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How to Get Cheap or Free Hardwood Lumber

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Here's how to buy new lumber in bundles for less than firewood. This seems to work best for hardwoods, cabinetmaker type stuff. This is how I got the wood for these nice shelves and this human-powered hydrofoil and many othe projects.

Construction grade lumber, seems there's no bottom end to that market, and no way to insult the customer with a product too inferior. Fine hardwoods seem to be another matter. There's some with problems the vendors can't stand to sell or discard.

Go to a lumberyard that has an owner or manager. Find that person and ask them if they have any bundles they want to get rid of cheap. Possibly he'll give you a look of recognition. When I did that he had plenty. He sold me some bundles for what he paid minus a random factor. Some were "throw me a twenty".

So he forklifted his distressed bundles on my truck's lumber rack and bottomed my springs out a few times for a few twenties. He's a good businessman and maximizes inventory turns. He wants me gone quickly cuz his partners slept through that class.

For instance this bundle of ash with some beetles eating it. I don't care about the bugs because they'll die as soon as I seal the wood and cut off their air supply. Or I can freeze the wood and kill them that way.
Also a couple of bundles of "rustic" cherry for the cost of firewood. A customer had returned them for being too rustic (spits, knots, and rotted spots). But actually only the top layers were bad. So then I'm making container shelves from nice ash and cherry because it's cheaper than plywood. The materials themselves are so good these shelves will be bringing someone joy and materials for projects for many lifetimes after I'm gone.

Now that the lumberman knows I can make wood disappear, he's happy to give me more good deals. It's the start of a beautiful relationship.

P.s. Do you see any beetles in this photo? Only some of the boards had them...
 
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the fumigation idea of wood was very clever.
tdinpa2 years ago
this is a FANTASTIC idea. I just found this sight.. I see this article is a few years old, but its still a great tip. Due to some family drama I am desperate for something to keep my mind occupied- so I decided to build a playhouse. I have NO SKILLS whatsoever, at least i don't think I do, but I am going to give it a try! but I also want to keep the cost down as LOW as possible. Since I couldn't find all the wood I needed on cl... I am most certainly going to hit up privatley owned lumber yards! Since I read all the f/u posts...I am also going to take a look at the "reject" wood from Lowes as well.... I am SO GLAD I found this article! I truly need something to do to save my sanity this coming week- and I ddin't want to scrap the idea just bc I couldn't afford the materials!
THANKS AGAIN!!!!
thescreener2 years ago
Hi Guys:
As you can see, I've been around for 80 years and I've learned and seen many things. What I've noticed in today's world is that every person under 50 thinks negative about everything but themselves. To answer this discussion about bugs eating wood, Remember one thing, there is nothing stronger, wiser, and self giving than "MOTHER NATURE". She brought these bugs into this world to do something as a balance. Everything she does makes our world a better place. It has existed for billions od years and something threatens this planet, she find a way of eliminating it. She certainly doesn't need help from the negative thinking environmental group, who actually is only interested in the power they can get from being negative, in a negative world. Me, I've always been positive about everything, seen all the world and been in places where nature is not disturbed. Geuss whaty? you want to know what the secret of life is??? Be positive about everything, everything and you'll look like me at eighty, more importantly, live life to the fullest. Never think negative about anything. Those buys your worried about are there for a better reason than you think...there there cause MOTHER NATURE needs them there.
gmoon6 years ago
Ah, isn't the wood effectively 'quarantined' to prevent spread of the ash borer beetle? And aren't you risking a of spread of the infestation? I don't have any direct knowledge of the laws involved, etc. But I wouldn't transport that stuff across any state lines.
gmoon is right. in michigan it is illegal to transport ash for any distance. the emerald ash borer is thought to have come in from asia onboard freight ships docked in chicago. infected wood was transported mostly to lower michigan where the infestion spread and has effectively killed all the ash trees in that part of the state. a large effort has been made to cut down ash trees above a certain latitude to prevent the beetle from spreading. seriously bad news. especially if you're a major league baseball player and can't buy a nice ash bat because there aren't any trees left. well, that was more than i expected to write, but work is slow and boring right now, so hope all enjoyed the science lesson. :)
Same Here In wisconsin. The city put Ash trees along the street where i live , would really suck to see them go 1 by 1
cd41 popproject5 years ago
how did an Asian freight ship get to Chicago?
gmoon cd415 years ago
Seriously? The St. Lawrence Seaway, of course.

