4 – A Lumbering Feeling

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As just about any woodworker will tell you, your first trip to a hardwood dealer can be quite intimidating. I can honestly say that my first trip was not only intimidating, but confusing and frustrating as well. Poor signage, no prices, and an impatient staff served to make the whole experience less than enjoyable for a woodworking noob. I know I’m not alone here. In this video, I will cover some terminology and topics that will help you be better prepared for your next trip to the lumber yard. Just a few of the topics covered include identifying different types of cuts, estimating board feet, and finding a good hardwood supplier.

Update (9/4/10): Sometimes when I watch these early episodes, I have to laugh at the delivery of my monologues. Not sure why I needed to say things like, “Wood Whisperer…..Video….Podcast…..” I guess I really wanted to make each word count. Anyway, years after posting this video, I still have the same feeling about lumber dealers. Each one seems to have its own system and rules. And I hear from countless woodworkers across the country who feel the same way about the lumber dealers in their area. I guess its just the nature of the beast. But once you have a little confidence in what you’re looking for and you shop at a particular store once or twice, its no longer an intimidating experience and you know the drill. Hopefully this video prepared some of you for that first experience. And if not, I hope it at least made you laugh. I think this marks the first of many instances where I would have to *bleep* Nicole on the show. Notice that I couldn’t even find a good censorship bleep sound effect so I had to make it with my own voice? That’s just the kind of high budget operation we run around here. haha!

Oh and if you are looking for a great way to calculate board feet on the fly, check out the Wood Shop Widget!

Categories: Techniques, Wood


  1. NoTalentRookie November 26, 2006

    Hey, Just wanted to let you know I sure do enjoy your podcast. I’m new at this stuff and I really needed “A Lumbering Feeling”.

    Lots of good info…and a hot chick who uses the “F” word. What more could you want? ;-)

    Keep it up,
    Thanks…Sam (NoTalentRookie)

  2. Just a fan December 4, 2006

    Do you recommend any books on wood types? (Something that has good images of different types of wood along with information, such as ‘often used in mission style furniture’)

  3. The Wood Whisperer December 4, 2006

    One book that I like alot is The Real Wood Bible. You can find it in The Wood Whisperer Store.

    I actually planned on featuring this book in our Holiday Gift Guide, but had to cut it out because of time issues. But the book is an excellent reference and contains hundreds of color photos as well as descriptions and other information.

    Check it out.


  4. Just a fan December 4, 2006

    Thank you for such a quick response! Do you get credit if we purchase from the “new or used available” books (books that aren’t actually shipped by Amazon)?

  5. The Wood Whisperer December 4, 2006

    Thats a very good question. I would guess that anything purchased under Amazon’s umbrella would count as a referral. I should email them to find out for sure. Thanks for bringing that up.


  6. Just a fan December 4, 2006

    I’m going to hold off purchasing until I know (I want you to get the referal credit). :-)

  7. The Wood Whisperer December 5, 2006

    I just looked at all the fine print and it seems that third party vendors and sellers are treated the same as regular Amazon products. So it looks like you have the green light. I really appreciate you helping out the show. Take care.


  8. tim (http://) December 8, 2006


  9. Paul December 21, 2006

    Hey, just found this site. Great video. I’ll definitely be back.

  10. Sal January 23, 2007

    Great information Marc. I also use a web site called woodfinder.com. Simply enter what kind of wood you looking for and how many miles you want to travel from your zip code. It will show all the places available to you.

  11. Joe January 30, 2007

    Hey Marc,
    Awesome website and even better podcasts! I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it earlier, I’ve been lurking around woodworking sites for about a year now. Great job, keep it up, I really appreciate your sharing of knowledge!


  12. Luis February 8, 2007

    I’m a web suscriber of finewoodworking and this is the first time I see your video. It said episode 4 so I believe the others were already showed. Or are you like start war who started on another episode? joking..
    I wll like to see more of these videos alongs with all that basics.I’m also new on woodworking but I’m learning a lot of people like you who do not have problems to share knoledge. thanks and keep it up…

  13. I am engennier civil, I love to working wood,
    Living in San Salvador, El Salvador, Centroamerica,
    We do not have a shop specializing in Carpentry.
    I Wanted to get Magazines for Internet to be able to happy.

  14. Darwin Feakes February 21, 2007

    This was a great film. I intend to use it in my woods classes. I found it (Thanks Fine Woodworking) at just the right time as This is what I am discussing in class. Keep up the good work.

  15. Travis February 23, 2007

    Great stuff! I hope you are able to continue. Information such as you deliver is essential and often forgotten with all the background noise of information flying around. As in all education, the basics are essential – plus you make the learning enjoyable.

  16. Terry February 24, 2007

    Great episode. I remember my first trip to a discount hardwood warehouse. I brought my 10 year old son, which of course made it impossible for me to ask for help, since as a dad and a self-proclaimed woodworker I am supposed to know everything. I couldn’t help but feel like the teenage kid at the counter was laughing at me when he rung me up after I wandered around for about and hour and half. Anyway, great stuff, and hope to see more!

