First Time Order & Calculating Board Feet

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Forum topic by NWFR posted 10-11-2020 12:04 AM 561 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 49 days

10-11-2020 12:04 AM

Just joined today, seems like a decent place to be for getting woodworking help.

I have a somewhat ambitious project to complete and will likely be ordering the wood for it online (local price for Walnut is 3.5x Wall Lumber price). If I were purchasing it in person, I’d feel better about it, but with the prices being what they are I think I need to get it online. Perhaps this thread will make me change my mind, perhaps not. I’ll be ordering from Wall Lumber Co in NC, and I live about as far away as I can get, in Eastern Washington.

This is my first wood order by board feet, online or otherwise… as well as my first project of any consequence.

I making 2 table tops from Walnut measuring 7’ x 3.5’ x 1.5”. Along with those tables I’m making 4 benches measuring 7’ x 15” x 1.5”. These are just the dimensions of the tops, not any support materials.

Before I realized I had to order my materials in BF, I had worked out that I would need to order 8’ boards, at least 7” wide and 2” thick so I would have enough material to work with to get to my final dimensions of 7’x6”x1.5”. I would need 26 of these to create the 2 table tops and 4 benchtops.

Putting that in BF with the waste included, I came up with 242.67bf.

So… these are the questions that come to mind…

I’m leary to just order X amount of BF without having limitations on the lengths… if I got 12’ lengths I would have a ton of 5’ waste and not have enough for the project… do these places take your specific orders for max/min lengths and widths of 8/4 boards? Do I just specify that? Is that normal practice or does specifying that come with extra cost per BF?

Has anyone else ordered from Wall? Anyone else as far away from them as I am? What were your shipping costs like?

Any help with putting this order into perspective for me would be greatly appreciated.

12 replies so far

View Madmark2's profile


1815 posts in 1504 days

#1 posted 10-11-2020 12:48 AM

You order the lengths you need. But for a buy that size you should be able to hand select. For the 15” benches you can save by using 3×2x6’s instead of 2×2x8’s. Recheck your BF math, I only see 96 bf in the benches and 112 bf in the two tops assuming 8’ stock.

Thought: why not expand to 8’ from 7’? You have to buy 8’ lengths so it won’t drive the price up.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View SMP's profile


2868 posts in 821 days

#2 posted 10-11-2020 01:32 AM

I really like to hand pick certain woods, one being walnut, as there can be pretty dramatic differences between heart and sap, even when they steam it to try to make it more uniform. Plus I usually have a width in mind. For example say I want an 18” panel so plan on gluing up 3 6” boards, but a lot of walnut boards are 5” or less, etc. Unless you are fine with whatever they send you and just want to make it work, then you can for sure save some money, just factor in a good chunk overage as waste, as you will have to rip boards to the least common factor.

View Lazyman's profile


5947 posts in 2303 days

#3 posted 10-11-2020 02:32 AM

I don’t have any experience with Wall but once you pay freight to ship it I doubt that it will be cheaper than something local or closer to you. It probably won’t be a flat rate. They will charge you based upon quantity and distanced and possibly a premium for longer pieces. Also, it sounds like you understand this but typically, when they say 4/4 or 8/4, it means that it is rough sawn so you will need to joint and plane it to the dimensions you need or pay extra for that service. If you plane it yourself, you are paying to ship a lot of shavings all the way across the country so it is worth asking how much they charge to plane it and find out if that might save a few bucks in shipping.

I would look for something closer at least and I prefer to pick my own, especially for something like a table top where you usually want the grain on all of the boards to all look similar. You end up with less waste that way.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


3831 posts in 2410 days

#4 posted 10-11-2020 03:13 AM

Welcome to LumberJocks!

+1 Hand select your walnut

IMHO – Sounds like you need better local lumber source, not recommendations on ordering/shipping lumber?
Paying the insinuated $20+ bdft for ‘walnut’ is ludicrous. Find some new local WHOLESALE supplier(s)!

$20 bdft price on claro walnut is only found at most expensive retail supplier I know here in Arizona? Locally I can 8/4 Claro walnut from NW for $12-14 bdft, and 8/4 American walnut for $7-$9 (at more than one source). All of this is has been marked up $2 to cover shipping from where is cut, and yard is still making a profit!
If all my 8/4 walnut was $20 bdft, I would be using something else. Can find African mahogany, Mexican Kingwood, and Sapele; that sell for less $9 bdft, and are decent alternative to walnut’s brown color.

