I have been buying lumber for a long time, not for a cabinet shop or large mill work shop, but for individual small projects. In my past I have been a custom furniture maker, a teacher, a woodworking school owner.
So when I say I have bought a lot of lumber, I mean to say I have touched, picked through and carefully selected thousands of board ft of lumber. Having assisted and hosted the who’s who of woodworking royalty, Sam Maloof, Brian Boggs, Chris Becksvoort, and Frank Klaus to name a few, one cannot have random boards picked up on the way back from the airport. These artists are known for their success in the craft, and a very important factor in that success is the quality and beauty of the wood they select to work with.
When I was teaching and running a woodworking school full time, I’d go lumber shopping once if not twice a week. Hitting all the yards, after a while you get to know these guys, and after a while they can call you when they get something you may be interested in. I understand that this type of approach is not always a possibility for the hobbyist or even the professional. But the concept is one that all woodworkers should try to embrace.
When one reads the woodworking magazines, or watches shows of their favorite woodworkers one may get a glimpse of a massive wood collection. This is often a result of hard work, cultivation and the knowledge I’m about to share: the time to buy lumber is when you see it.
I have over the years accumulated quite a pile of lumber myself. Why keep the reason being that I have found myself in the situation when I needed nice material with certain characteristics and I could not find it ANYWHERE for ANY PRICE. This was a way to hedge against issues like that in the future. But what it became was a quest for inspiration. Seeing a board or sister boards that you know are something special the time to buy is then because in reality you will never see another board like it.
I’m not saying go buy 300 board feet tomorrow, but think how nice it would be to think, the next time a niece gets married, “Man, I got that nice piece of figured cherry. That sure would be a nice side table top.”
Good luck and happy hunting!!