Wood is the primary material you need for furniture making. Therefore, knowing where to get it consistently and at competitive prices is important. Some of the most affordable sources are not always the most obvious.
When looking to get wood for furniture making, lumber yards are the first source that comes to mind. However, for smaller projects, this may be an oversized option. Cut-offs from bulk factories, the wood aisle in your local hardware store, and working with landscapers are some alternatives.
The rest of this guide will cover everything you need to know about securing wood for all your furniture projects.
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What Type of Wood Can You Get for Furniture Making?
The type of wood you can get for furniture making will come down to the project you’re working on and the availability of the wood type around you. Pine is one of the most commonly used wood types for furniture making. However, it would be best to consider options such as oak, mahogany, walnut, maple, cedar, beech, teak, hickory, spruce, and fir for more high-end products.
You may also use particleboard and plywood in furniture making. These are not natural hardwood or softwood. They are engineered but durable enough for a wide range of furniture applications.
You can find all the wood options mentioned above in most sources we’ll list below—some sources more than the others. If you’re looking for exotic or imported wood species, your options will also grow thinner.
The following are some of the options you should explore when looking for wood for furniture making.
If you do a quick search online for wood near you, the results will throw up many options you can explore. However, there are a few tried and tested options with good reviews. Some of them are just an index, while others actually sell wood. They include the following:
- Wood Finder: This is a good directory for finding lumber near you. You need to specify the type of wood you’re looking for and why you need it, and you’ll be provided with possible sources you can go with.
- Woodworkers Source: This option provides high-quality wood directly. Many people trust them online, and they also have local stores around the country. Check to see if they have one close to you, or order wood online.
- Wood Craft: This is an option you can consider if you’re looking for some exotic wood options for small furniture projects. Their products are known to be a bit more expensive than other sources. Still, many woodworkers and furniture makers trust them.
You can also search for wood on other sources like Amazon. Options like Hard Maple Lumber are popular. The downside to getting your wood online is that you have to trust the sellers to deliver what you’ve described. There’s no way for you to see the actual pieces. You’ll also have to shoulder the cost of shipping, which can add up to tidy sums for bigger sums. However, these online sources give you a lot of options to choose from.
- 2 Pieces of Solid Hard Maple Lumber
- Measures a full 3/4" x 4" x 12"
- Great for cutting boards and other small woodworking projects where a dense wood is desired.
Last update on 2022-09-09 at 12:53 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
If your furniture making isn’t a one-off where you’ll only build one or two small pieces per year, it’s best to find a local lumber yard you can rely on for your woods. Most of them can offer a highly personalized service that will help you achieve excellent results. You should also note that the wood’s quality is usually a lot higher here, but you’ll equally have to pay a bit more.
Some of the top lumber yards you can look at in the US today are covered below:
- Georgia-Pacific LLC: This is a top option to consider if you’re looking for Yellow Pine and other western softwood lumber. They also offer a range of proprietary wood construction products, which you may need in your furniture making overall. The company gets its raw materials by following SFI approved procurement methods from forests managed by other companies.
- Weyerhaeuser Co.: This company sources lumber from more than 12 million acres of managed forests across North America. Their products come with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification. You can count on them for lumber from western species and Southern Pine.
- Sierra Pacific Industries: Operating out of California, the company is in charge of over 1.9 million acres of forest land certified by the SFI, making it the largest private landholder in the state. You can count on them for a range of western lumber varieties such as Western Hemlock, White Fir, Incense Cedar, Douglas Fir, Sugar Pine, Ponderosa Pine, and more.
- West Fraser Timber Co., Ltd.: West Fraser’s business is split between Canada and the US. The Canadian arm of the business produces lumber based on Hem-Fir, Douglas fir-larch, and Spruce-Pine-Fir. In the US, the company is another top option you can count on for Southern Yellow Pine Lumber.
- Hampton Affiliates: The company produces dimensional lumber from Western Hemlock and Douglas Fir mostly, alongside other spruce and white wood species. They own around 140,000 woodland acres in the US, certified by SFI. They also operate around 300,000 acres of public woodland across British Columbia.
