Where to buy lumber and how to select


Scooter67
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Woodworking is not really coming to me very easily and before anyone says it that it should not I understand but something should not be difficult like taking a circular saw and ripping plywood and getting to the last 1" and my saw binds up as if someone is holding the blade from turning. It is always the last little bit before cutting through and I feel some day it is going to kick up at me. Any ways, I am thinking of designing a couple of shop necessities like mobile cabinets for a 12" drill press and for a bench sander. What I would like to know is where I can different thicknesses of MDF? Lowes and Home Depot only carry 5/8" where I am and special ordering a 4'x8' sheet would be very expensive. Also, I read in books from Taunton Publishing people using 4'x8' sheets of birch plywood or even Baltic Birch but Lowes only carries 2'X4' pieces. Another question is when I look for lumber, is there a particular way I should look? I usaully set pieces on the floor and if they are not to bad I get the best looking? Then since I design based on those sizes, if I plane them down they are no longer that size. I have ruined so many piece by not having square edges perpendicular and parallel to each other. Is it supposed to be this difficult?

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Woodworking is not really coming to me very easily and before anyone says it that it should not I understand but something should not be difficult like taking a circular saw and ripping plywood and getting to the last 1" and my saw binds up as if someone is holding the blade from turning. It is always the last little bit before cutting through and I feel some day it is going to kick up at me. Any ways, I am thinking of designing a couple of shop necessities like mobile cabinets for a 12" drill press and for a bench sander. What I would like to know is where I can different thicknesses of MDF? Lowes and Home Depot only carry 5/8" where I am and special ordering a 4'x8' sheet would be very expensive. Also, I read in books from Taunton Publishing people using 4'x8' sheets of birch plywood or even Baltic Birch but Lowes only carries 2'X4' pieces. Another question is when I look for lumber, is there a particular way I should look? I usaully set pieces on the floor and if they are not to bad I get the best looking? Then since I design based on those sizes, if I plane them down they are no longer that size. I have ruined so many piece by not having square edges perpendicular and parallel to each other. Is it supposed to be this difficult?

Scooter, Scooter, Scooter, so much to learn, so little Time.

Are there no lumber yards where you live,Surely there must be something,You would be better off using 3/4 cdx plywood than mdf for projects. Wood working is only as challenging as you choose to make it.

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Scooter,

Try taking a look over at woodfinder (just google it) for local wood sources. I put in a Syracuse zip and the closes yard I found was in Pulaski - http://www.lakeshorehardwoods.com/

As to the square and parallel questions that is perhaps a better question of the tools you have. You need a jointer (or handplanes) to get a reference edge and reference face. These are flat and square to each other. You can then use a table saw (or hand saw) to rip on edge parallel to the reference edge and use your planer (or planes again) to reduce the thickness based on your reference face. This was just a quick run down I am sure there are some great blog articles out there that explain this better than I have here.

Regards, Josh

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Scooter :

Don't give up.. You will be alright. Just be careful while using all your saw's. When you are using your circular saw make sure it is in good shape. Like for example is it a fairly new one or does it have a few years on it? If it does make sure it is unplugged first (a must) and wiggle the blade a bit and see if there is any wear in the bearings. Another question would be is the blade sharp? Then if that's not the problem make sure that if you are cutting large 4x8 pieces in half make sure that the far end that you are cutting is propt up. Like with a saw horse or chair or something to that extent. And sometimes it is better to use a jig saw. It may not be as fast as a circular saw but it is a little less dangerous. And you can fallow a line a little easerer too. If you really want to do wood work and you really like doing it, then your passion will grow for it. You may not believe this but when I started getting into wood work I was doing it in my house....Crazy huh But I did. sometimes it would get real dusty too. But I liked doing wood work. I started small for the most part. like making engravings/signs, shelves and small boxes. Don't get down about it. As you go on doing wood work you will get more experience going from one project to another.. And before you know it you will be able to help some one else one day...

