Introduction: How to Get Cheap or Free Hardwood Lumber
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...
Step 1: Forklift Lessons
I get back to the tower. Some new interns need a forklift lesson.
So I show them some really virtuoso forklift handling.
Step 2: About That Lumber Rack
I got the lumber rack for used for $30 which is less than the pipe would have cost.
This is a nice rack. The rear crossbars drop into brackets in a really handy way.
When I got it It was way too big for my truck, which was perfect.
I cut sections out of it with an abrasive saw and welded it back together so it fits my little truck perfectly, better than any commercial rack. Commercial models are taller than necessary so they'll fit more models of truck.
Look up the relative size of your truck bed and the wreck with a rack that you're shopping at here.
You might wonder why some racks have a dip in the side pipes. That's so they'll be lower than the crossbars. It makes it a lot easier for the forklift to pull out after lowering something onto the rack.
That's a useful feature to have.
If you don't have a welder already, go build one now.
Step 3: "Stick" Your Stack
Here's the right way to stack your wood.
It's called "sticking". Put little sticks between each layer of wood.
That encourages airflow and drying.
If you stack boards on boards water will wick in between and stay there. Your wood will rot, mold and get eaten by slugs and bugs. Stack your lumber in the shade if possible or it will crack and warp.
This stack has a plywood board on top to shed rain. It's on a wheeled dolly which was handy for moving it until I got it into the perfect spot.
Step 4: Deal With Bugs
After you stick your wood the bugs will start dying off.
They need air and water. Sticking the wood lets it dry out, reducing the water. Slugs and snails will disappear.
If you seal the wood all inhabitants die cuz it cuts off the air. Epoxy is good for this. Linseed oil has worked well for me also.
Throwing your wood in sea water until it sinks is a good trick to try.
But don't leave it there. Borers such as gribble and teredo only live in salt water. They die when the board is put in fresh water or taken out into the air.
The live beetles in these shelf brackets gave me fantasies that the insects would chew through them, dropping my axe collection on my head.
Then Jesse Hensel told me a trick his dad used. Just put the wood in the freezer and the insects will die. Or maybe the trick was really "do nothing" since they live in Fairbanks Alaska and everything there is a freezer.
Step 5: Bundle Covers and Pallets
This company in southern Maine makes wine racks. They buy 20 foot long bundles of plantation-grown tropical hardwood from Malaysia. Supposedly it's "rainforest-safe" The bundles come wrapped top and bottom with same-species boards with odd dimensions to protect the rest. The pallets included straight-grained boards 20 feet long.
I stopped and asked about the pile. The manager was delighted. He couldn't use this in his factory because it was too thin or a slightly different color etc. He'd been wishing someone would use it for something. He was going to have to pay someone to cut it up and burn it. Then he showed me more piles where he'd saved the best boards from previous burns and gave me that too.
I piled my truck (the previous "Ugly Truckling") with enough wood to almost do a wheelie.
A lot of my instructables projects were made using that wood.