american hardwoods

What Factors Affect Hardwood Lumber Prices?

 

The price of hardwood lumber can vary based on many factors. The answer to a question that seems straight-forward (e.g., “how much is a board of ipe?”) actually depends on a number of variables, some of which we’ll go over here.

How much are you buying?

Most of the labor involved in filling an order is in finding it, pulling it, and transporting it around the warehouse. That combined labor takes about the same amount of time regardless of how much you buy. Therefore, you’ll typically get a better price on a large order compared to a small one.

What size do you need?

Obviously, standard size boards are going to be cheaper. Since lumber is a natural product, its size is going to be limited by the size and shape of the trees it comes from. Longer or wider boards may cost you more, depending on the species. For example, wide walnut is very hard to come by and you can expect to pay a premium for it, but wide poplar or oak are more readily available and won’t cost you much more.

Where does it come from?

Transportation is a major cost in the lumber industry. Domestic woods that grow in your local area are going to incur much less transportation cost than exotics shipped halfway around the world. If the lumber has to cross several national borders, you’ll probably be paying for inspection and fees at each border as well. The political climate in the countries the lumber is sourced from also affects the price. For instance, if you’re buying an African species, it may have to be transported through countries that are undergoing civil wars, making transportation risky and more expensive.

When do you want it?

Some hardwoods are more in demand during certain seasons.  For instance, any kind of hardwood decking is going to be expensive in summer, when everyone wants to build a deck.  Buying in the off-season can save you money, although you have to factor in lower availability.  

What’s the weather? 

Species that come from places with rainy seasons are generally harvested during the drier parts of the year, not year-round, so supply can vary throughout the year and the time of year that you buy them affects the price. If there has been an unseasonably long wet season, this can affect both the availability and price of the product. As responsible stewards of the land being harvested, operations typically work around the rainy season. Cypress lumber is harvested from very wet areas and is especially dependent on a dry season for harvesting. 

What quality do you need?

Lumber is a natural product, with knots, defects and natural characteristics that influence the grade of each piece of lumber. Each log is produces a combination of higher and lower grade lumber. If you want to buy only the part of the lumber that is only the highest quality and grade, this increases the price. If you are able to use a product with knots and defects, the lumber price will be lower. 

This is when it is important to know what lumber grade best suits your project.  Learn more about lumber grades. 

How is the lumber price being quoted?

As we’ve discussed in the past, lumber pricing can be quoted either net tally or gross tally. The price per board foot is different for net and gross because each counts the volume of lumber differently.  

Learn more about net tally and gross tally. 

Hardwood Lumber Pricing is Influenced by Many Factors

The price of hardwood lumber varies by the size of your order, the length and width you require, the country of origin, the season in which you’re purchasing it, the grade you need, and even the weather. If you’re not sure what you need, talk to your trusted supplier. 

Contact a trusted hardwood distributor is your area. 

 

 

 

The Rise of Alder – A Wood Highlight of Alder Lumber

What is Alder?

Only 20 years ago, no one had heard of this hardwood lumber from the Pacific Northwest called alder. These days, alder is a popular choice for many hardwood applications, with demand for alder lumber reflecting this new popularity.

Red alder is the most common hardwood tree growing in the Pacific Northwest. Through a proactive campaign of education, marketing, and creative use, alder is now a highly sought after hardwood throughout both the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

What is Alder Wood Used For?

Most of the higher grade lumber is used for furniture, cabinetry, and turned products. Alder is also used in doors, millwork, decorative woodwork, carvings, and edge-glued panels.

Alder dries to an even honey tone and can be finished to resemble more expensive fine-grained species. There is little color variation between the heartwood and sapwood, making alder also ideal for light or natural finishes. Alder’s popularity continues to grow among fine furniture and cabinetry makers worldwide.

Why Are Alder Grades Different?

Most companies that produce or sell large quantities of alder use a proprietary grading system to address some of the unique qualities of alder lumber. Alder lumber is marketed in over 20 distinct grades. It is often marketed for the furniture and cabinet industry and successfully competes in paneling and pallet stock markets. Similar to typical NHLA grades, yield and clear cuttings are part of most alder grade determinations. In addition, alder grades take into account the character marks allowed in the wood. Pin knots are common and not considered a defect.

What Are the Typical Sizes of Alder Lumber?

Alder trees are naturally smaller than many other commercially desirable hardwood trees. This is reflected in the more limited widths and lengths of alder lumber. Most alder lumber ranges in length between 6 feet and 12 feet, with the majority either 8 or 10 feet long. Most available lumber is 4/4 and 5/4, with some 6/4 and 8/4 stock available in more limited quantities.