So don't get depressed about wood work. I use to have a circular saw that every time I would cut something it just would not act right. I can try to cut something with a circular saw right now and I might have some trouble too. Which I probably wont because I have a better saw now. But none of us are beyond kick backs or saw binds. I have a little more experience now, so it don't happen near as often as it used too. But it can happen to me just as well... So don't get depressed or down. The fun part is learning. There's a lot of things that the people on this web site can do and do well, That I have had trouble doing. Like making a end grain cutting board. But I am not getting down about it. I just got to learn all the technique's..

So be encouraged about wood working ok................................. :):)

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Woodworking is not really coming to me very easily and before anyone says it that it should not I understand but something should not be difficult like taking a circular saw and ripping plywood and getting to the last 1" and my saw binds up as if someone is holding the blade from turning.

this sounds like the blade is being pinched. how are you supporting the wood when you cut it?

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Hey man. I feel your pain. Here is a thread I started a few days ago and a lot of people chimed in to help.

As for lumber. It can be really hard to find what you are looking for sometimes. I am shocked that Home Depot doesn't have more of a selection of MDF though. Look around the yellowpages and visit as many lumber yards as you can. I still haven't bought much wood for projects but have visited probably five different lumber yards getting prices and honestly just seeing how helpful they were.

I live in Nashville and found a bunch of lumber yards via searching "nashville" in this forum and on lumberjocks.com

It was nice to see people had favorites and I used their info a lot in my search for good lumber.

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man I tell ya scooter when I first started I couldn't get a straight line,I could mark two pieces the same identical size cut them place one on top of the other and they were completely different,I tried to make a simple square box and it looked more like something you would see in the mad hatters house, hell I couldn't make two pieces of wood the same size and shape to save my life man and ill admit I quit wood working for about a year just disgusted with it, I would watch others on the net or tv make it look so simple and it would pump me up to go try it myself and all it did was leave me so P'ed off and left me with a empty feeling like I was just to stupid or something but I knew that I loved wood working but this just wasn't worth the head ache but then after about a year of pretty much watching shows,reading blogs, buying wood working magazines in my head I could build anything after all this studying and watch boy was I wrong infact it seemed worse than before but I stcuk with it and done it every day and if asked could I tell you what changed no idea I dont even remember the point it changed it happened so subtlety but it happened and I finished a project that was actually something I felt comfortable showing off but dang man I look back at that project now and cringe compared to what I build now that thing looks like someone give a 3 year old a set of tools and some wood and said build something.

I guess my point is man it took me a long time and hundreds of hours of practice until I finally built something that I felt proud of, Do I think its worth it? Would I put in the hundreds of hours of practice again? In a heart beat man its the best thing I ever did.

So hang in the their brother you are not alone and anyone who says the first 10 things they built are the same quality they build after a year or two of woodworking either didn't improve or are straight out liars. i have a feeling in another 2 years ill look back at what I am building now and have the same feeling.

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Scooter,

Keep your chin up. Everthing will come in time. I have seen some good advice here. Lumber yards can be found other than home depot and lowes. Start with wood finder and the yellow pages. I live in the Triad of NC. I found it strange that with all the furniture companies around here that I could not find good sources for lumber at first. Then I looked a little closer and asked a lot of larger businesses about what I needed. Some were helpful and others were not. With persistance I found several locations with in an easy drive. Good luck on your quest, and don't give up.

Regards,

Richard

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Scooter, Scooter, Scooter, so much to learn, so little Time.

Are there no lumber yards where you live,Surely there must be something,You would be better off using 3/4 cdx plywood than mdf for projects. Wood working is only as challenging as you choose to make it.

Why is 3/4" CDX plywood better than MDF?

