How To Buy Hardwoods

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

Rallymantony

Member
Joined
12 May 2021
Messages
15
Reaction score
2
Location
Surrey
Even at more "standardised" yards you'll still have to be aware of some potential problems with ABW. I mentioned that Walnut is almost always sold on a "sap no fault" basis. A bit of sap on just one side of a board is something most of us could live with, but what if the best side of a board has thick bands of sap like this? Sorry I got the photos wrong, look at the end of the post! :oops:

View attachment 62491

As the small buyer the hard fact is you're that bit more likely to receive these kind of boards. You could try returning them, or explaining before hand that you won't accept sap on both sides, but it's something you need to be prepared for. It's another reason to select your boards in person, even if that means going to a yard like Surrey Timbers where there'll be a bit of premium for the privilege.

Indeed every timber has it's own unique pitfalls. Off the top of my head here are some of the others,

American Cherry. Excessive number of black resin pockets. Too sappy. English Cherry is a cheaper substitute, personally I like it, but be aware it's often field grown with wild grain that makes jointing boards together very difficult. Cherry ages beautifully, taking on a lovely patination after just a few years. It can be slightly blotchy to finish but time cures that. It's easy to work and kind on your tools. I would strongly recommend American Cherry for your first hardwood experiments, it's also a natural match for Shaker style projects. Cherry used to be called "poor man's Mahogany", but it's now a far more fashionable timber than Mahogany, plus it has the huge benefit of being a renewable, temperate zone timber, so no one will think you're Jack the Ripper for using it.

Oak. There's a bit of an epidemic of yellow stain at the moment, that's a drying fault from being rushed through kilning with inadequate air drying before hand. If you buy from a yard that does there own kilning (like Tylers) you won't get this, it's more of a problem in smaller yards that buy in ready kilned stock purely on price. Oak is often available graded, for furniture making don't skimp, you want the highest grade available. Oak is also one of the very few timbers where you can often specify quarter sawn even from a "standardised" yard. You may want to do this for the distinctive medullary rays you get with quarter sawn Oak. Be aware though that medullary rays come in all sorts of shapes and mixing them up within a single project can be a bit jarring. Personally I favour "spidery" rays like this,

View attachment 62496

Rather than "splodgy" rays like this, but this really is just a personal preference!

View attachment 62497

Beech. Beech comes in two versions, steamed and unsteamed. personally I like the slightly pink tinge you get with steaming. But that's a personal choice, the important thing is to specify one or the other and then stick to it, mixing up the two in one project looks messy. Beech is one of the cheapest hardwoods, but it can quickly get a bit boring. It works well with mixed hardwood/plywood projects though.

Sweet Chestnut. Sweet Chestnut isn't as well known as it deserves to be. It's very similar to Oak except it's a bit paler and doesn't have medullary rays. It's also widely available and very affordable (as far as hardwoods go that is!), the reason it's affordable is commercial planters often include some Chestnut amongst Oak because it can be harvested much earlier so they can get some cash in before they pop their clogs, it's got much narrower sap bands so for any given tree diameter you get a higher yield than Oak. If you want to stick to traditional furniture making techniques you'd use Oak for your show faces and Sweet Chestnut as the secondary timber for backs, drawer sides, etc. Whatever you do don't buy Horse Chestnut if it's offered to you by a local tree surgeon, it's hopeless for furniture making.

Sycamore. Be very careful when buying Sycamore, most of it is fairly grey and often has sticker stains. The stuff to look out for is the bright white boards that are sometimes called "Arctic Sycamore". Buying bargain basement Sycamore sight unseen is just asking for trouble. Rippled Sycamore is probably the most widely available of the heavily figured timbers. There's normally some for sale in at least one of my local yards.

Ash. It's very common to find Ash with a pale brown staining, especially around the centre of the tree. It's sometimes sold as "Olive Ash", if you want a pale clean look then specify upfront that you don't want any Olive Ash, like Walnut Sap it's often sold as not being a fault. Ash isn't an easy timber to finish, it really needs grain filling and that's a bit trickier with a pale timber.

Maple. Maple has a surprising range of colour variation, from white to yellow to pink. They're all attractive in their own way, but you don't want to mix them up within a single project. Buy a bit extra per project and state you want a consistent colour match.

I'm sure there are lots of other things but it's time I had some dinner! Hopefully other people can chime in with their timber buying experiences.

Oops. I messed up the first photo. It should have been this one,

View attachment 62498
Thank you for taking the time, I'm just starting out and your right up has been very helpful to me. Thank you again.
 

Suffolkboy

Established Member
Joined
18 Aug 2014
Messages
435
Reaction score
150
Location
Lancashire
Thank you for taking the time, I'm just starting out and your right up has been very helpful to me. Thank you again.

If you are just starting out have a look through some of Custard's other previous posts. He certainly helped me along the way with some of his informative and well written postings.
 

Keith 66

Established Member
Joined
5 Jan 2013
Messages
677
Reaction score
244
Location
Benfleet Essex
That is a real shame - it's sad that continuity of supply was never at the forefront of the forest owners' minds as much as the dollar signs were. So who's stashing the millions of trees that have been felled to make way for palm oil plantations?

Most of them will simply have been burnt.
 

SASculpture

New member
Joined
19 Jun 2022
Messages
4
Reaction score
3
Location
Clevedon, North Somerset
This is a really informative thread. I think I've read the whole thing and saw no reference to suppliers in the Southwest. So, at the risk of duplicating information that I may have missed, I would point to Yandles just outside Martock in Somerset. I've purchased all sorts from them including Tigerwood, Zebrawood, Wenge, Purple Heart, Bubinga, Elm, Yew and Paduak. They have a good selection of sizes and lots of rounds for the turning enthusiast. I purchase with a view to sculpting so I've not used - so can't comment on - their cutting service.
 

isaac3d

Established Member
Joined
22 Jun 2021
Messages
122
Reaction score
92
Location
UK
Yandles has an interesting selection, especially pieces for turning. Unfortunately, it's a bit too far for me to visit often.
 
Top