Pricing for slabs


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I've been on the lookout for a nice slab for either a long coffee table, or book matched slabs for a dining room table, and I am often taken aback by the pricing. It honestly seems to be completely arbitrary, even when the slabs aren't exceptionally wide.

 

I'd be thrilled to find someone that just sold slabs by the BF, but the hardwood dealers seems to attribute an extra 50-300% in my area. The only sawmill that I've ever bought from doesn't really have a selection of slabs, and what they had the last time I was there was all red oak which doesn't float my boat.

 

What's your experience?

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I met a guy at a woodworking show a couple of years ago that had a booth of slabs. He said he was retired, bought a big portable saw mill and did this as a hobby. He mills different local trees that are being displaced by housing. His prices are about 1/5 of the two local hardwood dealers and he also sells on consignment to the local Woodcraft store. Where I'm going with this; keep searching as you might find this golden gem in your area as well!!

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I buy slabs from two mills, both price by the bd ft.   There is a premium for larger slabs, one place charges about $10 bd/ft for most slabs (usually maple, elm, ash, white oak, a little more for walnut).  That is high compared to prices for lumber, but these are very large slabs that take up a lot of space in kiln and are air dried for about 1 year before they even go in the the kiln.      The other mill I buy from prices them closer to his normal lumber but his slabs tend to be smaller.    I also see them at my local hardwood retailer, the prices are higher but not shockingly so.  So maybe I am lucky but I have not seen what I consider price gouging on slabs.   

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Jerry, I owe you a beer next time I am in Philly.

 

I don't know how I haven't found that guy.

 

If you end up piecing out that curly maple, let me know. It was running $15/bf at my hardwood dealer today.

 

 

 

Chuck i have some other curly maple if your interested from 4/4 to 8/4 in soft curly maple .  I would part out some of that hard maple but not for the entire lot price .   I have a little of everything , 8/4 ash , mahogany , heart pine , holly some cherry .  If you need something let me know , I've had guys come up from Savage , my shops in South Jersey (exit 2 on the turnpike)

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My dealer has only walnut slabs and the price tags are through the roof.  They're 10/4, appx 8' long, and between 24" and 42" wide.  To give you an idea, the largest ones are being sold for $1800...and they ARE being sold at that price.  It's supply and demand, just like anything else.  Live edge slabs are all the rage right now along with the reclaimed/repurposed/industrial look.

 

FWIW, the slabs he has are kiln dried and sanded flat to 150.  But still, the $1800 price tag includes almost $1000 premium OVER what you would pay for the same quantity of regular 10/4 walnut lumber.  That's pretty nuts if you ask me, but again...supply and demand, and the value is in the eye of the beholder.  Pricing slabs is subjective.  He has what people want and people are willing to pay for it.

 

Fortunately for me, I have no use for them.  If I owned a cabin nestled in the Rocky Mountains, I'd be game.  But as it is, the live edge look doesn't really jibe with my interests...at least at the moment.

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Hi Steve,

Amazing detail.  I visited your site and I wish you were closer.  I love swapping wood for products.  My location is depending on the time of year. I am usually in one of three locations and I make lumber runs.  Most of the time SW Michigan, but we have forests and kilns, and milling in all 3 locations.  Thanks for the welcome.

Rich

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Reberly - your post really shed some light on slabs and the operating costs associated therein. 

 

I'm trying to wrap my head around the ecomonics of it with regards to supply and demand.  It seems from the general consensus, that due to their spike in popularity, prices have increased. 

 

I'm assuming now, that the preparation and time you mentioned that goes into a decent slab hasn't changed (let me know if I'm mistaken).

 

Is it then reasonable to assume that prices have increased due to opportunity cost associated with slab prep time coupled with it's demand?

 

Example:

You're a baker with one oven.  Rolls take 15 minutes to bake, while a large loaf of bread takes one hour, yet also occupies the whole oven.  Rolls drive your business and you sell the occasion loaf.  Suddenly, demand for loaves increases substantially.  Problem, is, you still have one oven, and can only bake one at a time.  In addition, roll business hasn't slowed down, and rolls still have to be baked.  The obvious solution would be to raise the price of loaves, while trying to keep roll prices stable. 

 

I could also, of course, be WAY OFF.  :rolleyes:

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Hi Vinnyjojo,

I realize this may not answer your question as clearly as hoped but the background may shed some light on the entire industry.  My mentor is a 4th generation Japanese wood broker.  His family has been supply slabs to high end table makers and woodworkers for many decades.  Prices for many species have actually dropped both in Asia and here with economic conditions.  The demand is generally quite low compared to boards as it is a specialty, high end item. The supply is increasing but I am regrettably seeing an increase in green, recycled timber, or air dried slabs.  This causes me great concern due to the desire for live edge and organisms (insects and fungus) finding live edge quite suitable for living space.  I am more concerned about increased problems in homes and forests due to fungal or insect issues since many of the of the woodworkers making slab work are not taking the time or paying the rate to ensure it is kiln dried stock.  Since I live in and manage a Green Tag Certified Forest I have seen the destruction transported insects and fungus can cause.  I have lost hundreds of trees to the Emerald Ash Borer, dozens of pines in the north to infection, and now huge (4'-5' diameter) Oaks to fungal Armallaria.  I refuse to be the cause of any spread infection to further diminish our future forests by transporting anything but kiln dried timber.  I think our current laws for the transport of logs and logging machinery are quite to relaxed and cause for much of the rapid spread of diseases.  I again witnessed this first hand this summer with my involvement with the industry and conservation officers.  The officers do an excellent job, but the industry allows practices that don't have the future of forestry in mind.   I don't want to sound negative, but when my children and I plant trees we have to plant trees that are adapted to an entire zone farther south than the one where we live.  One of the state foresters at MTU gave this advice to ensure that our forests in the future thrive instead of just survive.   I continue to make some slabs since I feel that many of the big logs I have to harvest or let rot are just too hug and majestic to chop into little boards.  I hope it doesn't sound aloof but the logs tell be the best way to mill them and it doesn't always match the orders I have on the ledger and I often end up with too many slabs...  Those buttered rolls sound awfully nice about now. :rolleyes:

Rich   

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Thanks Reberly for the insight into your industry and world.  As woodworkers who are always looking for another unique board, is there anything we should be doing or not doing......something we should be paying attention to that maybe we're overlooking?

I'm writing this at 7:10am and yup....those buttered rolls sound good about now!!  BTW Vinny....he just needs a second oven to keep them both going. :P

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