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Scooter :

Don't give up.. You will be alright. Just be careful while using all your saw's. When you are using your circular saw make sure it is in good shape. Like for example is it a fairly new one or does it have a few years on it? If it does make sure it is unplugged first (a must) and wiggle the blade a bit and see if there is any wear in the bearings. Another question would be is the blade sharp? Then if that's not the problem make sure that if you are cutting large 4x8 pieces in half make sure that the far end that you are cutting is propt up. Like with a saw horse or chair or something to that extent. And sometimes it is better to use a jig saw. It may not be as fast as a circular saw but it is a little less dangerous. And you can fallow a line a little easerer too. If you really want to do wood work and you really like doing it, then your passion will grow for it. You may not believe this but when I started getting into wood work I was doing it in my house....Crazy huh But I did. sometimes it would get real dusty too. But I liked doing wood work. I started small for the most part. like making engravings/signs, shelves and small boxes. Don't get down about it. As you go on doing wood work you will get more experience going from one project to another.. And before you know it you will be able to help some one else one day...

So don't get depressed about wood work. I use to have a circular saw that every time I would cut something it just would not act right. I can try to cut something with a circular saw right now and I might have some trouble too. Which I probably wont because I have a better saw now. But none of us are beyond kick backs or saw binds. I have a little more experience now, so it don't happen near as often as it used too. But it can happen to me just as well... So don't get depressed or down. The fun part is learning. There's a lot of things that the people on this web site can do and do well, That I have had trouble doing. Like making a end grain cutting board. But I am not getting down about it. I just got to learn all the technique's..

So be encouraged about wood working ok................................. :):)

Well, what is confusing is because the circular saw is fairly new. I like woodworking but I have not done a lot and I get into trouble and have no idea to get out of it. Most project either do not get finished because I screwed things up. My grandfather always said that the only power tool you really need is a tablesaw. I did not have any schooling with woodworking. My grandfather was not one for teaching because he was a perfectionist and hated it if someone could not do it as go as he could. Not a mean person just could not understand how it does not come easy to so people. I want to create a workshop for people like me who need a place to work, socialize, and get hands on help. So far it is not going well. There are things I would like to make and right now I have been trying to make a bookcase and it is no going so well. Not having wood planes or even the knowledge to make a square edge has caused me to screw things up. I read bboks and see all these project people have done and just get amazed.

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man I tell ya scooter when I first started I couldn't get a straight line,I could mark two pieces the same identical size cut them place one on top of the other and they were completely different,I tried to make a simple square box and it looked more like something you would see in the mad hatters house, hell I couldn't make two pieces of wood the same size and shape to save my life man and ill admit I quit wood working for about a year just disgusted with it, I would watch others on the net or tv make it look so simple and it would pump me up to go try it myself and all it did was leave me so P'ed off and left me with a empty feeling like I was just to stupid or something but I knew that I loved wood working but this just wasn't worth the head ache but then after about a year of pretty much watching shows,reading blogs, buying wood working magazines in my head I could build anything after all this studying and watch boy was I wrong infact it seemed worse than before but I stcuk with it and done it every day and if asked could I tell you what changed no idea I dont even remember the point it changed it happened so subtlety but it happened and I finished a project that was actually something I felt comfortable showing off but dang man I look back at that project now and cringe compared to what I build now that thing looks like someone give a 3 year old a set of tools and some wood and said build something.

I guess my point is man it took me a long time and hundreds of hours of practice until I finally built something that I felt proud of, Do I think its worth it? Would I put in the hundreds of hours of practice again? In a heart beat man its the best thing I ever did.

So hang in the their brother you are not alone and anyone who says the first 10 things they built are the same quality they build after a year or two of woodworking either didn't improve or are straight out liars. i have a feeling in another 2 years ill look back at what I am building now and have the same feeling.

Thanks for the encouragement. I just do not have a lot of experience or tools and the lack of funds does not help either. My brother-in-law once said a craftsman is one who can make a square box. Of I would tell him if you have the power tools he had anyone could make a square box. He has the planer, joiner, tablesaw, routers, etc. but does not do anything with hand tools all that much. I have a tablesaw and still have a hard time making straight cuts. I won't give up yet. I like trying to make things, I just have no friends, relatives, or even anyone I know that does anything with wood so there is a large learning curve here. I will get it eventually.

