A common woodworking question is, “Where should I buy my material?” This is a great question. Home centers are not always the answer. Hardwood suppliers are often a better source for material for your woodworking projects.
Once you start shopping for and using hardwood suppliers instead of home centers for your project material, you’ll find a lot of differences between the two. Hardwood suppliers generally offer a lot of services, such as planing and straight line cutting, a broader array of material, higher quality products, and a much bigger variety of sheet goods. There’s a significant difference between hardwood suppliers and lumber yards.
There are a variety of approaches you can use to find a hardwood/sheet stock source in your area. As you talk to other woodworkers about sourcing these materials (including cabinet shops in your area), you should also explore the idea of combining orders. This means a handful of woodworkers splitting an order, which can help keep costs down.
What they’ll sell
Specific products carried by a hardwood supplier will vary from location to location. But you’ll most likely be amazed by the options you get. From melamine to Baltic Birch to cabinet grade plywood to furniture grade pine, there are SO many more possibilities than what home centers offer.
Hardwood suppliers will talk in terms of Select and Better, #1 Common, First and Seconds…Before your first purchase be sure you understand the ins and outs of lumber grading.
Learning about lumber
There’s a lot to know about the materials that go into your woodworking projects. You should understand characteristics of species, kiln drying vs air drying, types of sheet goods, and more. WoodWorkers Guild of America can help you. We have great information covering understanding wood and its characteristics.
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There are also small local sawmills that produce hardwood boards but may have a smaller selection of species depending on what logs were available. Some will cut and kiln dry upon demand instead of having a selection to choose from.
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Another thing to consider is that the hardwood supplier is NOT likely to be a big corporation. (At least, that has been my experiences!) That’s right folks. You would be helping a locally owned business.