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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't know if this is in the wrong place, so forgive me if its not.

I need some help and advice on how to buy lumber from a saw mill.

Brief background: I started my own small company making beekeeping equipment. Most equipment is made using 1"x12" pine boards. I use Southern Yellow Pine because it's prevalent around here, but any pine will do. I found a crate and pallet company that sells a 1"x12"x12' board for $6.80 each. I think they resell at a slight mark up, but this obviously isn't their business model, and I'm sure they buy it for less but not much. Some of the boards are split through the middle, not milled right, warped, and what not. But overall it beats paying $26 a board anywhere else. I'd rather have 1 out of 2 boards be alright at that price than pay 4x the price. I started off buying 10 or so boards at a time. Now I've grown to where I need about 50 boards every 3 months (and when I ask for 50 boards they usually say "oh wow"). The place is an hour and a half away, so it makes sense to load up. Two weeks ago I went to load up and they refused to sell to me. They said they didn't have enough for their needs and mine. Told me to check back in a week or so. A week later, they told me they didn't have any, and to check back in "a few weeks." I get the impression they aren't really interested in selling to me anymore. I'd like to keep buying from them, but I may have to look elsewhere.

So I tried to find a lumber mill. Most I can find only deal in hardwoods. But I think I should be able to find some pine mills, especially closer to VA. Still looking for the right one. But I've never ordered from one before, so I'm wondering if I can get a little advice on how it works. Most don't have websites, and just phone numbers, so I don't want to sound like an idiot while talking to them.

Would it be normal to ask for about 50, 1"x12"x12' boards (I could do a different length if needed)? Do saw mills even sell in this type of quantity? Or would I be better off asking for a pallet (is that even the right term) of lumber? If I order by the pallet, can I get it delivered? I only have a ford ranger and a trailer, no fork lift to unload. That's what I figured was limiting me.

How much per bd ft should I be expecting to pay? I realize this depends on green wood, clear, kiln dried, ect. But I don't know what I'm likely to find in the area. Or really what I should be expecting to get.

Thanks for all the help. I'm willing to travel 2 or 3 hours if I have to, to find a good lumber mill. If I can't find a replacement source, this small business is DOA. I can't sustain the profit margins at $26 a board (or $2.15 bd ft, although I think this was kiln dried clear pine).
 

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Steve Wall - in your neighborhood. I have purchased a few times from him. Super, but it looks like $2.20 per BF. walllumber.com

My suggestion is to just call the lumber yard, and sound like you don't know what you are talking about; and listen, or go visit. They are in the lumber business, and you are in the whatever it is business. Don't sweat it just call multiple places. By the time you are through with the first, you will know better what you want.

l'audace, l'audace toujours de l'audace
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Woodnthings:
Thanks for the links. I know of a few others that are closer that don't maintain websites, and alot more in the mountains of NC that I could go to if need be. I imagine that I'll have to call up at least a dozen before I find the right one.

SeanStuart:
I came across Wall's website when I was searching for a saw mill locally. I realize his prices aren't bad, and are very reasonable based on what I've seen elsewhere, but they are still out of my price range.

Most of the saw mills I can find appear to only sell to factories in large quantities, or to homeowners/furniture makers. I'm not a factory, and I don't need furniture grade wood. If I needed furniture grade wood, or perfectly clear, I would gladly pay $2.20 bd ft. But knots, cracts, chips, ect are alright, as I'm just putting bees in the boxes. Some parts require 1"x12" boards, while others require dimensions much less. So I had been taking the boards that are cracked and splitting them in half, and using them on other applications. So it's still useable to me in the cracked, chipped, slightly warped stage. I know it wouldn't be to furniture makers. So that's why I was hoping to find a direct from the mill price less than $1.00 bd ft.

Showing up in person may work for a few of these places, but it won't work for most of them. Most of these mills are scattered throughout the state, if not in other states like VA, SC, and TN. When the west coast of NC is separated from the east coast by about 6 hours of driving, if I had a week to visit these places I would. But I don't. So calling may be the only viable option. And it may be that I have to sit down one afternoon and call a dozen or two mills to see what they say. I already tried calling about 6 or so, and got no where fast, and figured I needed to learn a little bit more about what I should be asking/looking for.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
1. Delaminates too quickly (i.e. doesn't last as long) - already tried using it
2. Not much cheaper than dimensional lumber. Especially when you get the marine plywood that you need, or even exterior 3/4" plywood. Sometimes more expensive.
3. Most of the equipment I make is for resale. Industry standard is 3/4" pine, not plywood. Only the knock off companies use plywood. I don't want to be associated with knock off companies.
 

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Craigslist!

I went on Craigslist in your area and there is about half a dozen listings for pine lumber for sale. I'm sure that either they might have what you want or could cut it for you.