Proprietary grading addresses the more limited sizes of alder lumber whichtill allows users to utilize alder in the best manner possible.

What Are the Characteristics of Alder Wood?

Alder has an excellent reputation for machining and is also a desirable wood for turning. Alder can be nailed without splitting or screwed without pre-drilling. It glues well and can be sanded to a smooth finish. Alder is evenly textured, with a subdued grain pattern, and has a moderate weight and hardness.

Because of its uniform, small pore structure and consistency of color, alder is a preferred wood for finishing. It accepts a variety of stain types and can be successfully substituted for other woods when properly colored stains are applied. When finished natural, it has a warm honey color.
More Information on Alder:

Learn more about alder lumber.

Find a distributor near you.

Learn more about alder, the tree.

 

Wood Highlight: American Walnut

Walnut – A Timeless Hardwood Choice

Walnut, a popular, widely available hardwood, has a straight grain and varies in color from a yellow sapwood to a rich, deep brown heartwood. Black Walnut, the most common variety, is grown in the eastern hardwood forests, while English Walnut is grown in California. Walnut is the only dark brown domestic wood.

Common Uses for Walnut

Walnut is a popular choice for furniture, flooring, and countertops, as well as small projects. It is also used in gunstocks because it withstands heavy recoil and does not warp. Many high quality early American furniture was made of walnut. Today, walnut is a favored choice for live edge tables.

walnutwoodgrainWood Properties of Walnut

Walnut is quite strong, with a score of 1010 on the Janka scale—comparable to cherry. It is moderately heavy and hard and has a fine, open grain, which is generally straight, although it can be irregular. Color can vary widely, even across the same board, from yellow sapwood to deep chocolate brown heartwood. Walnut dries slowly, with little shrinkage.  Its rich patina and luster improve with age. Walnut has a high resistance to decay, although it is vulnerable to insect damage. While it still compares favorably in price to exotics, walnut is one of the most expensive domestic hardwoods.

walnutwoodenlampWoodworking with Walnut

Walnut is quite easy to work with as long as it has a straight, regular grain (which it typically does). It works easily with hand and machine tools and nails, screws, and glues well. Walnut also holds stain well and polishes nicely.  It is excellent for turning or carving and responds well to steam bending. If less color variation is desired, walnut can be steamed to match the sapwood to the heartwood.

Cool Facts about Walnut

Walnut tree roots release juglone, a toxin that kills other plants growing above them.

Dogs can become ill after eating the husks from black walnuts.

Early American colonists exported walnut wood to England as early as 1610.

The Splinter Wooden Supercar

Since the Essen Motor Show in December 2015, the wooden supercar known as “The Splinter” has been making news and creating quite the buzz. This special supercar debut was unlike any other… this supercar is made of wood.

“The Splinter” is a high-performance sports car that took a team led by Joe Harmon five years to create. Harmon started the project as a graduate project while completing his master’s degree in engineering at North Carolina State University.

Why Make a Supercar Out of Wood?

Harman has said that the Splinter was a result of his lifelong love of automobiles and his desire to use wood in ways that would push its perceived limitations. “It has been a dream of mine to design and build my own car since I was a kid. Wood provided an additional challenge that we thought might move the project into an interesting direction,” he explained in an interview.

IMG_0328

He also wanted to make a statement about the amazing qualities of wood. Wood is our only naturally renewable building material. Wood takes an extraordinarily small amount of energy to produce and is totally biodegradable.  On the official website he explains that with wood has a better strength-to-weight ratio than steel and aluminum. “Wood can be made into a lot more things than people tend to give it credit for.”

What Parts of the Splinter Aren’t Wood?

The exotic machine is powered by a Chevrolet LS7 engine and other than that and the drive train, gauges, fasteners, tires and rims, the car is made almost entirely of wood composites.  A six-speed manual transmission, and six-piston caliper brakes up front and two-piston calipers in the rear complete most of the critical non-wood parts of the vehicle.

How Much Wood is in the Splinter Supercar?

The Splinter is estimated to be 90% wood. From the mostly wood-based chassis to the steering system, wood composites are the highlight of this vehicle. The steering system uses multi-piece wooden tie rods made of hickory. A series of bent and molded laminates make up the entire body.

IMG_2518The compound curvature of the exterior was achieved by weaving strips of veneer made from cherry skins and end grain balsa into a cloth using two looms designed by the build team specifically for the project. A wide variety of glues were used to keep all of the wood pieces together, including epoxy, urethane, urea formaldehyde, and polyvinyl acetate.

