10 Ways to Save Money When Purchasing Lumber

Who doesn’t want to save some money when purchasing wood? Here are ten tips to help reduce the cost of purchasing lumber without reducing the quality of your wood working project.

1. Build less visible parts from lower cost woods.

Hidden parts of the project do not need to be built out of the same wood as the visible parts. For example, drawer bodies, drawer supports, spaces, and shelves can be built out of less expensive wood such as poplar or plywood.

2. Buy shorter boards.

Many hardwood dealers specialize in ‘first and seconds’ and ‘select’ grades of lumber. To meet this requirement boards must be six or eight feet long. The short boards are typically of the same or better grade as the higher grades. They usually sell for 30 percent less than the ‘first and seconds’ price.
Recalculate your materials list to take advantage of shorter boards or boards that have imperfections such as rough grain or knots.

3. Buy lower grades of lumber.

Below the ‘first and seconds’ and select are the #1 and #2 common. These boards are narrower and yield fewer clear cuts. They typically sell for 30 percent less then the premium lumber.
You might have additional waste; however, with some extra effort you can reuse the scrape wood in the project or in a future project. If nothing else, small scrape hard wood makes for nice fuel in the fire place.

4. Form a buying group.

Pooling the lumber needs of several woodworking buddies into a single purchase, you can take advantage of volume price discounts without having to purchase all of the lumber yourself. Now, the interesting part will be determining what each person’s share of the order. The volume discount might well be worth the extra effort to calculate each person’s share.

5. Shop the sales.

Woodworkers love their lumber. Yet to a dealer, it is just another product that needs to be sold and inventory managed. Hardwood dealers will sometimes offer clearance or overstock sales to move inventory that has been sitting on the racks too long.
This will require you to plan out your projects in advance with material lists. You don’t want to go and buy a bunch of lumber just because it is on sale. Well, you might want to. But your spouse may not approve.

6. Use proper board storage.

When lumber is stored properly it reduces the risk of warping and splitting. This will let you hold on to the discount lumber purchases for a long time. The proper way to store lumber is on a lumber rack horizontally. Stack the boards carefully on strong horizontal supports that form a flat shelf.

7. Buy rough cut lumber.

If you have a bench top planer and don’t mind planning up the boards this is a great way to save some money. Having access to a 6 inch wide joiner will really help in producing clean, square edges.
What to do with all of the planer shavings? They make great mulch and also compost well in the compost bin.

8. Strike up a friendship with a local cabinet maker.

Consider purchasing their scrapes for a substantial discount. Most professional cabinet makers and millwork shops produce more scrape lumber in a week that a hobbyist would use in a year.
Build a good relationship with them and you might be able to order wood through him at a discount.

9. Get the most from every board.

Work around knots and grain imperfections to maximize the wood usage. If one side of the board has imperfections such as rough cut markings use it in the project where only one side is seen. I have built several drawer carcasses where the back board one side is smooth and pretty and the other has rough cut markings. Since no one is going to see the very back side of the drawer it does not bother me.

10. Consider counterfeiting.

With the right stain it is possible to make less expensive species look like more expensive. Alder or birch makes a great cherry. Ash makes a great substitute for oak. Soft maple looks almost like hard maple. Soft maple is a misnomer. It is a very hard wood.
About six years ago for Christmas I made a dozen cutting board from 3/4 inch thick soft maple. The cutting boards are holding up nicely. I expect them to last another ten plus years.