Anyway, all a foreign species "vector" needs is place to hide (usually crate or pallet wood) and transportation--a ship from Asia to California, then a train or truck to the midwest...
partially right. He tells you how to kill the bugs. Freeze them. Or seal them in with polyurethane.
T_om Spokehedz6 years ago
Wrong. You can't kill borers by "sealing them in" with polyurethane. It is crap information like this that helps spread these and other pests. Wood borers are even hard to kill in a wood drying kiln. Freezing is a joke as to kill all the stages... egg, larval and adult, you would have to bring the interior of the wood down to about minus-30°F and hold it there for a while. Up to TWO WEEKS for some species. There are lyctid, anobiid, bostrichid, and cerambycid beetles, just to name a few, that are capable of damaging wood. Each has a different life-cycle and some can remain in the larval stage (where they do the most damage) for up to 15 years. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. THINKING you know something when you do not is even more dangerous. Tom
cd41 T_om5 years ago
Stop ruining our enjoyment of free stuff elspecially wood!
TimAnderson (author)  T_om6 years ago
Thanks for the info! What other tricks do you have for wood pests? Some of this wood had termites, I saw them crawling around, like tiny white ants. Tasty nutty white ants. No idea what beetles it might have. If you cut the wood to expose the burrows and let the wood sit, they push sawdust out of some of the tunnels. That isn't happening with the wood that I froze or built things out of and sealed/oiled, Doctrine from boatbuilders is epoxy coating stops everything because it's a great encapsulant and stops air/water.
As posted by the member "zieak" below this comment, fumigation is the best technique, and is the only practical technique for large amounts of lumber. The burrows you see are usually caused by the larval stage of the beetle, they actually bore out into the ope when they are morphing into the adult stage. Then they mate, lay eggs in (mostly) hardwoods, then die. They are commonly called "Powderpost Beetles" because when they finally bore out, there is a bit of sawdust like material pushed out ahead of them.... hence the name Powderpost ... but there are many species that fall under that common name. And in some species, the adults cause damage too. Techniques that work with some species fail to have any effect at all on others. Epoxy drastically slows moisture transfer, but does not stop it, and will not prevent a beetle larvae from boring outward through it. Polyurethane will not even slow them down. Limited population density of the infested wood you are finding may be the reason you have some anecdotal success with short term freezing and coating the wood you are using... not every inch of every plank contains larvae. But sooner or later, you will be introducing these pests into your home if you keep relying on wood finishes and short freeze cycles to kill them. Tom
mende T_om6 years ago
What about vacuum to maybe 0.9 bar for a while?
Derin mende5 years ago
0.7 bar would be better,and drcrash's vacuum can go down to near 0 bar.
A fumigation would probably work with some species. Wrap your stickered pile with plastic and bomb it then seal it closed. Let sit for a few weeks and you'll have some pest resistant wood for a while. I might let that breathe for a long time before cutting or sanding it also. Just an idea. I had a shelf fungus that i etched a design into. A year later an insect burrowed out of the thing making at least two holes in the face of it. I put the whole think in a gallon zip lock bag and then in the freezer for a few weeks and i did not have problems with it for years afterward.
Spokehedz T_om6 years ago
So why was the lumber yard holding these pieces of wood then? Shouldn't they be destroyed by burning them then? Just asking, and going off of what the author said to do.
A mill could stick them in a kiln and kill whatever is living in there that way. I saw the numbers a while back (temperature and time) required to make your wood sterile (at least as far as insects go) but I don't remember what they were off the top of my head. Lumber yards don't have a kiln. The response really depends on what the boards are infested with. It's probably NOT something exotic and rare that is going to wreak havok on the trees of North America but rather things like termites and powder post beetles that are already pretty much everywhere.
as long as you stay in the lower michigan area it cant hurt anything considering 99.9% of the ash trees are already dead. My friends woods was almost entirly ash and every single one has died. We already got years worth of firewood cut this year.
I live in Ohio, And I get these kinda Bugs in a Tree outside our house, I hear everyone say beetles,but these bugs fly, they have a long stinger like tail they use to bore into the tree and then lay there larva in the holes...is this an ash borer?? Anyone? I have no idea what it is.this pictire shows more of the holes it makes but ive got better pics of the bug. Thank you.
my baby 077.JPG
if its a ash tree then most likely yes. got them here in herkimer county, new york and have had a lot of tree killed from them
i have the same problem except they drill into my deck. i think they are carpenter bees...
Wiid3 years ago
I think I am going to try this. I need wood for a biodome.
Freezing does not kill bugs. They just go dormant until they thaw out. Don't believe me? Here is a trick that David Blane has used. Catch a live fly. Turn a can of air upside down so it blows out liquid and spray the fly until it is frozen. He then would have it planted it on a car windshield where he would find it and announce that he would bring a dead bug back to life. He goes over and picks up the fly and blows on it to warm it up and revive it. It works and everyone is amazed. Hmm... Maybe that should be an Instructable.
duration is key here. long cold snaps kill the pine beetle that plagues Colorado's evergreens in the mountains... ever drive to Leadville and notice none of the trees are yellow and dying? its because they get below freezing for weeks on end during winter vs sliverthorne, vail, and apsen which are not cold long enough.
foxy1paco3 years ago
I work at Lowe's in the lumber department; every week there is slightly crooked, still usable hardwood, osb boards and a bunch of other stuff that people won't buy. We end up gathering all that usable lumber onto a cart or two and putting a $$ amount on it. Usually $500 worth in full price lumber can go for easily $60. Not a bad way to get a bunch of project wood. I'm not sure if Home Depot or Menard's do this as well.
This is not a great tip to use! At least 25 million ash trees have died from this exotic insect pest. Use this wood and run the risk of spreading Emerald Ash Borer. No, you won't see the beetles just flying around, but the juvenile stages can be there and you might not notice. Your tax dollars are going to pay for the control and eradication of this beetle! Think about how cheap that is: the feds have already spent approx. $100 million
TimAnderson (author)  firewoodwarrior6 years ago
Mine were tiny, ate wood not bark, and didn't do anything "S-shaped".
So they were not emerald beetles.
Here's some more info on the emerald ash borer:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerald_ash_borer
http://www.emeraldashborer.info/
http://na.fs.fed.us/fhp/eab/
You should have just posted some white oak or cherry, man. Then you wouldn't have to field so many comments about the bugs. I built some utility cabinets out of birch a while ago that had some bug holes in it. No idea what they were, but I didn't see a live one among them. It had been kiln-dried before coming to the lumber yard though.
hawks22gk5 years ago
From what I understand, Ash lumber is safe because it has no bark. Ash Borers live between the bark and the tree and destroy the "connective tissue" for lack of a better term which prevents the tree from being able to move water and nutrients throughout it's systems. The Borers don't penetrate the tree. That's not to say that there aren't other nasty critters living in that wood, but at least you can rest your mind on those invasive guys. Personally, I'm not purposely bringing termites anywhere near my wood house, but you can make that decision for yourself.

