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Confused at buying the timber...not a great start

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Biblu

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Hi, new to the forum but looks a great place - been very envious looking through the quality of work!

My woodworking in the past has been confined to pallet wood projects in the garden (planters/raised beds/bin shed/rabbit hutch etc) - so buying timber is a new ball game for me. I'm trying to price up some oak for a double pedestal desk that the boss has commissioned for our box room (for which I might start a project thread because I think I'm a little out of my depth!).

I looked at the great timberyard sticky and got in touch with my local, Ternex (who are fantastic for novices like me btw) and compared with some prices online...but the prices don't seem to align.

I'm not sure if I'm working out the numbers wrong, if there is just large variation in timber cost, or whether you get what you pay for and the cost variation I'm seeing will be reflected in the quality of wood delivered?

Based on the desk top of (roughly) 2600mm x 500mm x 30mm, I conclude the following prices. All rough sawn, inc VAT and I used 2.8m length to have some wastage (probably should have included some wastage in width too but the concept of price comparison still stands):
  • Ternex -> 41mm thickness @ £3986.00 cu.m = £175.19
  • British Hardwoods -> 41mm thickness @ £49.99 cu.ft = £101.33
  • ToolsAndTimber -> 2400 x 110 x 38 @ £34.27 * 5 (for desktop width) = £171.36 (granted this is slightly shorter at 2.4m)
  • SLHardwoods -> 38mm x 125mm @ 26.35/m *5 (for desktop width) *2.6 (desktop length) = £342.58

So a variation from £100 -> £342...where am I being an silly person?
 

MikeG.

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Hi and welcome.

I have to tell you that starting your woodworking career with an oak double pedestal desk is seriously ambitious. I strongly suggest you do some work with cheaper timber on less ambitious projects before you turn to a desk. You may well regret taking on such a sink-or-swim test for your first piece of furniture.

Those oak figures are bizarre. £4000 a cubic metre is nuts. I pay between £900 and £1200 per cu metre, depending on the grade and sizes. That's for air dried European oak, sometimes part-kilned. The British Hardwoods price is nearer reality, being about £1765/ cu m.

In my opinion there is only one way to buy wood, and that is to go to a woodyard and choose it yourself. The yards I use allow this........indeed, they encourage it. I would never just order it over the internet. Even the best suppliers have timber which is cupped or in wind (twisted), or with shakes or checks (cracks). Find a decent local timberyard and take half a day to pick what you want. It's the best half day you'll spend on the project, because working with warped wood is a pain in the neck.

Someone else here will ask about your workshop. This is because you'll either need a decent level of kit to deal with sawn timber, or you'll need some reasonable planing skills and some level of fitness. If you haven't got either, then your project falls over at the first hurdle.

Why are you only pricing for the top? Most of the work (and the wood) in a desk is in the pedestals and drawers.
 

owen

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If cost is a major factor have you thought about using oak worktop for the top? Are you building the base out of oak too? Or using some cheaper timber and painting it?
 

Biblu

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MikeG.":2taiklkt said:
Hi and welcome.

I have to tell you that starting your woodworking career with an oak double pedestal desk is seriously ambitious. I strongly suggest you do some work with cheaper timber on less ambitious projects before you turn to a desk. You may well regret taking on such a sink-or-swim test for your first piece of furniture.
Thanks Mike, :D I've done some less ambitious bits in the past, but as you can see they're either fairly crude or simple, so you have rightly identified one of my anxiety's with the costs involved. Here are some of those past bits...

In fact, other than ripping and trimming the wood for the bench, there wasn't a lot of project involved :lol:

MikeG.":2taiklkt said:
Those oak figures are bizarre. £4000 a cubic metre is nuts. I pay between £900 and £1200 per cu metre, depending on the grade and sizes. That's for air dried European oak, sometimes part-kilned. The British Hardwoods price is nearer reality, being about £1765/ cu m.

