I was just in Melbourn for Christmas. My sister lives there. I hooked up with a guy from Craigs list. I'm getting some great deals. It's local pickup though. I'm about 1200 miles from you. I've grabbed old dressers from someone's drivway. Solid wood. the bottom had got wet. That's big around here. People stick stuff in front of there house they don't want. I got a compressor once. There is some pricey wood on ebay. Maybe look in the yellow pages for a saw mill.
This place is in Charlotte, just south of Lansing, but I know there's gotta be a whole lot of places closer. I think the S.E. Michigan Woodworkers Guild (last word may be Association) has a website/forums that could help you out.
Look for custom millwork shops in your area. I thought there were no hardwood sources in mid Michigan and ultimately found so many I can't believe it. The two main sources for wood are custom cabinet makers and millwork shops. They purchase a by the bunk and I have not found one in my area that was not very willing to sell to area woodworkers. Some let you sort, some don't. In my area there are 6 sources with in 20 miles that I know of. One carries exotics and specialty products, all carry the common species and sizes.
I'm not as familiar with south eastern Michigan but Johnson's in Charlotte is the source for many of the shops in my area. Also there is a Woodcraft store in Canton that has a nice selection of planed hardwoods. I believe its on Ford Road.
You mentioned you use small pieces. Some of the millwork shops I have found will sell what they consider cut offs at half the going rate. I've seen 4/4 Cherry in 36" lengths for a round $3 a board foot.
We also have small Amish saw mills in the area that can be hard to contact since they are not in the book. Another source is your local arborist. I have gotten in touch with a portable saw mill owner through tree trimmers in our area. They plank trees that are being removed and sell the green or air dried hardwood. This can be very inexpensive and sometimes very interesting wood to work with.
In SE Michigan, consider Armstrong Millworks in Hartland. They're on M-59, about 10 miles west of the Pontiac/Oakland Airport. Look for the big barn complex on the south side of the road.
Good folks, great selection of wood. Tons of nice domestics, a good selection of exotics. They'll do a S2S for you right away for just a few bucks extra.
If you go, I'll just give you this heads-up so you're prepared, safety-wise: Lumber selection is self-serve, and the lumber racks are stacked vertically, with the top racks being about 12-15 feet in the air, depending on how much lumber that's stacked in there. They've got those roll-around stairs available to get you up there, however, the top stair is only about 16 inches deep... it can be pretty spooky to pull out a 5/4 x 8 x 10 hardwood board from that height on such a small platform and get it to the floor. An odd combo of strength and balance is necessary.
Other than that, I've heard that Public Lumber at 7 Mile and I-75 carries exotics, though I haven't been there to confirm.
Go to your yellow pages and look up "Hardwoods" and start calling. My local hardwood dealer stocks tons of species. When I went there for the first time, I walked around the barns for about an hour and just checked out what they had. Also, you can get Pine, Oak and Poplar significantly less than you can get it at Home Depot.
Something else you other thrifty guy's probably know about. Home depot and probably the others have a scrap cart. They have cut off pieces for 50 cents $1 - $2. I always check for good stuff. The other day I got 2 pieces of oak plywood about 30"X 48" for 50 cent's each. There's 4'-- 2X4 for 50 cent's. It is mostly 2x4s and stuff like that. Every once in a while you get a good score. They clean up on the weekend, so that's when you need to check. By Tues.-Wed. it's usually cleaned out. A guy that works there gave me the low down.
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