Oak Timbers Used to Build Heavy Machinery?

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Forum topic by TTH posted 09-22-2020 07:26 PM 1065 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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32 posts in 591 days

09-22-2020 07:26 PM

Someone on my local CL is selling what they claim are 6”x4”x14’ oak timbers for $30 each. As this seems entirely too good to be true, I asked the seller what they were used for. He replied they were used to build heavy machinery.

If I’ve really got an opportunity to buy 16/4 oak at $1.07/bdft, this is awesome. But again…too good to be true. Has anyone heard of using oak timbers in constructing heavy machinery or have a sense of how they might be used in such an application?

Just looking at the picture, it doesn’t seem like they’re soaked in creosote or anything…

-- Travis, DFW

8 replies so far

View BobHall's profile


77 posts in 2572 days

#1 posted 09-22-2020 07:33 PM

Probably not actual components of the machinery, but rather used to level and support the machines as they are constructed. Or possibly “donnage” (sp?) when shipping machinery. Either way it would be a good price for heavy timbers. Just watch out for metal contamination, from shavings to nails and screws…. Good luck.

-- Bob "jack of all trades, master of none"

View northwoodsman's profile


682 posts in 5033 days

#2 posted 09-22-2020 08:36 PM

Notice all the randomly placed holes in them if you intend to mill them up for lumber.

-- NorthWoodsMan

View Phil32's profile


1613 posts in 1190 days

#3 posted 09-22-2020 09:13 PM

Yes, there are examples of wood timbers being used in heavy machinery. I have the headstock, tool rest, & tailstock of a woodturning lathe once owned by my uncle. The bed ways of this lathe were wooden beams as were the legs to support the lathe. This photo shows just the cast iron components sitting on a desk. The hand wheels in the background secured the components to the bed ways.
The possible use of the oak beams you are considering was clearly different from this.

-- You know, this site doesn't require woodworking skills, but you should know how to write.

View CWWoodworking's profile


2295 posts in 1466 days

#4 posted 09-22-2020 11:39 PM

Snatch them babies up. I wouldn’t care where they came from.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


5032 posts in 2781 days

#5 posted 09-23-2020 04:27 AM

+1 Oak beams have been used with heavy machinery for hundreds of years.

IME – rough sawn 4×6 oak is used as bottom runners for heavy equipment, as well as machine pallet’ boxes’ to allow monster fork lift blades underneath the equipment. Heavy equipment companies like Caterpillar use it for crating sub-components.

Pallet box sides are made from BB plywood with 2×3 corner support for all screws keeping it together. The sides panels are screwed into the 4×6 beams. Beware you might find a ton of holes in wood, and occasional broken fastener. The beam’s also tend to be very rough surfaces, as the 16/4 wide boards are flipped on side and gang cut in stacks. Expect to lose 1/4”+ making the sides smooth, on top of what it takes to make them straight. Rarely are long beams perfectly straight as they plan on heavy tool weight to flatten things out during crating.

IMHO – If it’s red oak, it is over priced. New red oak wholesale was < $1.25 bdft this summer. Was $1 bdft last year. Used beams should be half the cost, unless it is vintage old growth salvaged from mfg plant built in 1800’s. White oak beam bdft cost maybe 25-50 cents more. If you are comparing this used oak to retail Rockler, Woodcraft pricing; then you need new lumber sources. Oak is not expensive if you know where to look, unless it’s QS.


-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, Doom, despair, agony on me… - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View theart's profile


233 posts in 1841 days

#6 posted 09-23-2020 12:25 PM

Notice all the randomly placed holes in them if you intend to mill them up for lumber.

- northwoodsman

There’s also a good chance that oil has been spilled on them at some point.

View therealSteveN's profile


9246 posts in 1861 days

#7 posted 09-23-2020 12:46 PM

$1.07 sounds like a screaming deal. BUT, as stated the holes will make it tough for any length, and they are certainly not kiln dried, so when you resaw, depending on how wet the centers are….. you may get some wild changes in how straight they are after you resaw them.

Fact is unless you are making, or hauling heavy loads, you will quickly run out of projects to use something as big as they are.

If you can, buy just one of the really clean ones, resaw it, and if doesn’t go presto chango, go on and buy more.

As far as Red or White Oak, if they are just used indoors to support heavy machinery parts while being built I suspect they will be Red Oak, more plentiful, and less expensive, plus there wouldn’t be a need for water resistance. If however they are used in transporting the machinery I would think them to be White Oak. Every trucker I know of has White Oak on the bed of their trailers to use as dunnage. It’s water resistance all but guarantees it will last a long time.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Jared_S's profile


489 posts in 1246 days

#8 posted 09-23-2020 01:05 PM

I would expect it to be low grade likely pallet/dunnage equivalent.

Oak fencing (likely close/better than the grade above is cheap) a quick fb market place search has this
1×6x16ft $9/board
1×6x8ft. $5/board

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