 

“We talked about it and decided that a leaf spring was nothing more than a bigger, stiffer version of a longbow, so we researched bow making and came upon a wood called Osage orange,” Harmon says. “It’s the strongest wood found in North America, and it has properties that make it excellent for use in longbows.”

How Did They Make the Wooden Wheels?

Each Splinter wheel has 275 different wooden pieces. Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires sit on three-piece forged aluminum rims with laminated wood centers made from rotary-cut oak veneer, covered by a walnut sunburst on the outside face and a cherry sunburst on the inside.

SplinterWheel

How Was The Splinter Made?

To achieve Harmon’s goal of a fully fluid body surface, the team had to invent a wood veneer cloth to use in place of more usual glass-fiber or carbon-fiber weaves. That meant designing and developing specific looms, acquiring rolls of veneer five inches wide, slitting it into bands sixty feet long and an eighth- or a quarter-inch wide, weaving it into cloth to place in female molds, and then vacuum bagging it with epoxy resin. Those looms-wood, of course-are works of art, using wooden clothespins machined to feed veneer strips through their jaws. With too much tension, they slipped; if there wasn’t enough tension, rubber bands attached to the clothespins compensated. It was wonderfully elegant, wonderfully simple.

Why is The Splinter So Fast?

Harmon said the entire car weighs an estimated 1,360 kg and because it’s made of wood he claims it boasts a better strength-to-weight ratio than steel and aluminum. While it wasn’t built specifically as a performance machine, he pointed out that the combination of the Splinter’s weight, shape, gearing and power could mean it’s capable of reaching speeds of up to 386 km/h. However, the car is unlikely to be put to the test in this regard.

What Inspired the Splinter Supercar?

This project was inspired by a WWII airplane called the “de Havilland Mosquito.” Made almost entirely out of wood, the plane was equipped with two Rolls-Royce V12 engines and was supposedly the fastest piston-driven plane of its era.

 

To learn more about this project:

Watch this feature by Inventing the World.

 

Visit the official website of Joe Harmon Design.

Following the early construction process.

Is Thermally Modified Hardwood Lumber Here To Stay?

Thermally modified hardwood may represent an up-and-coming contender to compete with treated wood and composite products. Thermally treated wood boasts advantages over both.

The question remains whether this product will be adopted by consumers. The process is not well understood by those outside of the wood industry. There is even confusion and misconceptions among woodworkers. Lack of understanding is a major barrier to entry into the markets. The success of this product will be heavily dependent on overcoming that barrier and helping users interested in thermally modified hardwood.

The American Hardwood Export Council recognizes thermal modification as a developing market with great potential for American hardwood producers. There are various species that can be successfully treated such as – ash, soft maple, tulip poplar, red oak, yellow birch and hickory. Appearance of

Thermally Modified Hardwood Piques Consumer Interest

The darker wood tones created by the treatment process for thermally modified wood resemble some exotic hardwoods. Designers and consumers alike have been drawn to being able to obtain this dark mocha color without having to apply a wood stain. In addition, having a wood grain choice other
than spruce, pine, and fir, is a refreshing change.

Exterior Performance of Thermally Modified Wood Holds Up

Thermally modified hardwood has similar physical properties to traditional wood choices. Thermally modified wood strength is on par with the same species that has not been thermally modified. You can cut, drill, nail and screw thermally modified wood the same as traditional wood. There are also no special fasteners required with thermally modified wood, but you can use a hidden deck fastener system if you wish.
The story of thermally modified hardwood is a good one – now we just need to do a good job of telling it.
Learn More About What Thermally Modified Wood Can Be Used For.

American Cherry: Stunning for Centuries

Cherry has long been used for traditional heirloom furniture and other collectables. And these days, you can see cherry used in a wide variety of other applications as well. It is often used in architectural joinery, furniture, cabinets, flooring and musical instruments.

American cherry has superior woodworking qualities. It is light, yet strong, relatively stiff, and rather hard. Dimensionally stable once dried, Cherry turns well, is easily machined and also works beautifully with hand tools. The wood can be easily glued and holds screws well.

The smooth texture and satiny grain stains beautifully with exceptional results. Cherry’s color darkens with age and exposure to direct sunlight. A newly completed project may often be mistakenly identified as another wood because it appears much lighter than expectations.

To see some more beautiful ways that American cherry is used, you can view all of the cherry photos in the gallery of wood.

 

 

Tips for Buying Hardwood Lumber through a Distributor or Lumberyard

 

Are you planning your first visit to buy lumber? Once you’ve decided to go beyond buying lumber at a home center, there’s some major differences to be aware of when buying lumber at a lumberyard or distributor.

Lumberyards and distribution centers have come a long way, offering a wide variety of wood species, thicknesses, grades and machining options. Here are some pointers for how to buy lumber at a distributor or lumberyard.

