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View DTrak's profile

purchasing wood by the board foot

by DTrak
posted 08-05-2016 07:14 PM


25 replies so far

View joey502's profile

joey502

558 posts in 2053 days


#1 posted 08-05-2016 07:36 PM

Board foot is a volumetric measurement. Length x width x thickness. 1 board foot is 1’x1’x1” =144 cubic inches. For example a board (in the rough) 1” thick x 6” wide x 96” long is 576 cubic inches (1×6x96), 4 board feet (576/144 =4bf).

The lumber industry measures volume, the box store is the people changing the quanity price to linear feet.

Without knowing the dimensions of the boards you are buying it is very difficult to judge how much to buy. 2 boards that are 6bf each may not yield the same number of parts that your project call for. I have never ordered lumber online so i do not know how much info they will give you about the boards you are getting.

View joey502's profile

joey502

558 posts in 2053 days


#2 posted 08-05-2016 07:42 PM

Where do you live? Maybe someone near you can recommend a local source where you can measure and handle the lumber you are considering.

I buy locally from a small mill. I have a rough drawing of the parts i need to cut and then pick boards that will yield those parts, then i add another board to yeild the parts i have to remake due to my errors. The price is calculated based on the number of board feet i have selected

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

2988 posts in 1757 days


#3 posted 08-05-2016 07:45 PM

Yes, buying on-line means you usually cannot choose the widths of the boards you want. This makes it tough to plan projects.
Some on-line vendors are happy to let you specify minimum widths so as long as you account for plenty of ‘waste’, you usually can get what you need. Keep in mind that for smaller quantities, vendors will usually ship UPS, which has big shipping cost jumps for packages over 4’ in length.

Best bet is to go to a local hardwood lumber yard where you usually get to select from a stack (bring a cut list with you!). For exotics (like Purple Heart), find a place that lets you specify general minimum dimensions or cough up a few more $ per bf. for places like Cook’s that actually have a photograph of each board.

View AandCstyle's profile

AandCstyle

3222 posts in 2792 days


#4 posted 08-05-2016 10:35 PM

Dtrak, I have only ordered wood sight unseen once, but it was a very positive experience. I emailed my plans to Michael at McKinney Hardwoods along with my additional requirements and concerns. We worked together to get the best lumber for me and to minimize shipping cost. I ended up buying 100 bdft when I only needed 60 bdft, but that brought the total cost down to about the same as I would have paid locally but the quality was way better. I would do this again if/when the need arises. I have used the extra for subsequent projects except for 1 special board I am saving for a special project yet to be identified. If you are within 1000 miles of Dallas, contact Michael.

-- Art

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

10859 posts in 2021 days


#5 posted 08-05-2016 11:18 PM

They can charge by the lineal foot when they purchase s4s in bulk.

a lumberyard probably sells many times more furniture lumber than a box store does.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View DTrak's profile

DTrak

69 posts in 1632 days


#6 posted 08-06-2016 12:05 AM

Thanks all. Good points. I do need to look into local lumbar yards. So far I have only needed to buy small quantities, so the confusion over the board feet and shipping costs from online places have also hurt me. Seeing everything in person would help a lot. At least when possible. I imagine there may be times when I am looking for something I can only find online.

View JBrow's profile

JBrow

1368 posts in 1455 days


#7 posted 08-06-2016 01:05 AM

DTrak,

For a while, I mail ordered hardwood lumber from Niagara Lumber, East Aurora, NY, in the1990s. In addition, they offered one straight edge and hit or miss planing for additional charges. They are still in business, which is no surprise since in my experience they consistently furnished quality lumber that I probably would have selected myself. I do not recall ever receiving boards that I could not use; and I found all my project pieces somewhere in the stack. I really like the convenience of this style of ordering. However when mail ordering you do give up the ability to select those just right boards.

Upon completing project plans, I determine the number of board feet I need for the project for each thickness required, add my allowance for “waste”, and then, knowing the total amount required, get the wood.