  17. manju vaid (http://) March 3, 2007

    Thank you for such a quick response! Do you get credit if we purchase from the â


    hi Manju. I should get credit for anything that goes through The Wood Whisperer front door. Either use my Amazon search feature or click on the link that says “Go to Amazon.com”.

    Thanks for supporting the show!


  19. kevin c mcwhorter April 2, 2007

    The Wood Whisperer…excellent!

  20. This podcast was awesome! I laughed out loud because it reminded me so much of my first trip to the lumberyard. Hilarious and informative at the same time.

    Well done, Marc!


    “Northern Wood”

  21. Mike July 22, 2007

    5 out of 4? …. hmmmm….I would have thought it would have been more….

    great t-shirt and helpful ‘cast, I have been thru the same lumberyard experience…

  22. beau October 12, 2009

    I’ve working my way through all your videos, but I’m a novice, so here’s my lumber question.

    What kind of lumber should someone who doesn’t have a jointer or a planer buy?

    Am I correct in assuming I could get S2S boards (assuming it’s cheaper than S4S) and then give them a straight edge with a clamped guide and circular saw?


      thewoodwhisperer October 12, 2009

      Hey Beau. Welcome to the site!

      You are exactly right. I would say get the S2S and either use the router or a circular saw with a guide to create the first straight edge. You got it.

  23. Steve May 28, 2010

    Great amount of information, I would have gone in blind without this, thanks a million, by the way, best site on the net.

  24. Daryn June 8, 2010

    Like your casts. Just reviewed the wood buying episode. Would like to know exactly how most dealers calculate the board feet. Am I expected to pay for the 6″ or 8″ or 12″ checks that I find on the end of many boards. Can I ask for just the good part or do we cover it all with the wood grade and I get to pay a lower price but I get all the defects that come with it. If the board is only 7.5″ wide do they round it up to 8 especially if it is still in it’s rough state. I know their are no set rules but knowing how most dealers price and calculate it would make me feel less like I’m being taken advantage of. Thanks for all the info.

      thewoodwhisperer June 8, 2010

      Hey Daryn. Unfortunately I can’t really comment on what most dealers do. From my experience though, they are usually pretty good at measuring a fairly accurate width. They typically bunch the boards up and put their little fancy stick over it to get the number. So when you are buying several boards, the total error could be 1/4 off and it won’t be too big of a deal. As for checks and cracks on the end, I doubt you are going to make any friends by asking to not have to pay for the end of the board, lol. I totally agree that you shouldn’t have to, but I have never pushed the issue myself. As far as rounding up goes, I haven’t really noticed then taking advantage by doing that, so it hasn’t been much of an issue for me.

      You do have to watch though, because a particularly crappy dealer may figure that no one will notice, since the calculation isn’t exactly obvious. An extra buck per customer adds up, right?

      • Charlie November 15, 2013

        Knowing the basic rules for how to calculate board feet, and basic knowledge of the rating system will help a lot with getting what you want, for a just price. BF is a volume measurement, 1 BF =1″X1’X1′ all measurements are round to the nearest 1/4″ rounded up and anything less than an inch thick is calculated as being 1 inch. As far as checks and other defects as long as it meets the requirements for its rating, it would be unfair to the dealer to not want to pay for that wood (another costumer might be able to use it as is).

  25. Cliff Bramlett August 8, 2010

    @ Sal: Thanks for that link! Exactly what I’ve been looking for! It’s tough finding sources of good lumber that won’t start sawing away limbs to pay for it too… or it was. Should be simple now!

    Thanks Marc for the lesson in lumberyard lingo. I had a feeling the box stores were charging a premium for what I quickly discovered was horrible quality and selection, but I had no idea where else to look. Now I do, and even know what to look for. Learned something again. Can’t beat that.

  26. Marilyn September 4, 2010

    Ha,ha,ha .. I love this one. I watched it on vacation a couple of weeks ago and laughed my head off. My first wood working class sent me to the lumber yard and I had the exact experience. Because I’m female, I sometimes wonder if incidents like this happen in “man world” cuz I’m a girl and assumed to not know anything. This was so funny because I realized it that’s not really reason and it happens to guys too! Tee Hee!

    • Josh January 17, 2013

      Man I wish i would have watched this video about 2 hours ago. I went to the lumber yard on my lunch break just to browse and get some prices and boy did I feel like an idiot asking questions about board feet and price list. The video was like deja vu, but with an annoyed guy instead.

  27. nathan September 5, 2010

    This is the video that got me hooked on TWW. I found this video just a week after having a similar experience on one of my first trips out to a lumber yard. Except I was getting the lecture from a burly mountain man carrying an ax, and I wasn’t about to ask his digits :D.

