Selecting Lumber from Odd-Lot

Our weekly work-day was not very pretty, but necessary. We went to the lumber yard to select lumber for our upstairs window trim.

Upstairs trim: done and not so done. One down and 10 to go!

Vertical Grain Douglas Fir

The interiors of most older houses in the Pacific Northwest were trimmed out with vertical and open grain Douglas Fir. The forests were aplenty with it in the early 1900s. The wood is soft, but beautiful – it ages to a deep orange over time. The fine parallel lines of the vertical grain (vg) are especially pretty. You can find even old growth vg fir at architectural salvage yards, sometimes it just takes some sanding (or planing) to reveal the great wood under layers of stain, varnish and/or paint. This time we needed a lot of stock, so we opted for new.

If you have extra time (and patience) you can save quite a bit of money by sorting through the “odd-lot” section at your local lumber yard. “Odd lot” is where they put the lumber that isn’t quite perfect for various reasons – warped, knots, roughly hewn, cracks, oozing sap. (Monica talked about this option in a previous post.) I have time, but no patience, so Monica and Mary Jean came along to supply that.

Shopping Shopping Shopping: We took rough measurements of all the windows, and with our tape measure, went to Dunn Lumber, where we ended up in the odd lot section and got to work.

Things to Know:

  • Take accurate measurements of all your lengths before you leave home. You may find a great board with a couple of imperfections, but you probably could work around them by cutting the board a certain way.
  • Look for and avoid crooked/warped boards (by “sighting” down both the wide and short edges of the board length).
  • Look for and avoid loose knots, sap marks, cracks – or at least plan to work/measure around them.

Don’t Forget Your Measurements

“Sighting” down the length of the board checking for straight lines.

Imperfections to avoid: roughly hewn wood, sap, loose knots.

Time/Money: We needed about 26 boards of approximately 8′ lengths. By going to the odd lot area, we saved a little over 1/3rd of the regular cost, which is great. It took us about 2 hours to go through and select quality boards that would work. We learned that having 3 of us really sped up the process – one person read off the measurements & checked them off, and the other two inspected/measured/labelled the wood.

Load it & Go Home: We were able to put the seats down in the station wagon and fit most of it in the car. For the longer pieces, Monica tied them to the roof rack using her “super duper half hitch down-the-rabbit-hole” sailor knot (a.k.a. “trucker’s hitch plus a double half hitch”, she tells me) while Mary Jean and I stood in the sun eating peanut butter m&ms. A good day all in all.

See more of Heidi’s artwork at Old Stuff. New Stories.

2 thoughts on “Selecting Lumber from Odd-Lot

  1. Did I ever tell you that I, ‘the boominator’ redid the baseboards in our old house. True story. Hand mitred and everything…took forever. Any who, I was really impressed with all the help I got at ‘Windsor Plywood’….it’s so nice to have a good lumber yard with helpful staff

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