Geoff
 

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i am 350 miles from you,i can saw you all the 1x12x12 you want, around 5-6 hours. I have plenty of big white pine logs
 

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You probably can't beat the price of rough milled pine from a sawyer, but I would think that Extira (brand of exterior MDF) would work awesome for bee supers. sheet goods would be easier for me to store and mill than a bunch of pine boards.
 

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Woodnthings:
Thanks for the links. I know of a few others that are closer that don't maintain websites, and alot more in the mountains of NC that I could go to if need be. I imagine that I'll have to call up at least a dozen before I find the right one.

SeanStuart:
I came across Wall's website when I was searching for a saw mill locally. I realize his prices aren't bad, and are very reasonable based on what I've seen elsewhere, but they are still out of my price range.

Most of the saw mills I can find appear to only sell to factories in large quantities, or to homeowners/furniture makers. I'm not a factory, and I don't need furniture grade wood. If I needed furniture grade wood, or perfectly clear, I would gladly pay $2.20 bd ft. But knots, cracts, chips, ect are alright, as I'm just putting bees in the boxes. Some parts require 1"x12" boards, while others require dimensions much less. So I had been taking the boards that are cracked and splitting them in half, and using them on other applications. So it's still useable to me in the cracked, chipped, slightly warped stage. I know it wouldn't be to furniture makers. So that's why I was hoping to find a direct from the mill price less than $1.00 bd ft.

Showing up in person may work for a few of these places, but it won't work for most of them. Most of these mills are scattered throughout the state, if not in other states like VA, SC, and TN. When the west coast of NC is separated from the east coast by about 6 hours of driving, if I had a week to visit these places I would. But I don't. So calling may be the only viable option. And it may be that I have to sit down one afternoon and call a dozen or two mills to see what they say. I already tried calling about 6 or so, and got no where fast, and figured I needed to learn a little bit more about what I should be asking/looking for.
Have you actually talked to Wall Lumber about the type and quantity of lumber that you want? His web prices are furniture grade wood.

You may be surprised what happens when you actually talk to someone.

George
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Well, I don't know much about Extira, but I do know about beekeeping sales and equipment. While not all of it is logical, it is predictable. The design is over 100 years old, but it's still the standard. 1" wood, usually pine (occasionally cyprus), box joints with recessed handles. There are plenty of other "stronger" joints, better wood designs. But they just don't work. They just don't sell.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Have you actually talked to Wall Lumber about the type and quantity of lumber that you want? His web prices are furniture grade wood.

You may be surprised what happens when you actually talk to someone.

George
Nope. But that's why I started here. My post wasn't about where to buy wood. But how to buy wood.

Based on my last experience, I realized that I might not know the right terminology, the right expectations, or understand the logistics quite right. What I don't want to do is call the guy up and sound like a total ar-tard, and have the guy decide it isn't worth his time to order 600 bd ft of wood for some guy that doesn't know what he's talking about and may end up stiffing him. Not that it's the case, but I don't want to burn bridges by miscommunication before I start.

After my first trip to the pallet co (where I'm buying wood at $0.57 bd ft), I contacted a forrestry service somewhat closer to me. I told them about what I was buying the wood for, how much I was buying it, and where I was buying it from (along with its quality). I then explained to them that the 3 hours of driving cuts into the cost of the wood (both in time and in gas) and I'd be willing to pay a little more per bd ft, if I spend less overall. The guy basically said that $0.57 a bd ft was too good of a deal, and wasn't interested in talking with me anymore. I couldn't get through to him after that. He heard price, and wasn't willing to go further.

Most other places (mostly lumber supply companies) I contact will tell me their 1"x12" boards are $2.20 bd ft. When I try to explain that I don't need clear, or perfect, they basically say "yeah, that's nice, it's $2.20 bd ft." I tried 5 overall before I realized I might be giving some miscommunication.

That's what I'm trying to avoid. I'm not looking to pinch pennies. I'm just looking to maintain appropriate profit margins, while getting reasonable product at regular intervals.
 

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I wish you the best of luck on your venture.. This is my opinion: The people you are considering competing with (Brushy Mountain, et al.) are probably buying wood by the rail car. And from what I have seen, it does not seem to be pine. It is some sort of "white-wood". It is very soft and fuzzy. In addition, they are likely manufactured en-mass in a factory environment. As an individual you will not be able to compete on price/and or volume, and I don't think you would want to. Consider competing on the basis of a superior or unique product. For example a fancy "display" top bar hive will sell for $300 - $500, where a standard Langstroth is under $100. Or some other method of creating a better, or in some way more desirable product.