 

 

THICKNESS

When buying hardwoods, you won’t see lumber thickness marked in inches, but instead the convention is to use a measurement in quarters. For example, a 1 inch thick board is typically written as 4/4.

One thing to keep in mind is that lumber is sawn and then dried so the board that started out 4/4 inches will be closer to 7/8” (.875 inches) – and that thickness is before any type of surfacing is done.


BOARD FOOT

A board foot is the unit of volume used to measure hardwoods. Since hardwoods are sold in a variety of lengths, widths and thicknesses, it is simpler to have a kind of measure that can account for all of those variables at once, like volume.

12” long x 12” wide x 1” thick = 144 cubic inches

Calculate a Board Foot
   special thanks to American Woodworker for this image.

Armed with a tape measure, calculator and this knowledge, you can tackle any board foot calculation on the spot. But what happens the day you leave the shop and forget your calculator? Use this woodworker rule of thumb:  4/4 board, 8 ft. Long and 6” Wide = 4 Board Feet


GRADE

For someone just beginning to purchase hardwood lumber, lumber grades can be overwhelming. Most lumber companies use the generally accepted grading rules set by the National Hardwood Lumber Association. Grades are based on the amount of usable clear material in a board. The highest grade boards are FAS and Select, followed by #1 Common and #2 Common. What grade you choose depends on your project. Some projects, such as tabletops and high quality furniture, may dictate the highest grade available. Many other projects are just as easily adapted to #1 Common (often referred to as cabinet grade) – kitchen cabinet doors, smaller projects and items where some character is acceptable.

For a full illustrated guide to the various grades:
http://www.ahec.org/hardwoods/pdfs/IllustratedGradingGuide.pdf

MILLING SERVICES

Rough lumber is rarely flat or straight. Milling your own can save you some money but it will take time, equipment and a strong back. It can be beneficial to look into what milling options your distributor can offer.

Most yards will offer the following milling services:

–       Rip one edge of a rough board straight (called SL/E, Straight-Line Edge)

–       Plane both faces lightly by taking approx. 1/16” off the surface (called Hit-and-Miss)

–       Plane both faces, leaving no little wood with rough cut marks, removing approx.. 1/8” of thickness (called S2S, Surfaced Two Sides)

–       Mill both faces and edges (called S4S, Surfaced Four Sides).

There are typically varying costs added to the price of rough lumber to cover the additional milling. Depending on your situation, these added costs may save you money in the long run through saved labor, faster lead times and a reduction in equipment needs.

Types of Wood: Comparing American Hardwoods, Softwoods and Tropical Hardwoods

Wood products are known for their natural beauty, but when selecting a type of wood for your next cabinetry, flooring, furniture or millwork project, it is important to also consider the level of durability by understanding the difference between wood types. Each type and species of wood has an individual cellular structure that creates unique physical properties that determine suitability for different uses. For example, the hardness of woods varies widely, so certain hardwood species are not recommended for flooring because they are not hard enough to withstand heavy wear and tear.

The following offers a brief comparison of American hardwoods, softwoods and tropical hardwoods and their appropriate applications:

American Hardwoods
Hardwoods are deciduous trees that have broad leaves, produce a fruit or nut and generally go dormant in the winter. North America’s forests grow hundreds of varieties that thrive in temperate climates, including red oak, white oak, ash, cherry, hard maple, hickory and poplar.  For a more detailed list of commercially available woods in the United States, refer to our species guide. Each species can be crafted into durable, long-lasting furniture, cabinetry, flooring, millwork and more. Each offers unique markings with variation in grain pattern, texture and color.

Softwoods
Softwoods or conifers, from the Latin word meaning “cone-bearing,” have needles rather than leaves. Widely available U.S. softwood trees include cedar, fir, hemlock, pine, redwood and spruce. In a home, softwoods primarily are used as structural lumber such as 2x4s and 2x6s, with limited decorative applications. Woods such as white pine and cypress do break those rules and are treated in the lumber industry similar to hardwoods.

Tropical Hardwoods
Tropical Hardwoods, including mahogany, rosewood, teak and cocobolo, are not native to North America. They grow in the tropical forests of the world and are imported for use in the United States. Many tropical hardwoods are used for exterior applications where outdoor durability is important. However, many tropical hardwoods are also be used for interior applications, including flooring and woodworking projects. The color, grain pattern, hardness and luster of many imported woods differ from those of American hardwoods.

Visit the Species Comparison Guide to determine what woods would best suit your project needs.

Facebook Gooble+ Pinterest YouTube

Newsletter Sign Up