Where do lumber yards buy their lumber?

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I have found myself in a very interesting situation. Through a series of events, I have a storefront, in an industrial part of town where lots of plumbing, concrete, and building material firms have locations. I also have financial backing. I think I would really like to start a woodworkers' lumber source. The city that I live in has slightly over 500,000 people, and the only lumber yards, within several hundred miles, are all almost exclusively construction lumber. If you want to buy S4S maple, white oak, walnut, sapele, hickory, ash... etc... you have to go to one of the two huge, (100 yards x 100 yards), lumber yards in town, park your car, get out, and just stand there, while approx 75-100 guys, contractors, employees, and all together rough looking guys, a lot of which do not speak English, who have no interest in helping you. When I watch Marc Spagnuolo, David Picciuto, Jon Peters, and all the other woodworking heroes of mine on YouTube, when they go to their local lumber stores, I see nice stores, with kind staff, who have a great interest in hardwood and in helping the woodworkers of that area find what they really need. 

Wood is a funny product, in that there is never a brand name or a source associated with it. If you want to open a restaurant, it is easy to figure out where to source your ingredients. Where does lumber come from? Do any of you guys have any resources that you can point me to so that I can reach out and start conversations about me placing wholesale orders?



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There are two hardwood sources within reasonable driving distance for me. One is a large lumber business, does their own milling, supplies flooring companies, etc, but has a "hobby sales" department as well.

The other sounds more like you want to be, and they source from people like @Spanky. They may even have contacted him about supply. You'll want to find a sawyer that runs a kiln. Many sawmills around here cut and ship green, straight to the flooring and furniture factories. I looked into it once, the industry is surprisingly segmented. There are timber folks that just cut trees, concentration yards that broker logs and sometimes lumber, sawmills that turn logs into boards, processors that dry lumber and somtimes plane it, and finally millworks shops that take rough lumber and finish it to s4s, moldings, etc. And various amounts of overlap between any adjacent steps in the process. My sister works for a timber company that just cuts trees into logs, and saws logs into cants. I guess someone else buys the cants and makes boards.

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I second the suggestion about Shannon's Lumber Industry update.  He has some great shows on the "life" of a board (where they come from, how it moves through the distribution layers) as well as some commentary on the profitability.  It might not be as profitable as you expect, but if you can offer a differentiated product then perhaps there's potential in your area.


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Location is a huge hurdle but buying from a wholeseller is your best bet. https://metrohardwoods.com/ This is a lumber wholeseller near me not sure how far out they service.

Large orders are the best way to keep costs down. I"m not sure if you are interested in only selling S4S or if you are planning on selling rough. If you want to sell surfaced lumber from my experience it's going to be cheaper to buy rough and offer processing fees. This leaves the most flexibility for your consumer as they can buy rough or surfaced.


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26 minutes ago, Chestnut said:

If you want to sell surfaced lumber from my experience it's going to be cheaper to buy rough and offer processing fees. This leaves the most flexibility for your consumer as they can buy rough or surfaced.

Good point.

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