- International Forest Products, Ltd (Interfor): The company makes lumber from Southern Yellow Pine, Inland Hem-Fir, Douglas-Fir/Larch, and Spruce-Pine-Fir. It’s also one of the lumber yards that operate their own forests, and they also operate it in line with SFI standards. As a customer, you can view the sources of the lumber you buy on their website.
- Idaho Forest Group: The brand’s lumber mills are in Idaho and Montana. They source their lumber from public and private forests all across the US. The company makes lumber from various fir and pine species and cedar, larch, Engelmann Spruce, and Spruce-Pine-Fir.
- Canfor Corp.: The brand is known for the specialty and dimensional lumber products made from Douglas Fir Larch, Yellow Southern Pine, and Spruce-Pine-Fir. Canfor sources its lumber products in the US from independent and privately owned forests.
- PotlatchDeltic Corp.: The company has multiple mills spread across the Great Lakes region, Idaho, and Arkansas. It manages more than 1.9 million forest acres in the US, making lumber from Spruce-Pine-Fire and Southern Yellow Pine.
- RSG Forest Products: This is a family-owned brand with mill locations across Oregon and Washington. They offer fresh and kiln-dried lumber products, including Western Red Cedar, Hem-Fir, and Douglas Fir.
Go over each of these lumber yard options and choose the options nearest to you, bearing in mind the lumber species you’re looking for.
Second-Hand Furniture Stores
Many stores online and offline sell second-hand furniture with wood still in good shape. You can rely on these as your source of low to moderately priced wood for furniture making. If you can find a store that offers this solution near you, focus on the older pieces. They tend to have more durable wood when compared to newer options.
If you’re interested in repurposing furniture, this is also a good route to take. However, if you want wood pieces, you’ll have to do some work to harvest wood to use, including lots of sawing. The stress of reclaiming the wood is offset by the lower prices you’ll pay.
Landscapers are always cutting down branches (and whole trees sometimes) that you can gather up and process into lumber for furniture making. The companies typically chip the debris to make them saleable. All you need to do is find a few of them and make them an offer, and you’ll have a decent haul to work with regularly.
Of course, this would require an understanding of how to process the wood and store them if you don’t need to use them immediately.
Look around you for factories that are making wood-based products. They could be creating furniture as well or any other wooden objects. Over the course of their day to day, they will generate many cut-outs and scraps that you may be able to use in your furniture making. Talk to them to see the options available to you. Most of them will sell these cut-outs while others may allow you to take them for free.
If you’re after free wood, this is a good option to explore properly. Look around your immediate environment, and expand your search if necessary.
Bulk Trash Vans
Yet another place you can look for free wood for furniture making is the bulk trash van that comes around your area once a month. Watch out for the days the pickups happen in your part of the town, and you may be able to find raw wood or used furniture pieces you can saw down.
Once you work out the schedules, it’s all about getting out early enough and coming with a vehicle to ensure you can haul what you find useful. It’s a bit of work, but it’s an excellent source of free wood.
If you’ve got a sawmill close to you, finding wood for furniture making will be a lot easier. You’ll be able to buy lumber at a price that’s not marked up by distributors or vendors yet. The price difference can be very significant, and the mill’s quality is almost always the highest. You may also be able to get the wood planed for a little extra.
Pull out your map and search for sawmills nearby. Go there and establish an understanding with the owners, and you’ll be able to get the bulk of the wood you need.
Some Public Lands
If you’ve got the right tools and have a proper understanding of your local laws, you can cut wood directly from a tree. All you need to do is find some public lands that allow people to take different wood types. Even when you’re only allowed to take dead wood, you can use it to make small furniture pieces.
However, this process is not a good option if you’re a hobbyist furniture maker. The process of felling trees and drying them for use can be very demanding. You’ll find it difficult to justify the process.
