There are a variety of ways we can all save money when purchasing lumber from the wood store, and any wood store I have dealt with is interested in trying to get you the best value for your money, because they know if they help you save money buying wood, you will be back, again and again, to deal with them so don't discount their help. If you are new to buying wood or new to the wood store the first thing to do is talk to someone at the store, tell them what you are doing and what you are looking for and ASK them for their suggestions ... 

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They might have specials or perhaps they have wood stored in another area that could be part of what you are looking for. It is not unusual for wood stores to have the same species of wood stored in different areas for a variety of reasons, the most common ... being price.

For example, often Quartersawn wood is sold for a slightly higher price that Riftsawn or Flatsawn wood. The reason for this is that during the milling process there is much less Quartersawn material taken than Rift of Flat sawn wood, AND quartersawn is a more desired wood so it often commands a bit higher price. 

Lumber store

Wood stores commonly have "specials" and depending on their size and space constraints, these specials may not be as obvious as we would like. The store will know where they are, we as consumers may not see them so the ASK.

Before you ever arrive at the wood store know what you want and have a list. Know what a board foot is and figure out, as best you can, how many board feet you believe your project will need .. then add 20 to 25 percent more wood to your estimate to account for unforeseen waste shortages.

Selecting lumber

When you make you board foot list, you will want to figure out how many boards you will need that will make up the amount of board feed you will need. When you do this, figure out how many boards you will need for 4 inch, 5 inch and 6 inch wide boards. Wood stores don't always have what we think we need in stock and sometimes we need to take substitutes and you need to be prepared for that or for mixing and matching boards to get the best value for your purchase.

When picking lumber, if you will be selecting quartersawn wood, often this is chosen only for its look or feel, so quartersawn wood is used on furniture tops, or doors or parts that are more visible, the rest of the carcass is made from the less expensive rift and flatsawn boards. If there are to be shelves or drawers, they might even be made for even lesser wood, perhaps even plywood and faced with your feature wood or the boxes of drawers made with a lesser wood like poplar.

Store lumber

 If you are using an amount of quartersawn wood, pick this first because there will often be a smaller amount of this to choose from compared to rift or flat sawn so it will easier to find matching colors once you have your quartersawn in hand.

When it comes to actually picking the wood you need, of course, we all want wood that is as free of defects as possible and a straight and flat as we can find. For some projects that require long straight boards like making doors, this will be critical. For smaller projects, the straightness and flatness can be forgiven somewhat.

When selecting wood, look for the straightest and flattest wood you can find. In many cases, this technique will also help reveal other defects if it is not straight and flat. The knot is wood is a fact of life, and sometimes we can cut around them or otherwise avoid them but if they are huge, it may affect the whole board so best to move on to another.


Watch for cracks, warping and wood that is bent all of these are defects and in many cases can be worked around but all of this accounts for that extra 20 to 25 percent extra wood you will choose to end up with nice straight flat boards that will comprise your project.

Remember that wood is not perfect and part of your role as a woodworker is working with the wood you can afford and that might mean some extra cutting and gluing to achieve what you need. It's all part of the ongoing learning process is a big apart of woodworking.

Copyright Colin Knecht

Buying from the lumber yard