As a small business owner, you must be dynamic and creative. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Already figured that one out. I can't compete with Mann Lake, Brushy Mountain, or Dadant's prices. Wouldn't want to anyway. I focus more on 5 frame specialty nuc equipment, supplied to local beginners mostly. Although there are other avenues.

I've been able to keep my prices competitive with the big guys, but they use cheaper materials with automated machinery and nearly no labor. The time it takes me to make it compared to them is a fairly large multiple. But it isn't my day job. I do it for fun, and am able to make a large enough profit to be able to pay for my own apiary expansion. Which is all I'm really interested in for the time being, until I get further into queen rearing and nuc production.

But I digress.
 

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I would suggest getting a few contacts and developing a customer/supplier relationship. It doesn't sound like you had much of a relationship with your initial supplier. (the pallet company) Being that they were not in the retail end of selling lumber , it would probably have served you well to have gotten a contact, made arrangements for orders , and calling ahead of time to verify
they had lumber for your order.

Just showing up, without a call ahead, and requesting a lot of lumber really wasn't the ideal strategy for getting your lumber. Sounds like they weren't set up to carry an inventory much above their own short-term needs.

Maybe you can still get a contact there and arrange some type of dialog or informal contract. Talk to the top dog and see if something can be worked out.

Sometimes persistence pays off.

Good luck.
 

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Nope. But that's why I started here. My post wasn't about where to buy wood. But how to buy wood.

Based on my last experience, I realized that I might not know the right terminology, the right expectations, or understand the logistics quite right. What I don't want to do is call the guy up and sound like a total ar-tard, and have the guy decide it isn't worth his time to order 600 bd ft of wood for some guy that doesn't know what he's talking about and may end up stiffing him. Not that it's the case, but I don't want to burn bridges by miscommunication before I start.

After my first trip to the pallet co (where I'm buying wood at $0.57 bd ft), I contacted a forrestry service somewhat closer to me. I told them about what I was buying the wood for, how much I was buying it, and where I was buying it from (along with its quality). I then explained to them that the 3 hours of driving cuts into the cost of the wood (both in time and in gas) and I'd be willing to pay a little more per bd ft, if I spend less overall. The guy basically said that $0.57 a bd ft was too good of a deal, and wasn't interested in talking with me anymore. I couldn't get through to him after that. He heard price, and wasn't willing to go further.

Most other places (mostly lumber supply companies) I contact will tell me their 1"x12" boards are $2.20 bd ft. When I try to explain that I don't need clear, or perfect, they basically say "yeah, that's nice, it's $2.20 bd ft." I tried 5 overall before I realized I might be giving some miscommunication.

That's what I'm trying to avoid. I'm not looking to pinch pennies. I'm just looking to maintain appropriate profit margins, while getting reasonable product at regular intervals.
Talking to people IS one of the important "hows" in purchasing anything.

As others have said you need to have personal contact and develop relations with potential suppliers.

George
 

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How much per bd ft?

12 hour round trip isn't what I had in mind, and costly when you add up the gas. But I'm open to suggestions.
I could saw them for .50 per bd.ft. I know its a drive just keep me in mind if you ever have to travel up this way or you know someone coming up this way I can help you out,i keep some pine logs in stock most of the time
 

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Check out these guys. Red Barn Sawmill and Lumber Company. They are about 150 miles west of you. Matt Williams 704 473-5736. I know they do mill pine and can get it dried. It's a 2 man operation with a band saw mill.
Tom
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
It doesn't sound like you had much of a relationship with your initial supplier. (the pallet company)
Not really.

Being that they were not in the retail end of selling lumber , it would probably have served you well to have gotten a contact, made arrangements for orders , and calling ahead of time to verify
they had lumber for your order.
I had tried that with the pallet co. My contact was the president (probably 10-15 employee company). He didn't seem too interested in being my "contact" though, as each time I showed up it appeared like I was inconveniencing him by trying to buy wood.

When I first started buying from them, they asked for me to call ahead and they would have it ready for me when I came by. I did that the first three times. But each time I showed up (usually the next morning) they had no record that I had asked for X number of boards, nothing was ready, and I usually had to wait about an hour or so for them to find it. I eventually stopped calling by the 4th time, because I figured it didn't matter.

When they started running out, I started talking with the Prez to see if there was something he could do. He basically said he was out, other than what he wanted to keep on hand. I asked if he could order some more, with me pre-paying, to come pick it up later. He said he wasn't interested in doing that. I asked if there was something similar (1"x14", or 1"x12" either longer or shorter than 12'), he said he had some 16' boards, but he wasn't willing to sell them. That's kinda where the conversation ended. I figured they aren't really interested in trying to keep my business, which I understand, as it's not in their business model (although they do have a sign out front "cash and carry lumber"). But whatever. Probably best for both of us if I found a new supplier.
 
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