Random thoughts/comments to answer you questions:

- Table top is a piece where you want to carefully select the grain direction and colors. You never know if you need to pick through a 200bdft stack or a 1000bdft stack to find the right lumber. Clear straight grain walnut without sapwood, and decent color; can be very hard to find.

- Do you know if Wall walnut has been steamed as part of drying. Steam walnut has washed out color, compared to the delightful colors in claro walnut typically milled and sold in NW?

- Shipping wood from NC to NW will require decent acclimation time before use, and may result in higher losses due warp/twist. This depends on initial moisture level, lumber grading, and how it is stacked for shipping. One problem with shipping a single stack of lumber: shipper can do perfect job shipping quality lumber, but never know what carrier will do to it, or stack on top of it. Suggest you add 30% or more to bdft calculation to cover possible shipping and/or grading losses. You might find the top row of boards are damaged by metal banding, and you lose 1” in board width on outside boards and 1/4” in thickness on top?

- Shipping wood is expensive. Length limitations with normal carriers, forces use of truck shipping over 108”. IME – Can expect to pay hundreds to over a thousand in shipping a single stack of lumber from east to west coast. Note that truck shipments are less concerned with weight, and more concerned with LxWxH. So shipping 8’ lumber is same as shipping two pallets strapped side by side. Shipping a 300bdft stack is nearly same price as shipping a 400bdft stack, due only a few hundred pounds difference in a truck capable of carrying 60,000-80,000lbs.

- Unloading the truck is always a major concern, as lift gates don’t work well for 8’+ long pallets. Most shippers will not deliver long lumber stacks to a residence as they don’t have piggy back fork lifts or cranes (like local lumberyards) and require you to pick up at local trucking terminal dock. It is easy enough to rent a trailer, and drag a stack home, but it adds more time/cost to the project.

Best luck with your project!

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

View AlaskaGuy's profile


6212 posts in 3225 days

#5 posted 10-11-2020 03:39 AM

You have a lot of questions you should probably asking Wall Lumber.

Lot of good stuff to consider in CaptainKlutz post to think about.

If your are ordering 8/4 rough cut hardwood I doubt you can specific width and length. It’s usually sold in random length and width. The grade of the lumber you what will affect the sizes also

You think Eastern Washington is a long way. :)

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View SMP's profile


2868 posts in 821 days

#6 posted 10-11-2020 03:43 AM

Another thing, my local lumberyard sells S4S Walnut for around $12/BF. The difference in price and time vs rough 8/4, and the time and wear and tear on my machines, i’d personally just buy the 6/4 S4S. Or even 5/4 S4S and cut and double up the edges.

View mel52's profile


1744 posts in 1180 days

#7 posted 10-11-2020 05:16 AM

Welcome to LJ’s. Mel

-- MEL, Kansas

View Robert's profile


4150 posts in 2396 days

#8 posted 10-11-2020 12:11 PM

You have a lot of questions you should probably asking Wall Lumber.

Lot of good stuff to consider in CaptainKlutz post to think about.

If your are ordering 8/4 rough cut hardwood I doubt you can specific width and length. It s usually sold in random length and width. The grade of the lumber you what will affect the sizes also

You think Eastern Washington is a long way. :)

- AlaskaGuy

This ^^^^^

There’s no walnut trees out west?

You might also consider veneer for the top.

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

View bondogaposis's profile


5891 posts in 3267 days

#9 posted 10-11-2020 01:24 PM

Surely there is a hardwood dealer in Spokane where you could select your wood in person and save the shipping.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View waho6o9's profile (online now)


8953 posts in 3492 days

#10 posted 10-11-2020 01:43 PM

View NWFR's profile


2 posts in 49 days

#11 posted 10-19-2020 11:42 PM

Thanks for all of the advice. It definitely helped, and got me pointed in the right direction. We do have a number of hardwood retailers in the area, as well as a few wholesalers. The prices they’re asking for their wood is what steered me towards an online purchase, but after careful thought I’ve decided it’s not the right thing to do.

A friend and I have plans to build furniture in our spare time, and start a small business doing so, but weren’t planning on doing that until next year after taking our time to learn what we’re doing and have something worth selling. This situation spurred me to get our business license and everything now, and allow me to get my foot in the door with a few wholesalers. I’ve still got a few steps left to get it all in order, but I’m confident the prices will be much more reasonable at the wholesaler.

Thanks again!

View Jeff's profile


151 posts in 301 days

#12 posted 10-22-2020 03:22 AM

Maybe the two of you can take a two day road trip to Edensaw Woods in Port Townsend, Washington. There you can hand select through stacks of woods. We call it the woodworker’s candy store. Where in Eastern Washington?

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