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This why you need to find a local source for wood that is honest and willing to help you pick the right boards for your needs. My lumber guy will spend a hour or so helping me understand the differnce in wood types or what wood work best together. Best of all, if you have a board that turns out to be really stressed he will replace it no question asked.:thumbsup: He is also wiling to sell from 1 bdft to 1000bdft and the coffee is always hot and fresh.
 

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Andrew Close
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this may be a silly question, but how do you go about selecting lumber for a project?

i'm obviously a n00b here. :) i've done several woodworking projects and home improvement/renovation projects, but nothing with really fine wood. i'm used to buying 2x4s and an occasional oak or mahogany board at one of the big box stores.
but i've decided i really want to try some fine woodworking. i have a list of projects a mile long but am starting off with something that i thought would be fairly simple: walnut and maple butcher blocks.

i was planning on making 20" x 12" x 1.5" blocks for Christmas presents this year. i really know nothing about setting up a buying list for a project and how to size properly. this evening i stopped by a lumber yard on the way home from work know that i was going to be picking up rough cut lumber for my project. :) what a shock. it was very cool though. i ended up with one 5/4 hard maple board and 2 5/4 walnut boards. the salesman planed one edge on each board for me.
the butcher blocks will be end-grain blocks, so i'm planning on using my chop saw to cut the 1.5" crosscuts. then i'll glue up the pieces and run them through the table saw; re-glue, re-cut... until i get the pattern i'm looking for. at least i'm hoping it's that easy. :)

so, whenever i get around to my next project, how should i go about selecting wood? looking at the shelves of rough cut lumber at the yard, it looked like you may pick up boards for a project and then end up with a lot of waste. i guess this is something that just takes experience? i suppose any waste could be saved for more butcher blocks. :)

edit:
i suppose i should note that i have a very limited shop and tools. i currently have a very small, portable ryobi tablesaw, a new dewalt 618 router, and a fairly nice rigid mitre saw. i don't have a bandsaw, jointer or planer. so working with rough sawn lumber is a bit intimidating...
 

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this may be a silly question, but how do you go about selecting lumber for a project?
It's not a silly question, but it is a big one. Meaning there are many answers. I'm sure you have the flat and straight part figured out, those are about the only things a wood worker can't fix without alot of extra labor.
It depends on your project. Some guys who come by here to buy lumber only want clear stuff, no knots. Others will dig 1/2 way down the pile to find knots :huh:, they are after "character".
Even in rough sawn after you play with wood enough you can see any pros/cons on a given board (once you are really hooked you can see it in a standing tree :laughing:)
I would look into a planer for sure. They pay for themselves very quickly if you are doing much woodworking at all. You should be getting rough sawn a fair bit cheaper. If you are buying at the Big Box, you are paying a premium for sure for your wood. Find a place to buy it rough for 1/2 that and plane it yourself.
 

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Andrew Close
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thanks for the reply Daren. i didn't think there was really an easy answer to my question. :) i'll have to keep my eyes open for a deal on a planer. you think a planer should be priority over a decent tablesaw? my portable ryobi works fine for small projects, but would be really difficult to deal with even small sheet goods. so i was thinking that a saw upgrade would be my next tool purchase. but i suppose if i can't process the wood i'd like to use, having a nicer saw won't matter. :)
 

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That is kind of a tough call, but if it were me I'd do the saw upgrade first. A good saw is one of the most used/valuable tool in the shop. In the meantime you could look into a local millwork shop, or lumberyard, that will plane it for you. Most of the time they charge an hourly rate based on the equipment being used, and one hour is the base charge. For instance, I had some big walnut slabs (24" x 52") that were rough sawn. I power planed them a bit, then local place charged me $60 to sand both sides of 2. I think they base planing charge was $45. Chicago area may be pricier.

And I'd look for rough cut lumber places that allow you to sort thru a pile - IF you restack neatly. Much better than yards that just sell what's on top of the pile. Once you start buying rough lumber it's really a blast, especially if you pick your own. Recently I got a 15" x 8' curly red oak board if ofund in a pile and it went for the same price as plain old maple. Last week I found 2 curly beech boards - same as regular. It's just fun to dig around seeing what you can find. And you can pick widths that give you the best usage.
 

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Andrew Close
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Boardman, the lumber shot i went to, OWL Hardwoods, lets you pick through the piles/stacks. it was a very cool experience, especially for someone who has only bought boards at Menards. :)
they had a slab of African Mahogany that was ~2" thick, ~4' wide, and ~15' tall! wow! and a cross section of a Bubinga trunk that was about 2" thick and maybe 4.5' in diameter! aside from all the other interesting exotics, purpleheart, zebrawood, they had the standards. it was very cool.
it's hard for the inexperienced woodworker to see the savings of buying rough cut lumber, but only because i haven't really spent much time pricing it out. i'll have to stop by the finished hardwoods next time i'm in Menards and check out some of the prices for comparison.

my dad has a jointer and planer that i can make use of, but he's an hour away. :) i suppose i could always buy wood and take it to his place for processing when i visit. OWL will plane the boards for a price, so that's an option as well.

i'm just gonna have to start playing the lottery so i can build a proper shop and stock it with tools. ;)
 

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It's not necessarily cheaper to buy rough lumber. You still have to pay to joint and thickness, you're just changing where the dollars go. If you don't do a lot of work, it's probably quite a bit cheaper to pay to have it done. In fact, I think you'd find that many shops buy their wood at least surfaced two sides with a straight edge.

Now if you need thick lumber, like 12/4, or you're doing fine furniture, then it makes sense to resaw and dimension your own wood. But for the occasional woodworker, I think you'd find that it takes a lot of projects to fiscally justify the machines, maintenance, time, space and electricity.

Now of course there is the intangible aspect of having your own machines and doing your own work and there's nothing wrong with that.
 

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aclose - yeah, I've heard OWL is a good place to go in the Chicago area. And it definitely sound like you've been bitten by the woodworking bug! Menards prices on oak really aren't bad due to the volume they buy - I think it figures out to about $3bf. But it's not necessarily flat material. Their walnut is steamed and looks awful - dull and uniform. Most of their maple is soft maple, which really isn't much "softer" than hard maple, but it's not as white as hard maple.

PK's right in the sense that the savings aren't something you see in the short run. And just about all woodworkers start out by getting the essentials like a TS and then adding equipment as they can afford them - I did.

As you get more into woodworking and have all the equipment though, it does allow you to get your lumber from local sawmills, where there are sunstantial savings over retail places. Menards or places like Rockler sell 3/4" lumber which is somewhat flimsy for some furniture applications. If I buy 1" rough sawn I can usually finish it at 7/8" or even better.

And there are good savings around. Yesterday I got 110bf of beautiful Iowa walnut from a guy who made a run up to the Twin Cities. $3bf and it was skip planed already. Stuff like that. You'll get to be a pro at jumping on "deals" you find as you go. Just saw an ad on the internet for rough sawn red oak at $1.10bf, for example.
 

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When I pick lumber for a project, I try to find boards that are close to the same grain pattern. If I can't find enough boards with close grains patterns then I buy thicker slabs and have it resawed to get true bokmatched patterns.
 
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