I see Woodcrafters here in New York sometimes have classes but the closest one that has these classes is three hours away. Pretty far for just a few hours of class. When I am done with school and my kids are in not doing much with afterschool activities I will look into it. Again thanks for the encouraging word:)

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Why is 3/4" CDX plywood better than MDF?

Well scooter, mdf is just about the nastiest sheet goods that you want to work with, it is heavy and it produces a lot of dust, but what I hate about it the most is that it just does not hold fasteners when going into what is essentially the end grain. There is also a problem with moisture absorbs ion and I do not think it takes finishes all that well. the only time i use it is as as core product when a absolutely smooth finish is required, as in high gloss finish. And I am not sure about price.

If you are going to build stuff for your shop use CDX instead of MDF, it will hold up better in the long run.

And Scooter remember The JOY of woodworking is building something to the best of your abilities not building something better than somebody else.

Dave

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Well scooter, mdf is just about the nastiest sheet goods that you want to work with, it is heavy and it produces a lot of dust, but what I hate about it the most is that it just does not hold fasteners when going into what is essentially the end grain. There is also a problem with moisture absorbs ion and I do not think it takes finishes all that well. the only time i use it is as as core product when a absolutely smooth finish is required, as in high gloss finish. And I am not sure about price.

If you are going to build stuff for your shop use CDX instead of MDF, it will hold up better in the long run.

And Scooter remember The JOY of woodworking is building something to the best of your abilities not building something better than somebody else.

Dave

Thank you Dave. I started building a bookcase with sides made of MDF and the shelves are made from 5/8" Maple plywood sanded both sides. My plan was to paint the bookshelf with a satin paint. I tried to do a tongue and groove for a front piece to the shelves so as not to see the layers of plywood. I used 1"X1" maple square stock. I tried to pick the least warped pieces and since I did not have a hand plane or know how to get square egdes. I cut a groove in the maple square stock thinking that screws would take out the warpage. I feel I screwed things up so for the time being I have given up. I also am working in a very small space and have other hobbies at the same time. I just want to do as much research in hopes that when I return after this semester's class is over I can correct my problem.

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If you do use MDF, get a good respirator like the one that Marc recommends, and wear it! Also, have a plan for getting rid of all that dust. Hook up a dust collector or a shop-vac with a hepa filter. If you are using a shop vac use a filter bag before the hepa filter. If you are using a dust collector, think seriously about a pre-filter or separator. I'd recommend working outdoors or in a garage where you can just blow everything out the doors. Otherwise, you'll be working with that dust for a while; the dust collector won't get all of it.

I did my first project in MDF because I didn't want to worry about wood movement or weird grain; MDF just seemed easier. I can't say for certain that's where my shortness of breath came from, but I have my suspicions. I was working in my apartment, with a shop vac, no respirator, and I just figured that when I was done I would vacuum up the dust.

The dust was everywhere - literally on every surface of the large living room, in every crack and crevice, so I was breathing a lot of it before I moved out. And it's the kind of fine dust, like fine flour, that gets into your lungs and never comes out.

I'll still use MDF, but I'll avoid it whenever I can.

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Well, what is confusing is because the circular saw is fairly new. I like woodworking but I have not done a lot and I get into trouble and have no idea to get out of it. Most project either do not get finished because I screwed things up. My grandfather always said that the only power tool you really need is a tablesaw. I did not have any schooling with woodworking. My grandfather was not one for teaching because he was a perfectionist and hated it if someone could not do it as go as he could. Not a mean person just could not understand how it does not come easy to so people. I want to create a workshop for people like me who need a place to work, socialize, and get hands on help. So far it is not going well. There are things I would like to make and right now I have been trying to make a bookcase and it is no going so well. Not having wood planes or even the knowledge to make a square edge has caused me to screw things up. I read bboks and see all these project people have done and just get amazed.