First I do a volume calculation based on the actually final dimensions of each project piece. This represents the absolute minimum amount of lumber needed. I then decide how much more than the absolute minimum I should buy. I consider things such as milling waste, larger rough cut projects pieces, planer snip and end checking, potential mistakes that could require re-making a part, etc. I then consider the lumber grade; higher grades yield more clear-cut stock than the lower grades. Generally I have found a 20% allowance is about right for lumber graded Select and Better (over 83% clear-cut stock per board). As a result, I acquire about 120% of the absolute minimum board feet needed for the project for each thickness. Depending on how well the project goes together, I may end up with a board or two that was not needed, but which can be used on a later project.

View DTrak's profile

DTrak

69 posts in 1632 days


#8 posted 08-06-2016 01:16 AM

JBrow,
That works for calculating total board ft, but if you request just that amount, they might give you what you need in total, but some boards might be too short. So then you have to tell them some specific lengths you need as well as the board ft, right?

View JBrow's profile

JBrow

1368 posts in 1455 days


#9 posted 08-06-2016 03:38 AM

DTrak,

I assume you are speaking about sight unseen lumber purchases. If so, yes you can take that approach; mail order the number of board feet and specify a minimum length. Since I have not specified minimum lengths, I cannot say whether a mail order will perform this service and/or whether an upcharge would apply.

I am not sure whether you could specify exact sizes and quantities in those sizes. The complexity of selecting boards of a given width and length to fill your order may be more than a mail order company could handle. If this is your approach, I would think it better to visit a local hardwood dealer and select the lumber yourself. But checking with the mail order dealer is just a phone call.

Since most of my projects require a mix of long and short boards, as long as I can find enough long boards for the long parts, the shorter boards are put to good use and the project is completed based only on the board foot calculation. But if the project requires lumber no shorter than 6’, receiving anything less than 6’ could not be used. Therefore it seems the answer to question depends a lot on the project and the mix of lumber in the mail order. Determining exactly what mix of lengths make up a typical order can only be answered with a few phone calls. If the answer is unsatisfactory, a trip to the local hardwood dealer is the alternative.

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5553 posts in 2886 days


#10 posted 08-06-2016 04:30 AM

Board foot is the industry standard and it works better than lineal feet when dealing with wood that is bought and used in any number of thicknesses. The lineal foot system is dumbed down for home owners who are only dealing with one thickness. When you buy from a dealer you need to specify thickness, minimum widths and lengths than add some extra for waste, and you will pay by the board foot.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

1872 posts in 2851 days


#11 posted 08-06-2016 05:25 AM

It’s easier if you’re actually buying large quantities for commercial usage. Typically you just calculate the amount of BF needed for a project, add 20% to that number to account for waste, then order. My supplier also allows me to specify minimum width and length if I deem that necessary.

So in a typical order I might request 500BF of 4/4 maple in nominal 8ft lengths. They’ll send all 8-footers but the widths are random ranging from 3 to 15 inches. Another order might be 100bf of 6/4, rift-sawn red oak with at least 4 boards at a minimum of 6” width and 12ft long.

Of course if you’re going to make the supplier manually pick though the lumber pile, expect to see an upcharge.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View Robert's profile

Robert

3553 posts in 2015 days


#12 posted 08-06-2016 11:18 AM

I generally go to the supplier beforehand to see what nominal widths/lengths they have in stock. I’m usually also looking for rough stock if they have it, but that’s hit or miss because most suppliers are catering to millworks and cabinet shops.

Then I go back and figure my cutlist. (Then hope someone hasn’t hauled the whole stack out on a forklift by the time you get back ;-)

I think you need to figure your project off a cutlist, not by total BF. I think some times you can do it by BF, but I get in less trouble using a cutlist. BTW, I always add 20%.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View jmalcolm001's profile

jmalcolm001

20 posts in 1286 days


#13 posted 08-06-2016 11:58 AM

It appears that “board foot” is the industry term for “cubic foot.” Do they use actual dimensions of the lumber or “indicated” dimensions. In other words, for the typical “2×4”, do they compute the bf using 2” x 4” (times length), or would they use the actual dimensions of 1-1/2” x 3-1/2” (times length)?

