4 Best Wood Values for Woodworkers - Router Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 11:02 AM Thread Starter
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Default 4 Best Wood Values for Woodworkers

Some woods are chosen for looks, some for economy and some for durability. But some woods offer value in a combination of all three characteristics. These four woods are easy to work with, great to look at, relatively inexpensive and fairly easy to source. While they might not be the most beautiful, durable or inexpensive woods on the market, they're a good mix of all three. Best Wood Values for Woodworkers
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4 Best Wood Values for Woodworkers

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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 11:42 AM
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Mostly I work with plywood. But I have found that you an get some very nice wood from pallets. Some really lousy wood too. But, if you go thru enough pallets, you get some nice common woods, and at times a variety of pretty exotic woods - anything that doesn't grow near me I consider exotic - but I'm talking teak, and other exotics you normally only see in a store. I have been known to buy wood, besides plywood that is, but for years have only bought wood native to North Carolina, just a thing with me. However, I will accept free wood from anywhere.
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 12:18 PM
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I do a lot of work with Poplar, mainly because I have ready access to some nice stock at reasonable prices. I like it because of the variety of figure and color that you can find, and it works pretty easily. I think it is a good balance between hard and soft woods.

I know 'real' woodworkers only use it for a secondary wood, but I almost exclusively use it for my carved benches.

White Oak-

I use the cheap corral boards that I get from Home Depot for about $8. They are 16' long, 6+ inches wide, and well over an inch thick. There is a lot of knots and defects in them, but if you lay your parts out in them, there's a lot of good wood there. The only problem is it is stored outside, and is usually VERY we.

Red oak in my neck of the woods is also very cheap, but everything is red oak around here.......

Pallet wood is great for some projects, but the yield/effort sometimes doesn't work out. Of course, now you can buy it ready to go at the big stores!
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 12:21 PM
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One thing to factor in is that ones region can really affect the cost of wood. For example, birch is sited as being a substitute for maple as it gets more expensive, indicating that birch is a less expensive alternative. Here in Ohio, both soft and hard maple are less expensive then Birch. Also in Ohio, western red cedar is hard to find, and when it is available also tends to be expensive. An alternative to WRC that is common here is Aromatic Cedar, which I have used on a couple occasions.

Getting GOOD douglas fir can be a challenge. In this region of the country, it is very common to be used as dimensional lumber for home building. The problem with that is all too frequently it hasn't been fully dried. This makes it very prone for movement, that is sometimes extreme. (We have all seen the banana shaped 2x4's at Lowes!)

Also, choice of wood comes down to personal taste, which can also affect our perceived value of wood. Since red oak is easily sourced from home centers, it is a wood many of us got started with. I used it a lot in my early years of woodworking. I can't stand to use it now. For open grain woods, I tend to prefer using ash over oak, which in this region is actually less expensive than oak (though I suspect in the coming years ash will become much more expensive, no thanks to the emerald ash borer)

For maple, if you are looking for a cost effective solution, many suppliers sell ambrosia maple for less than soft maple. Ambrosia maple has tiny bore holes from the ambrosia beetle. The result is over the years bore holes have allowed water in to stain the wood, creating an interesting "figured" effect.

A couple years ago my supplier had a sale on 6' long (vs the normal 8'-12' lengths) cherry boards of various widths. The sale brought the board foot cost down to a little under red oak (rough sawn, not home center stuff). Cherry is my personal favorite wood to work with, so I snapped that deal up pretty quickly.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 01:58 PM
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3 out of 4 are growing in my yard. No oak around my part of the world. One species that was overlooked is pine. There are quite a few species of pine and some are better for woodworking than others. The most common one here is lodgepole pine and it is one of the better ones and may be the most plentiful species of tree that grows in BC.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 04:48 PM
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Pine and poplar are two woods that I use frequently along with those in your list.

I also use Baltic Birch plywood in 1/8 - 1" thickness with I mostly use the 1/2". I also 4 X 8' sheets of cabinet birch in 3/4 and 1" thicknesses. The 4' X 8' China Ply cabinet birch plywood that's available from the Borgs has no place in my shop, nor will I use their pine or fir plywood for anything, unless doing some sort of building construction project where it becomes a structural member.

MDF is used in my shop as backer boards and sacrificial bench tops, usually in 1/4" thickness, but I never use it for making any cabinet parts. Waferboard is for making cheap crates, in my opinion, so I won't use it for anything except for crate making.

Most of what I make are exhibits for science museums, where everything needs to be made "kid proof". I'm certain that this method of making things has affected my choices of materials and methods for making my personal projects as well. You don't have to agree with me, just appreciate why I use the materials that I do.

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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 06:18 PM
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90% of what I build projects out of is unsteamed Walnut that I buy at the sawmill, kiln dried to about 6% to 8%. Picked up another load today. Beautiful stuff and smells great when you work it.

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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 08:04 PM
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Originally Posted by difalkner View Post
90% of what I build projects out of is unsteamed Walnut that I buy at the sawmill, kiln dried to about 6% to 8%. Picked up another load today. Beautiful stuff and smells great when you work it.

I bought the last steamed walnut from my supplier about six months ago. When I bought it I had cataracts and it was dark in the warehouse where it was stored. I didn't see how bad it was till I got home. All their other lumber is good. One thing I don't understand about that place is their rough lumber is priced higher than their straight run lumber. Figure that one out. I do need to call around Nashville and see if anyone sells unsteamed walnut.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 08:13 PM
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Western cedar at the Home Depot is real high but the fence plank are cheap. I use the fence planks for carving signs.

Red oak is about $2.70 BF and it's really nice.

Birch I don't know but I don't think we have any.

Don't know about fir either.

Pine I use sometimes to make shop furniture and stuff. It's a $1.00 BF

Popular and bass wood are about $1.30 BF.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 08:48 PM
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I am so lucky that I am able to use up to 100 different woods each year. One of the reasons I got into woodworking is because I like to use different species. I love collecting woods as well.

Because I can't and won't use stains on 95% of my work I always need to seek out wood that is the color I want or need it to be with nothing but a clear coat on it. It's fun! Sometimes not so cheap!
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