Hardwood stores are a great source of wood for furniture making, especially those that mill their own products. Most stores stock some of the popular options and some exotics. If you’re looking for some cheap wood, their scrap bins also tend to hold some real bargains.
Check the stores to see the main wood types they have and then rummage through their bin for smaller cut-outs that can be used to complement standard construction or create new small pieces from scratch.
Shipping Crates From Retail Stores
Retail stores worldwide tend to receive products packed in wooden crates that are still usable after the goods have been unloaded. Many of the stores throw these away as trash, so you can capitalize on finding a few of such stores around you.
This is an excellent option to consider if you’re making furniture with construction-grade wood and plywood. Talk to the store managers to see if you can agree with them to take these crates, either free of charge or for a token. In most cases, you’ll get the crates for free as they’d be thrown away either way—at least until you have some competition in the area.
However, if you’re able to maintain your relationship, you’ll be able to create some decent furniture pieces made completely or partly with such wood. The stores won’t run out of crates as long as they are open, so you can always be sure of getting more wood as long as they stay open.
Just remember to ask first before you start taking away the crates—even if they’ve been dumped already alongside other store trash.
Most sizable hobby stores will stock some wood for furniture making. However, they’d rarely have too much, and you can expect only to find a few species. The wood from these stores is already milled too. The bigger stores will carry balsa, basswood, and other softwoods. However, most of them still won’t be your ideal source for large furniture pieces.
While you can create dollhouse furniture with the wood you’ll get here, you can’t rely on them to have wood for your next kitchen furniture revamp project.
Exotic Hardwood Stores
If you’re looking for exotic hardwoods such as redwood, Spanish cedar, and other such options, you’ll have to look at some of the dedicated stores known for these species. You can find a few of them online, but many of them also have physical stores you can visit to see things for yourself. Some of the most popular options include Exotic Wood Zone, Rarewoods USA, Hearne Hardwoods, and more.
When you find a store, you can work with, go over their inventory or get in touch with their representatives to ensure they have the products you’re after. Pay attention to all the important details about the wood and company policies on shipping, refunds, etc.
Large Home Improvement Stores
Home improvement stores are a go-to option for a lot of items, especially for the DIY community. The biggest ones among them also tend to stock up lots of wood used in furniture making. However, the species variation will always be smaller than what you’d expect from a standard wood store or lumber yard.
You can generally expect to find oak, pine, poplar, and maple with cuts in the common sizes and lengths up to 12 ft (3.7 m) depending on the species you’re looking at. Pine is also a commonly stocked wood option in home improvement stores and one of the most affordable.
It seems like there is a big box home improvement store in every town. These stores have become a huge part of the marketplace, and they serve the weekend warrior more than the fine woodworker. However, there are opportunities to find woodworking wood in one of these bigger stores.
If the work you’re doing can be completed with common species, and you have a sizable home improvement store nearby, you should check them out first. If they have what you need, you’ll save time, energy, and money. However, if you’re buying boards, the prices may be slightly higher than at conventional stores.
Local Wood Businesses
If none of the options above work for you, talk to flooring companies and carpenters around you and find out where they get their woods. If you already have some relationship with them, it will be easier to get them to talk about this and provide you with leads on good wood sources.
Tips for Buying the Best Lumber for Furniture
After you’ve found a source for your lumber, there are a few important points you have to keep in mind to ensure you make the right choice with each purchase.
Go With the Right Tools
When you’re headed out to lumber yards or any other sources above, don’t forget your calculator and measuring tape. This ensures you can measure the wood on your own to see if it’s worth the price—which is often decided by the wood volume. If you’re going to the free sources of wood we’ve covered, you can save the measurement until you’re in your workshop.
Make Plans to Lose Thickness While Surfacing
If you’re planning on buying material that’s been sawn roughly, you have to factor in the loss of thickness during surfacing. The thickness of lumber is typically measured using the “quarter sizing” approach. You’ll lose a portion of the wood when it’s put under the planer. This is why you should ensure you’re getting wood slabs with a thickness that can be put up with planning and still have enough left for your project.