-- Jerry

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

1872 posts in 2851 days


#14 posted 08-06-2016 12:43 PM

Board footage is calculated while the lumber is still in the rough. You’ll lose a minimum of 1/8” thickness by the time everything is flattened and planed. So 4/4 lumber will never yield more than 7/8” and that’s iffy. 13/16” and 3/4” is more realistic. In general, assume you’ll need to buy 1/4” thicker than the finished dimension.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View bbasiaga's profile

bbasiaga

1243 posts in 2530 days


#15 posted 08-06-2016 12:43 PM

They use actual dimension, as most boards are sold rough cut – or actual dimension. 4/4 being actually four quarters thick, or 1”. You then can choose to have them skip plane and straighten one edge for an extra charge.

To the OP, i buy by phone from LL Johnson Lumber company in Michigan. Not sure if you are near by. I do like JAJune and add 20-30%. They price by length, so if I need some 8’ boards for a table top I’ll buy the whole stack of the 8-9’ length lumber to make sure I’ll have enough long boards for the project.

The other thing you can do is draw your parts in sketchup. You can then use the cutlist program to lay it out on boards. YOu get to specify the nominal thickness and max width. Then it shows your parts on the board, tells you how many board feet for the parts, and how many board feet for the actual layout. I still add a percentage for errors, bad boards and such. Takes a bit of getting used to, but handy once you’re used to it.

-Brian

-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View ChuckV's profile

ChuckV

3244 posts in 4062 days


#16 posted 08-06-2016 12:54 PM



It appears that “board foot” is the industry term for “cubic foot.”

- jmalcolm001

A board foot is equivalent to 1”x12”x12” (144 cubic in). A cubic foot is equivalent to 12”x12”x12” (1728 cubic in). So. there are 12 bf in a cf.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5553 posts in 2886 days


#17 posted 08-06-2016 01:07 PM



It appears that “board foot” is the industry term for “cubic foot.” Do they use actual dimensions of the lumber or “indicated” dimensions. In other words, for the typical “2×4”, do they compute the bf using 2” x 4” (times length), or would they use the actual dimensions of 1-1/2” x 3-1/2” (times length)?

- jmalcolm001

Not true, board foot and cubic foot are not the same as Chuck V pointed out. You are getting nominal size and actual size confused. That applies to construction grade dimensional lumber. The nominal size of a 2×4 is 2×4, actual size is 1 1/2×3 1/2. Furniture lumber is sold by actual size in the rough.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

8785 posts in 3112 days


#18 posted 08-06-2016 01:16 PM

View Tony_S's profile

Tony_S

1027 posts in 3618 days


#19 posted 08-06-2016 02:35 PM



Board footage is calculated while the lumber is still in the rough.
- JAAune

It definitely is….but everyone here(except retail purchases), especially the guys who buy large amounts of hardwood lumber,(It would matter more to them) should ask your wholesalers if they sell ‘gross tally’ or ‘net tally’.

Better explained here than by me.
http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/Net_measure_vs_gross_measure.html

It’s a pretty important thing to know when shopping around and comparing prices.
If abc wholesaler is consistently 5-10% cheaper than xyz wholesaler on comparable grades, there might be a simple reason why(or not).
It also might keep you from getting screwed if you’re for whatever reason forced to pay the higher price from xyz and they sell gross tally. Your buying less…for more. Double wammy.

-- It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

8397 posts in 3333 days


#20 posted 08-06-2016 03:01 PM


It definitely is….but everyone here(except retail purchases), especially the guys who buy large amounts of hardwood lumber,(It would matter more to them) should ask your wholesalers if they sell gross tally or net tally .

Better explained here than by me.
http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/Net_measure_vs_gross_measure.html

- Tony_S


Didn’t know that one Tony. I’ve always bought at the supplier’s and they have always tallied by actual measurement at the time of sale (net). Thanks for the heads up.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese! http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/

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Tony_S

1027 posts in 3618 days


#21 posted 08-06-2016 03:34 PM

It’s normally a non issue Paul, as long as you know how they tally. Then you can compare pricing more effectively and/or adjust footages more effectively.
It can also help when your dealing with a hungry salesman’s bullshit! lol! I love it when the new salesman come knocking!