Scooter:

Look not every one is going to learn as fast as others. Don't stress yourself out over it. Give yourself some time. It looks like you maybe comparing yourself to your grandfather. Your grandfather knows a lot more because he has been doing it a lot longer. He had to start some where too.

And I don't understand. What do you mean when you say you get in trouble? You shouldn't feel like you get into trouble. Its just a learning process. Look five years ago I didn't know the things that I know today. You learn over time. I have had some major failures in the past, but I didn't let that keep me down. I think that your grandfather maybe trying to teach you and maybe you are getting offended. Don't take it personal. Every young man needs some discipline needs some guidance. Where would I be if I didn't have some one in my life getting on to me to get it right and not necessarily wood working, life in general. Thank God that you have a grandfather trying to show you something. Even now I have people in my life that give me a hard time when they see me messing up and I am in my mid 30s... Do you know how you can tell when some one truly loves you? When they tell you the truth no matter how bad it hurts. We need people to tell us when we are not doing some thing right. I would love to listen and watch some one that only uses the bare essentials in wood working. That's some real carpentry. Although its a little harder and it may take a lot longer to learn but look at the basics. If I was you I would be taking some notes. Soak up every thing you can learn about woodworking. Techniques and skills. Your grandfather may or may not be the best teacher but you can still learn from him. It may seem like he's a little hard on you at times, but that's because he loves you and he wants to see you succeed and get it right..

So be encouraged in wood working ok... :):):)

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Thank you Dave. I started building a bookcase with sides made of MDF and the shelves are made from 5/8" Maple plywood sanded both sides. My plan was to paint the bookshelf with a satin paint. I tried to do a tongue and groove for a front piece to the shelves so as not to see the layers of plywood. I used 1"X1" maple square stock. I tried to pick the least warped pieces and since I did not have a hand plane or know how to get square egdes. I cut a groove in the maple square stock thinking that screws would take out the warpage. I feel I screwed things up so for the time being I have given up. I also am working in a very small space and have other hobbies at the same time. I just want to do as much research in hopes that when I return after this semester's class is over I can correct my problem.

Hey Scooter,

You hang in there, it sounds like you have quite a bit on your plate right now and it may be a good time to step back and assess your project. Assessing and critiquing from inception to completion is one of the most important skills you can develop in woodworking and in life.

If you lived near me I would take you in and mentor to you to help with your desire to learn, and maybe that is what you need to seek out .

So, plan the project around :

  • the skill sets that you have and are fairly competent at, develop and practice new skills before starting the project
  • Research the materials you are thinking about using to find their strong/weak properties
  • decide if you have the tools to do what you have to do
  • design something you can build

MDF and Maple would not have been my first choice for this project. Just about any Veneer Core (VC) plywood and some solid Pine or Poplar wood would have been a better choice.

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I'm gonna disagree a bit with Dryter.

I will agree that dust is a big issue with MDF. Use a dust collector AND a respirator. It's hard on tools. Also, MDF is not as stiff as ply.

MDF is more dimensionally stable than ply. Unless you compare it to Birch ply, it's a much more uniform product. There are no voids. 3/4" MDF is really 3/4". Since it has no grain, either you cover it with something or you just use poly to finish MDF. Poly on MDF is very easy, and works really well.

MDF is heavier than ply. For shop cabinets and such, that is usually a good thing.

There is no end grain on MDF - it's the same on every side. There are issues with fasteners, and plain wood screws don't work well. You either use screws made for MDF, or just use rabbets and other standard woodworking joints. Brad nailers work well in MDF to hold things until the glue dries.

My Lowes has 3/4 MDF at around $30/sheet (might be $31). The quality of the plywood in that price range is dreadful.

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Hey Scooter,

You hang in there, it sounds like you have quite a bit on your plate right now and it may be a good time to step back and assess your project. Assessing and critiquing from inception to completion is one of the most important skills you can develop in woodworking and in life.

