How Much Does Wood Cost – A Guide for the Beginner. In this post, you’ll learn how to figure out wood cost, as well as begin to understand the reasons behind what sometimes looks like a very large difference in price.
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How Much Does Wood Cost
I get this question from beginners all the time, especially those that haven’t really done any woodworking before but want to get into the hobby. Their biggest curiosity besides the tools which they know are expensive, is how much does wood cost.
In reality, there are a lot of ways to mitigate the cost of tools and get yourself the different things that you need to operate a wood shop. Wood is the same way, though if you go to retail route there are definitely some differences to pay attention to.
You also might be surprised to find out that wood isn’t priced based on anything to do with how it looks for its properties.
It’s actually priced off of one thing that is completely arbitrary, and has nothing to do with how the wood will perform.
See Also: Discovering Wood in a Hardwood Store
Cost is Based on Rarity
Just like anything else in the world, the cost of a piece of wood it’s all based on how rare that piece of wood is. There are several examples of really expensive pieces of wood that are useless, and great pieces of wood that are cheap.
It all comes down to how much of it is available, and how much desire is there in the market for it to be used. A perfect example of this is Koa. This is a tree that resembles Mahogany in many ways, and works very similarly.
However, because these trees are isolated to a very small part of the world, and the harvesting is heavily regulated, the price is very high. In fact, unless you’re very good at identifying wood, you might not be able to tell the difference between Koa and a piece of Mahogany with similar color and grain.
High Cost Does Not Necessarily Mean Good Wood
Something to pay attention to right away is that high cost doesn’t necessarily mean that the wood is better than the other pieces with similar properties. Above anything, you need to look at the properties of the wood based on what you’re intending to make with it.
There are rare pieces of wood that are very expensive, but that will just not work for certain woodworking projects. For example, snakewood is extremely expensive, but you’ll never find a piece big enough to make a jewelry box.
If you do, you’ll have to mortgage your house to buy it.
At that point, it just makes more sense to find another piece of wood with similar properties that you like, and that has a much lower expense. It doesn’t mean that wood is inferior at all, it just means that it’s not as rare or difficult to bring to market.
Low Cost Does Not Necessarily Mean Bad Wood
When there’s a lot of something, the price tends to be low. If you look at domestic hardwoods in your area, you’ll find that the prices on those compared to pieces that have to come from overseas a relatively less.
It doesn’t mean that these pieces of domestic wood are awful, in many cases they would actually be much higher priced if they’re shipped somewhere else. It’s funny, because it seems like everyone is willing to pay more for wood that takes a farther journey before getting to the store.
Instrument makers are a prime example of this. In Europe, there’s a big demand for North American Spruce and Canadian Spruce. In America, everyone wants Alpine Spruce and Italian Spruce. In the end, it’s all Spruce. It just seems like everybody wants something that comes from farther away.
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How to Calculate the Cost of a Piece of Wood
Wood is sold by volume, which is the only fair way to sell it. For this reason, there is a formula that converts any piece of wood into units that are 12 inch by 12 inch by 1 inch tile. It’s actually not a full inch, it’s a nominal inch but that’s a story for another time.
When you buy a piece of wood, it’ll typically be sold by the board foot. This might have a price tag let’s say $10 per board foot. That means every volume of wood that is 12 inches by 12 inches by the thickness value of one, which is typically 3/4 of an inch, cost $10.
This means if you found a board that was 3/4 of an inch thick, 12 inches wide, and 10 feet long, it would be a $100 board because it would have 10 board feet of material in it.
See Also: How to Calculate Board Feet the Easy Way
How to Avoid Buying a Story
One of the things to be really careful of when you’re buying wood and you are assessing the cost of a piece of wood is to make sure that you’re not buying a story. Like anything else, things sell better when there is a story attached.
If you had one bunker of new oak beams, and another bunker of oak beams that were used in an old English farmhouse 500 years ago, the beams with a story will cost more.
They may be the exact same type of wood, the exact same quality, and the exact same species. Everything else might be the same, but the fact that you can tell people you have 500 year old oak beams from an old English farmhouse makes the price of those go way up.
If you’re interested in the wood because it has a story, feel free to pay the extra price, just make sure you’re carrying that over to your customers as well. If you want to get the best bang for your buck, by normal wood that doesn’t have an interesting background.
See Also: How to Make Wood Look Reclaimed
Your Action Assignment
Now that you know all about how much wood costs, it’s time to get out in your shop and take action. Next time you walk in the wood store, or you buy something online, you’ll know a lot more about the real cost of a piece of wood.
You’ll know that just because something is expensive, doesn’t mean it’s better. You’ll also know that just because a piece of wood is cheap, typically only means that it’s abundant. Being abundant doesn’t mean you’re bad, it just means there’s a lot of you.
If you have any questions about how much wood costs, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.
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