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/44626312.html
PKTraceur5 years ago
I believe those "beetles" you are referring to is the emerald ash borer, an invasive species. Thanks for killing them! -PKT
purplemoss5 years ago
How many of you think that little red sign was keeping those beetles from leaving the wood pile as it sat outside for weeks or months until the wood dealer finally decides to dispose of it ....there was no quarantine, simply set aside away from customer eyes. As for killing the beetles, you could heat treat the wood to over 120 like they should have been done in the first place.
A good name5 years ago
Bad idea Tim. The beetles could still spread. Believe me when I say that you guys don't want to have a pinebeetle issue like we have here in Canada. It really sucks.
not a good idea You know, in the 30's when the American Chestnut died off because of an infestation,
Dr. No5 years ago
"Or maybe the trick was really "do nothing" since they live in Fairbanks Alaska and everything there is a freezer." What a trip, I live in Fairbanks! And yes, everything here is a freezer.
DanwiseG5 years ago
I work at "Lowes" home improvement store and this makes me hurt... Who in the hell was driving this thing? And their first mistake was having only one band on that bundle... WOW. shameful.
Plasmana5 years ago
That is a really good idea! Thanks! 5 stars!
daemonkrog6 years ago
oh sheesh.. get over it.. He bought some decent cheap hardwood and is passing on a tip. A nice tip I'll be using when it comes time to build some furniture. I'm getting sick of plywood.. even if it is hardwood ply. (boy i need to post my bookshelf I'm building out of one sheet of ply.)
bigcheeze6 years ago
niiiice going I could use a guy like u.
or you could just use it as fire wood
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