In my opinion there is only one way to buy wood, and that is to go to a woodyard and choose it yourself. The yards I use allow this........indeed, they encourage it. I would never just order it over the internet. Even the best suppliers have timber which is cupped or in wind (twisted), or with shakes or checks (cracks). Find a decent local timberyard and take half a day to pick what you want. It's the best half day you'll spend on the project, because working with warped wood is a pain in the neck.
Useful to see your reaction to the pricing, I was beginning to think that I was destined to work with free pallet wood for the rest of my life but maybe there is hope yet.

I did try the local yard - but that's the £3986.00 cu.m so I wanted to check it that was about right online - I'll maybe see what other yards there are not too far away and try them. Half a day at a yard picking what I want sounds like a great morning!

MikeG.":2taiklkt said:
Someone else here will ask about your workshop. This is because you'll either need a decent level of kit to deal with sawn timber, or you'll need some reasonable planing skills and some level of fitness. If you haven't got either, then your project falls over at the first hurdle.

Why are you only pricing for the top? Most of the work (and the wood) in a desk is in the pedestals and drawers.
I have a cheap no frills (screwfix) planer, I know its not comparable to the kit some people have on here but I guess my expectations for the end product are also relative.

I've priced up the basic main components, top, sides, bottoms to get a general idea of ball park costs - I only put the top on here to not bore anyone and check where I was going wrong :D

owen":2taiklkt said:
If cost is a major factor have you thought about using oak worktop for the top? Are you building the base out of oak too? Or using some cheaper timber and painting it?
I did consider worktops, and my wife is quite keen on them, but I don't think I'll be able to sit at the desk and not think of the kitchen. I think its the narrow widths of board in them, and that they're joined at the ends. At £200 in ikea though they are an option if the price of timer yards is as above.

I am also considering veneered mdf/ply? - not sure what the consensus is on that? I'd probably buy it edged, my experience with edging our built-in wardrobes wasn't disastrous, but I'd happily avoid doing it again.

This is the basic design...don't panic, I'm already reconsidering the miter's #-o

So the top wraps around the side, bottom and back up. I'd like to add some design detail in there somewhere because I think its a bit boring at the moment and needs something to break it up. Maybe within the door or draws. I already drew a design that bevelled the edges to the door and draws but they didn't pass design approval.
 

Biblu

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Oh, I think there might be a problem with pictures - is there a post count before you're allowed to post pictures (I did try to check the FAQ quickly)

edit - either this post took me over the limit or I was being an silly person the first time round..either way I think the photos now work. My bad.
 

marcros

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British hardwoods aren't cheap but the quality is good. I find the prices to be fair and use them as a basis for estimating my timber costs.
 

MikeG.

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Bloody hell Biblu, you're a braver man than me!! I wouldn't be attempting that even though I've been at this hobby forever and a day. I don't know if you know how difficult it is to get a nice mitre between the top and sides like that, and even if you do, how long it would be before it sprang apart. Seriously, try that in some cheap wood first and put it aside for a few months. I very much doubt if you'd be attempting such a tough joint again after that!! :)

If you are serious about this design, try to get some advice from Woodbloke. He's a master of veneering, and the only sensible way to approach such a design is with veneers on an MDF-or-similar substrate. Absolute microscopic precision is then the order of the day, as well as (probably) the purchase of a vacuum press.
 

AJB Temple

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Keep it simple.

Forget the mitres
Forget the legs (which will not work as in your design)
Take the cupboards and drawers down to the floor (use a simple plinth).

It is then doable for a novice.
 

Biblu

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marcros":chdstmxn said:
British hardwoods aren't cheap but the quality is good. I find the prices to be fair and use them as a basis for estimating my timber costs.
That's good to know as they're the cheapest in my short pool - I hope to find somewhere local with similar pricing but good to have them as a fall back.

