Info on buying wood/lumber (common types, sizes, costs)
May 11, 2017 11:58 AM   Subscribe

What's the best online resource that presents all this info well (like maybe even in a single table on a page) (US based, so imperial units and US$): (1) most common types of lumber for softwood, hardwood, and plywood, (2) nominal and actual sizes, (3) average/ballpark costs (and I'm more focused on woodworking than home construction)

I know that #1 and #2 are not too difficult to find (although often not on the same spreadsheet) but I'd really like to know general costs as well.
posted by gwint to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to find a lumberyard that has a decent website and look around. Check out this page of terminology and the price sheets on this page for Highland Hardwoods in New Hampshire.
posted by bondcliff at 12:06 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have found that it's very hard to find this information. Most wood yards are still operating the same way they did 50 years ago. You show up, look around, ask what stuff costs.

The one near me has an online catalog but it's just a PDF and no price

On the plus side, if you show up and start talking to someone, they will help you out. They'll lead you towards stuff in your price range, answer questions, etc. If you're a little socially awkward like I am, this is kind of daunting, but I got over it and it wasn't too bad.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:16 PM on May 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've had good luck mail ordering from Dunham Hardwoods.
posted by H21 at 2:01 PM on May 11, 2017

For softwoods, there's not a great deal to learn. The easiest thing to do is go to your local Home Depot where you'll see and can measure the actual vs nominal dimensions of what's available to you. Keep in mind that this wood has rounded corners, so that will need to be planed off as well. Most softwood lumber in the NE is referred to as SPF, meaning it could be either spruce, pine or fir. In the southern states, I hear they get southern yellow pine and out west Douglas fir. If you're doing woodworking with softwood, you won't want to use the smaller dimensioned stuff because it's from smaller trees and full of knots. Go look through the 12" joists and you'll find some with large clear sections. You can buy clear 1" (actually 3/4") thick boards too. When talking about hardwood, there's a different measuring system for thickness. It's measured in quarter inches, so when you want an inch thick board, you ask about "4 quarter" boards - written 4/4. One and a half inches is 6/4. Again, whats available will depend where you live. You'll have to phone around or join a woodworking forum or Facebook group to find good sources.

If you're getting into woodworking, keep in mind that a small amount of cupping twist may substantially reduce the useable thickness of the piece you're working with, so the thickness you buy will need to account for that.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:32 AM on May 14, 2017

But as a note if you are buying prepared hardwood, like, jointed and planed, 4/4 is going to be 3/4" not 1". The dimensions listed are the dimension before surface preparation. It's most common for the prepared product to just be 1/4" thinner than listed but I don't know if that's universal.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:07 PM on May 14, 2017

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