks again mate, this granny has just learned a few tricks from you :p
 

Alf

Established Member
Joined
22 Oct 2003
Messages
12,079
Reaction score
0
Location
Up the proverbial creek
Ah, utopian wood buying. Great advice for same; someone lend me the wherewithall to do it and I'm off like a shot. As it is the cost of hiring a van could be the make or break figure on whether I can afford enough timber for a project at all*; a decent enough amount to justify the journey just isn't going to happen 'til the lottery comes up. And I don't do the lottery. Not to mention having to drive at least as far as Devon before finding the first timber yard. Although talking to Scott Woyka about it a couple of years ago he was unimpressed with any of the Devon ones and said he's had to go as far as Oxfordshire (IIRC) before now. Sorry, this may have turned into a moan. Cornwall's a lovely part of the world, but as far as timber suppliers goes it's utter rubbish and it drives me crazy. I'll just go and sob in a corner now if you don't mind... :cry:

Cheers, Alf

* Yep, the budget really does get that tight. :roll:
 

Gill

Established Member
Joined
3 Sep 2003
Messages
3,537
Reaction score
0
Location
Lincs
Super post, Chris. Definitely worthy of being made a 'sticky', I would have thought.

Gill
 

Waka

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
8 Mar 2004
Messages
4,486
Reaction score
0
Location
Weymouth
Chris

You're absolutely right and I am probably as guilty of most of relying on the phone, internet etc and ecepting what I get.

I have only used BHW where I normally have to wait 3 weeks or so, don't ask me why because Yandles is 45 minutes away.

I think I will follow your example when I next order.

Thanks for the useful tip, now where's those gloves.
 

dedee

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2003
Messages
2,637
Reaction score
1
Location
14860, France
Chris, sound advice.

I have visited three woodyard/sawmills in my life (2 in the past fortnight).

The oak for my dining table came from a mill in Shropshire and I will never forget how I turned down their offer of milling the table top joints for me. I replied that I wanted to do that myself & that it was all part of the fun. After several days of lifting 9"x2"x5' planks on and off a workmate trying to make an acceptable surface with a jack plane I came to rue that decision.

Over the past fortnight I have been down to W L Wests in Sussex - very nice accommodating people who were genuinely pleased to help with, to them was, a very modest purchase of cedar. And more recently Morgans in Rochester, a real old fashioned yard which could have been quite offputting but for the friendliness of the people who again were very pleased to help with a very modest purchase.


Andy
 

Philly

Established Member
Joined
24 Nov 2003
Messages
6,874
Reaction score
0
Location
Dorset, England.
Sound advice Chris!
Just thought I'd mention it again-Totton Timber in Southampton are very friendly and have a lovely sdelection of timber (both sawn and planed up) They had a pallet of Rosewood delivered last time I was there-Foreman showed me the lot using hushed tones...... Price put paid to any of that though! :roll:
The search for timber is never ending!
Philly :D
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
I have had good experiences with a couple of sources.

Wessex Timber (Glos) has a nice modern warehouse that you can visit. The owner is happy to pull stacks for further inspection and will assist with sorting, choosing and wrapping (for roofrack transport). He was extremely helpful and didn't mind me going through 3 stacks to find four nice boards - as long I was prepared to help him restack it! When I was there I bought some nice cherry and thick English oak. He has a pretty good stock of many woods. Not the cheapest, but great quality. I'll dig out the phone number if I can find it.

GM Hardwoods near Andover is a good source for air dried wood. Couple of guys who own some woodland and run this more as a weekend business. Really good supplies of oak and birch, some beech, others by chance - depends on what trees they've been able to find. Good service, happy to pull out the whole stack in search of that one board, and will rough cut on site if you like. Excellent prices. No boards longer than about 6-7 feet or so -- they say most of their customers come in cars and would cut longer boards anyway. Hint - take some jump-leads if you have them, as their land rover frequently has a flat battery! email: gmhardwoods@aol.com
 
Top