Get Wood Slabs Longer Than You Need
Just as we’ve talked about the thickness above, you should also ensure that the wood pieces you get are longer than what you think you need if you’re paying for them.
Wood from the mill rarely comes out perfectly square and without splits and cracks. This means you may have to cut out wild grains, checks, knots, etc., which can reduce the wood’s length in the end. A good rule of the thumb is to add 2ft (61 cm) to the length you think you need.
Get More Lumber Than You Need
If you buy the exact quantity of hardwood you think is required for a specific furniture project, you will almost certainly be caught stranded at some stage of the project. You’ll almost always use more wood than you originally bargained for because lumber—especially rough variants—are almost always not free of imperfections regardless of the grade you choose to get.
Apart from cuts and deductions due to imperfections, it’s always likely that you’ll make mistakes during the course of the project. You don’t want to go back to the store and find out that they’ve run out of stock on the lumber type you used.
Also, you probably won’t welcome the extra trip back to the lumber yard or home improvement store if it’s far away. It would be best if you bought around 15-20% more lumber than you need for your project.
Look Beyond the Surface
If you’re getting rough material, you need to look deeper. Wood that has been planed and surfaced will look different when compared to rough options. To assess the rough wood, wait to see how it changes after it has surfaced, paying attention to the grain patterns underneath the saw dents.
Insist on Getting the Color Right
Your vision for a furniture piece may be altered a great deal if you use the wrong color board. This is why you should take your time and insist on finding exactly what you’re looking for.
Even when the boards are still in a rough state, it’s easy for you to tell if they match each other or not. The best wood stores and lumber yards will ensure you get all your materials from the same logs, but don’t hesitate to seek more clarification if you’re unsure.
How to Store Your Wood for Furniture Making
Once you’ve found a source for your wood, you need to store them properly until it’s time to work. Here are some top tips you can work with:
Store Kiln-Dried Lumber Inside
If you have wood that is already at the right moisture content by your estimation, you should store them indoors. The best place for this is in your workshop. If you don’t have enough space in there, you should consider storing them in a storage unit, garage, or shed unit. Pay attention when you do choose a position to be sure that the wood is protected from moisture. This is to keep the moisture content of the wood from rising.
Keep Unseasoned Wood Outside
If you bought lumber that will require air-drying on your own, you need to keep it away from wood that’s already dried and seasoned. The moisture from the unseasoned lumber can get into the air, negatively impacting the humidity of your workshop or garage.
By keeping the wood indoors, you’ll also end up extending the drying time. The best way to store such wood is outside, off the ground, and away from direct sunlight. You also need to ensure protection from the rain.
Avoid Excessive Stacking on One Shelf
While storing lumber, you need to ensure you have allowed each piece enough room to breathe. If you stack too much on top of each, the pieces closer to the bottom may lose their structural integrity, making them less useful for your project. Additionally, the weight can also make the wood bend in different directions.
Keep Vertically Stored Lumber Supported
Storing your wood vertically is an excellent way to save space. However, it’s best reserved for when the wood is fully dry. Otherwise, it would help if you stored it horizontally until you’ve achieved the ideal moisture percentage.
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with storing vertically for dry wood, as long as the top and bottom ends are supported to avoid bowing. You should ensure the bottom isn’t in direct contact with the ground to reduce the risk of water damage.
Support Horizontally Stored Lumber With Brackets
It would be best if you supported horizontally stored lumber with brackets. If you’re stacking your lumber horizontally, you have to incorporate brackets every 16 to 18 inches (41 to 46 cm). This way, you can prevent the board from bowing.
We’ve seen the various places you can look when searching for wood to use for furniture making. Heading straight to the lumber yard, sawmill, or home improvement store is usually the best option to go with if you’re more than just a hobbyist.
However, if you’re only looking to make a small furniture piece and would like to save money on wood, you can explore some of the less conventional options we’ve covered. The wood they’ll offer may not be the very best, but it can get the job done with a bit of application. When you’ve gathered your desired wood, store them properly.
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