As I sit here, a lumber truck is on its way to me with 20 board feet of 8/4 Walnut. I'm now scared that I won't be able to use the lumber to make the 5x end grain cutting boards that are in my head.
I talked to the salesman when I placed the order, and asked for the darkest, best quality, clear boards he has ... and he said FAS was the only grade available. I could have gone to Select to get wider boards, but I don't want that ... I'll just be cutting them up into 1-3/4" strips x 24". It's what I do.
Most of the small mills (small kiln and a portable mill out behind the barn) I've delt with are lucky to know about the grading system, let alone use it. These guys I get the best "deals" from. More due to the way the prefer to do business than their lack of knowledge. Its unlikely that I could go and pick up 100bf of premium walnut at a time from these guys. Usually 20-25bf isn't problem. If its 100bf of premium I need, I fully expect to pay a premium. Around here, walnut is readily available, but still demands top dollar for the good stuff. Buying a substantial quantity of premium wood at a premium price sight unseen is not something I'd be willing to do...
The best by far, by the bf deals i've come across have come from Craig's list. Often few and far between, but well worth the wait.
I was going to suggest something similar to what Bill said having been around small sawmills for many years. A mid size or large sawmill will have enough premium logs to make them worth sorting. But a small sawmill with limited log availability won't have enough premium logs to make a truckload unless saved over a period of time which increases the risk of grade degradation from insect infestation and/or checking from the logs drying out. If you can find that size of sawmill your chances of getting better quality wood could increase.
Wow...I hadn't bought any Walnut since last Fall...can't remember what I paid , but I was very pleased with what I had to choose from.
I just checked on the price at a BC hardwood wholesale. Here's a screen shot.
From fiddling with the listing onscreen, it appears that the poorer quality grades are found in the 4/4 and the best quality in the 8/4 and thicker.
Stick, Definitely that is a good read! Walnut is plentiful in many regions of the country, but regardless of how clear it is - the dust is like smoke and is toxic.
I try my best to steer customers away from Walnut as much as practical. A couple of my guys are truly allergic to it. Few things will even grow under a walnut tree! Even a pile of the sawdust will essentially sterilize soil. For me, Pecan and Hickory are better choices. Also, occasionally I will demo super-heavy duty pallets for prospective customers to see how well some of our tools work - I wouldn't say it is rare to find walnut lumber in those pallets!
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