  28. David September 5, 2010

    I am happy to share that my first experience at a local hardwood dealer was exactly the opposite. The guys were extremely nice, let me check out any of the stock I wanted, and were even willing to mill it for me at no additional charge. The prices per board foot (which I admit confused me a bit) were as competitive as (if not more competitive) than some of the best places online.

    I’ve been there several times, and as I learn more about the different species of hardwood and what their particular uses are, I get a little more confident going back and asking very for very specific stock.

    Now that I know better, I will never go back to the “big box” lumber sections…ever!

    Thanks, Marc, for an excellent video.

  29. medfloat September 6, 2010

    Hey Marc, just looking at the picture of the video brought a question to mind. Is that the same reaction Nicole has when you ask for a raise in your allowance??? The other question was why is she not in more videos? And don’t use the old ‘she runs the camera line’ either…here comes your motocon ;)

      thewoodwhisperer September 6, 2010

      Well, Nicole is like a fine wine in which one should savor….. :) And if you can figure out a way to get her to run the camera, let me know. :)

  30. Buxton September 8, 2010

    I know this video was done in 2006, but I am only just now discovering it!
    Thanks SO much for explaining this to me. You present this information in a way even I can understand (which is saying a lot!)

    I can’t wait to discover the rest of the site (this is my first visit) and learn from an actual professional.

  31. stephen September 20, 2010

    Can you recommend any online dealers?

  32. mark klein April 19, 2011

    great info iam a avid woodworker been working with wood for 40 yrs. my 1st trip to my local hard wood shop was very imtimidating. enjoy all your on line videos. keep they coming. thanks mark. ps. iam making my 3rd end grain cutting board 1st two were rock maple & jatoba my 3rd one is rock maple & purple heart.

  33. Marci Calloway December 31, 2011

    Hi Marc,

    Thank you for this Podcast it was full of desperately needed knowledge. I have a great hardwood store here in Des Moines, IA called the Woodsmith Store and they label things Quarter Sawn, I have never see anything labeled Rift Sawn, yet I have noticed different end grain patterns. All of the information you presented was a wealth of knowledge for me as I have found a love in lumber and want to learn all I can about it’s different species, characteristics, properties, etc. Especially the Exotics as I am using a lot of them in one of my product lines.

    I saw your Podcast on the color changes in Exotics which was very informative and thank you for your recommendation on the Woodshop Widgit, it’s amazing.

    Tell Nicole she’s Awesome by the way….

    Thanks Again,


  34. Stephen February 5, 2012

    I recently moved to Northern Virginia and after much struggle found a hardwood dealer about an hour and a half away from my house. Out of curiosity and nostalgia I started looking for my old lumberyard and realized they’re essentially off the grid as such. If you happen to be living near Gulfport, MS, Dedeaux Clan Furniture has a fairly broad domestic and exotic selection and more red oak than you can shake a stick at in their lumberbarn. Hopefully this will save some poor, wood starved soul from having to order offline.

  35. Denny May 30, 2013

    I’ve been a fan for a long time, and really like what you have done with TWW site. It’s nice to see a guy who seems very humble and ready to help anyone. Here recently I’ve been going through some of the older podcasts you have online and forgot how great they are. Keep up the good work!


      Thanks very much Denny!

      • Jack January 20, 2014

        Very great video. Alas, I won’t have to deal with it to much since there are no ‘good’ lumber retailers in my area. Although I’d love to know where u used to go Marc since I live in Wildomar just a hop, skip, and a jump from Temecula. Everything I can find is an hore away. Do online retailers ship? That must be some serious shipping charges especially since as a beginner I’m not using a whole lot of wood just yet.

  36. Beechwood Chip November 10, 2013

    Marc, you might want to add this video to the “wood” category. That’s where I looked for it.

  37. Eric Arendell January 1, 2014

    I think I saw in one of your episodes that you are originally from the Santa Rosa area. Can you recommend a hardwood dealer in thid area?

    I love the shows. Thank you for doing these.


  38. Adam H January 4, 2014

    This video makes me laugh. The first time I went to a real hardwood dealer a year or so ago, I had no clue about board feet, 4/4, or anything. Went to Hardwood Lumber Company of Dallas, and they were great. Even put up with me dragging my four year old son into the wear house with me (I don’t suggest this). Anyway, as a hobbyist trying to build a mantel for my grandmother found the experience super intimidating, but really awesome when complete. And wow, what better material you can get from your local dealer. Wish I would have seen this before I went to the register with my fingers crossed like you did. But, same way turned out better than I thought.

  39. Mike April 30, 2014

    Excellent video/demonstration of the different types of wood cuts, (straight, quarter and rift). I would like to ask a question which may well be a stupid question….but here goes. If a piece of wood has been straight cut as in your video, if it was to be ripped into square lengths, how can I tell what cut it is, eg 2×2 or 4×4.


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