-- It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

1872 posts in 2851 days


#22 posted 08-09-2016 02:01 AM

Didn’t know that one. I don’t think my supplier has a kiln though so they’re likely measuring the boards as they pull them from the warehouse. Should be easy to check next time I get a stack of 500bf.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View bonesbr549's profile

bonesbr549

1584 posts in 3602 days


#23 posted 08-09-2016 12:51 PM

a lot of good responses already, but I have to add one. You need to ask how they price it green or dry. I know this sounds crazy, but had a dealer once try to charge based on the green thickness. I ask now every new vendor and i pick carefully. You should also not get measured at the widest part for the whole board unless its a nice strait line rip.

try www.woodfinder.com and www.searchtempest.com

Buy in bulk not for a little project and what ever your BF estimate add 30%

Another tip (since you did not ask) for rails and stiles, use quarter sawn only or you will be sorry. Instead of buying the more expensive QS boards, buy wide boards and most of the time the edges 2”+ will be QS and rip that off for that need and the rest for other needs.

Search for sawmills in your area and work up a relationship.

My rule is first time I buy from a dealer/mill, I get a smaller quantity and don’t question the tally. When I get it home, I verify tally. 99% I get more that the tally said. I then buy a bulk load 250-500bf at a time.

If I’m shorted, I won’t go back again. Most guys know this and won’t short you.

Internet, its a crap shoot.

Good luck.

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

23515 posts in 3640 days


#24 posted 08-11-2016 04:23 PM

I always buy wood by the size I need and if they sell it by the bf, I let them do the calculation for price. It is by volume so if you bought strictly by bf you may get some pieces too narrow for your project!

Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Jon Hobbs's profile

Jon Hobbs

147 posts in 1239 days


#25 posted 08-11-2016 05:01 PM

Here’s another thread that might be helpful:

http://lumberjocks.com/topics/173850

A lot of us jocks keep lumber in stock. We buy when we find a good deal, we buy what our wallet permits at the time. When it’s project time, we simply go to our very own stash and pick out boards that suit the project.

Trying to buy quantities that exactly match a specific project is a little tricky, for several reasons, some of which you’ve discovered already. There are rules-of-thumb for waste, but that can vary from project to project and woodworker to woodworker. There’s an anecdote out there somewhere regarding Norm Abram before he became famous. Someone on a construction site notice that Norm’s waste pile was significantly smaller than all the other carpenters on the project. They were all working with the same size raw materials, yet Norm utilized that material more efficiently.

A beginning woodworker will have more waste than an experienced woodworker. With practice, you learn how to layout, or nest, your pieces onto the raw material you have more efficiently. You make fewer mistakes, you learn how to be more precise, etc. You’ll also begin to get a better feel for how many board-feet a particular project will take. Today, you probably have to do detailed analysis and lots of math. 10 years from now, you can look at a plan and within seconds know how much lumber you’ll need.

Unless your next project is your last project, there’s not much harm in buying more than you think you’ll need for a particular project. Especially if you’re buying online. The more boards you buy, the more options you’ll have for matching your project’s needs with the boards you have. The boards you don’t use for this project will be a good match for a future project. I guarantee it :)

Storage space and cash flow can make this approach challenging. Otherwise, there’s no such thing as having too much lumber on hand!

As others have pointed out, there are advantages to going to local suppliers and picking through their stock. However, that requires travel time, a vehicle suitable for hauling your purchases home, and scheduling flexibility that allows you to shop when the supplier is open. I have 3 active kids, a full-time job, household chores, etc. like most folks. For me, it’s much easier to have the FedEx driver drop a pile of lumber in front of my garage. I can pick through my stash any day, any time. I don’t have to have a large block of free time to drive somewhere, pick out all the boards I need, etc. I’m not beholding to the business hours of a supplier.

Anway, estimating materials needed for a project is a skill, regardless of the units of measure. Just like cutting dovetails by hand, squaring up raw lumber, designing M&T joints, etc. With practice, that skill will improve. Keep at it and soon enough, board-feet will become second nature.

-- Jon -- Just a Minnesota kid hanging out in Kansas

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