MikeG.":chdstmxn said:
Bloody hell Biblu, you're a braver man than me!! I wouldn't be attempting that even though I've been at this hobby forever and a day. I don't know if you know how difficult it is to get a nice mitre between the top and sides like that, and even if you do, how long it would be before it sprang apart. Seriously, try that in some cheap wood first and put it aside for a few months. I very much doubt if you'd be attempting such a tough joint again after that!! :)

If you are serious about this design, try to get some advice from Woodbloke. He's a master of veneering, and the only sensible way to approach such a design is with veneers on an MDF-or-similar substrate. Absolute microscopic precision is then the order of the day, as well as (probably) the purchase of a vacuum press.
It's ok Mike, I've all but given up the idea of the miters :) I already thought they might be too ambitious but reading some threads on here over the past days confirmed that in my mind.

I also wasn't entertaining the idea of veneering myself, just buying pre-veneered and lipped. It will take some of the self-build out of course but there is still plenty in the draws, door and assembly for me.
 

Biblu

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AJB Temple":2nwcsuo5 said:
Keep it simple.

Forget the mitres
Forget the legs (which will not work as in your design)
Take the cupboards and drawers down to the floor (use a simple plinth).

It is then doable for a novice.
Wise words, thanks, especially the first point - I have a habit of over-complicating things!

Why do you think the legs won't work? The sketch is only partial so quite misleading - I would have one at each corner of the pedestal, forming a frame, and they'd be metal - basically as much of a copy of this as possible...


Do you think that would work?
 

Hornbeam

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Buying timber is always quite challenging until you have done it quit a few times. It can feel quite daunting spending possibly £500 on a pile of rough sawn boards with no idea how they will look once planed up.
Good previous advice to start with
Work with only a couple of timbers
Start with smaller projects and work on skills
Once you are fully bitten by the bug look at a way of converting rough sawn to planed all round as (owning or having access to aplaner thicknesser) roughly halves the cost of materials
Start with cheaper timber, very roughly beech will be around £30 a cuft and walnut around £100 cuft rough sawn from the same yard so a factor of 3 before allowing for variations between yards etc
Ian
 

woodbloke66

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Biblu":2kktju8g said:
AJB Temple":2kktju8g said:
Keep it simple.

Forget the mitres
Forget the legs (which will not work as in your design)
Take the cupboards and drawers down to the floor (use a simple plinth).

It is then doable for a novice.
Wise words, thanks, especially the first point - I have a habit of over-complicating things!

Why do you think the legs won't work? The sketch is only partial so quite misleading - I would have one at each corner of the pedestal, forming a frame, and they'd be metal - basically as much of a copy of this as possible...


Do you think that would work?
Lots of sound advice here which you'd be very well advised to read and absorb. A first time project such as this is one I wouldn't even dream about doing. As others have rightly mentioned, keep it simple, keep it straightforward and don't overcomplicate the build.
Really think you're way through what you're doing and plan out the build or you could see a lot of hard effort and even harder earned 'folding' very rapidly turn into firewood - Rob
 

Ollie78

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It looks a bit expensive to me.
Don't buy it from ternex if that price is right, that's black walnut money...
Try the following. Timbmet, Arnold Lavers, James Latham, Tyler hardwoods. Prices can vary a good bit between them all. I always check at least 2.
Smaller volume prices will be more, they like to sell a whole M3, often they will discount a bit if you buy the whole pack/pallet so they don't have to split it.
Tyler is great, they are very helpful and let you look at boards and stuff.
Timbmet more wholesale style, tell them the volume and pick it up.

Ollie
 

Biblu

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Thanks Ollie, we got a bit side tracked by my ambition so good to get some feedback on the prices, and assurance that the Ternex price was a bit expensive.

I'll take a look at those one's you suggested, thanks.
 

RobinBHM

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have you tries EO Burton -they are in Essex

for the top you would be best to buy random width boards to get the best yield, then make up the top using the best selection.

note, sawn hardwoods are mostly available in foot lengths or metric foot lengths.

a 2.6M length is most likely to need 10'0 boards -the extra length also allows more opportunity to cut around end splits.

bear in mind you will need to trim the boards to width to remove sap and other edge defects -and the boards wont be straight.
 
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