If you lived near me I would take you in and mentor to you to help with your desire to learn, and maybe that is what you need to seek out .

So, plan the project around :

  • the skill sets that you have and are fairly competent at, develop and practice new skills before starting the project
  • Research the materials you are thinking about using to find their strong/weak properties
  • decide if you have the tools to do what you have to do
  • design something you can build

MDF and Maple would not have been my first choice for this project. Just about any Veneer Core (VC) plywood and some solid Pine or Poplar wood would have been a better choice.

Right now I am limited on tools until I do finish school and hopefully get paid comparitively to others coming in with the same degree. Any way, what I have right now is two side to a bookcase, the shelves are not exactly how I would like them and I have several pieces of the maple that will not work because they are bowed. I should have found this site earlier to get suggestions. It would be nice to find someone to mentor me or at least help when I need it. I was thinking about contacting a speciality lumber yard near me that specializes in hardwood plywood. They have birch but only in 2'X4' sheets. The bookcase is going to be painted with a brown color. That is why I picked MDF also I know someone who works at Hardens Furniture in Rome, New York and a lot of their product is MDF with veneer over it. It was his suggestion to use it. Right now I am looking just to finish it, paint it, and get some of my kids crud of the floor and organized. My next project I would like to make is a toy chest but not just a simple box. It would be tow levels, the first with three slide out drawers and then underneath with two drawers double the size of the top drawers and with casters and pull string to move around. I am an engineer with a lot of designing capabilities but when it comes to mechanical dextrerity, I lack in that department and learning to move my hands the why my brain is thinking is not easy. I love to design and make plans. Now I want to build what I design. It is easy to design saying to use plywood, solid pieces, but not knowing how wood works the product does not work the way you want it to. I have a lot of learning:)

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Scooter:

Look not every one is going to learn as fast as others. Don't stress yourself out over it. Give yourself some time. It looks like you maybe comparing yourself to your grandfather. Your grandfather knows a lot more because he has been doing it a lot longer. He had to start some where too.

And I don't understand. What do you mean when you say you get in trouble? You shouldn't feel like you get into trouble. Its just a learning process. Look five years ago I didn't know the things that I know today. You learn over time. I have had some major failures in the past, but I didn't let that keep me down. I think that your grandfather maybe trying to teach you and maybe you are getting offended. Don't take it personal. Every young man needs some discipline needs some guidance. Where would I be if I didn't have some one in my life getting on to me to get it right and not necessarily wood working, life in general. Thank God that you have a grandfather trying to show you something. Even now I have people in my life that give me a hard time when they see me messing up and I am in my mid 30s... Do you know how you can tell when some one truly loves you? When they tell you the truth no matter how bad it hurts. We need people to tell us when we are not doing some thing right. I would love to listen and watch some one that only uses the bare essentials in wood working. That's some real carpentry. Although its a little harder and it may take a lot longer to learn but look at the basics. If I was you I would be taking some notes. Soak up every thing you can learn about woodworking. Techniques and skills. Your grandfather may or may not be the best teacher but you can still learn from him. It may seem like he's a little hard on you at times, but that's because he loves you and he wants to see you succeed and get it right..

So be encouraged in wood working ok... :):):)

My grandfather would probably been a good one to ask questions but he died a year ago last Christmas; actually 6 days before Christmas. It was not a very good Christmas for me. I miss the guy even though he was not high on teaching. He was however very knowledgable. He was not well for the last few years and when I was just getting started the only encouraging thing he told me was the only power tool one actually needs is a table saw. He is not only one I heard say that either. I thought I had him stumped when I said, "What if you wanted to cut a circle?". He was already a head of me with a jig can be made to rough cut it and then sand it. So I have had a table saw for along time but have not used it much. Now I am trying my hand at making somethings to be functionable and can be handed down from my kids to there kids. At least I am trying that.

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