Co-op Wood Buying?

I tried buying some wood from an importer who once sold regularly to me and then said no more, too small, can’t tie up manpower for small buyers. It’s happened before. It was one just five miles away—convenient but obviously with no commitment or loyalty to it’s customers, Timbermet, so that’s not an option now. It made me think is there another possibility that if the big boys won’t supply us little guys could we become a cooperative and find a supplier to buy from as a cooperative entity? I know when I lived in the States woodworkers couldn’t afford a Wood-mizer to slab their trees into boards because of travel costs and setup time so half a dozen of us got together for a Saturday with a Wood-mizer owner and we either brought our logs together and worked alongside one another to slab our trees or moved to one another’s to do the same. Once organised it worked great every six months. I still own some mesquite here in the UK from wood milled in Texas and shipped with my personal effects.

Other times I would just buy a load of wood, take it home and offer half of it to friends just so I could get the lower commercial price. That doesn’t exist here as far as I know but a lot of the bigger timber importers only supply larger distributors and there is always the markup that pushes the price up for the little-man end users. Course woodworkers are often limited time and money wise to enter into a coopted situation. I often think that the same could be a possibility for workshop space, machine shop and tools and equipment too. None of it as a business nor to make any money. Just cooperation between the likeminded looking for a way to make things work.

Another consideration might be approaching a supplier to put half a dozen packages together in bundles of say four woods like oak, ash, cherry and walnut, something like that.

22 comments on “Co-op Wood Buying?

  1. Dear Paul,

    there is a company named Cropp Timber (https://www.cropp-timber.com) here in Germany, which does sell to consumers. Maybe they also ship to the UK. The have an online shop for exotic woods, but for larger boards give them a call or send an email. I’m not associated, but any exchange I had was competent, friendly and professional. They have a wide range and amount of timber for sale.

    Cheers,
    David

  2. We are very fortunate in the Triad area of North Carolina to have Wall Lumber in Mayodan who will sell to any size buyer, offers excellent prices and has a wide selection. Nothing fancy about the operation, no pretty showroom, no air-conditioning – just racks of all varieties of lumber, plus pr-milled “hobby wood”, and huge slabs of natural-edged pieces for people doing slab furniture. Plus, they usually have a special on something – I bought 100 board feet of eastern red cedar for $200, and more recently, 100 board feet of cherry for $200. They planed it S2S for an additional $25, which saved me a lot of work with a hand plane. There are plenty of places to buy lumber in North Carolina, but none come close to Wall for prices.

    I think the co-operative idea is a great one, not just to get a better price but to be able to use one truck to bring home a load of lumber that would keep several shops working for a while.

  3. I once found a guy selling over 11,000 bfFt of mixed species. Mostly walnut and cherry, but there was some maple, alder, and others. He wanted $2,500 for the whole lot. Quite a steal considering walnut goes for $14 bdFt where I am. I didn’t have the spare cash to buy the lot (and he wouldn’t split it up. I searched high and low for some other people to split it with and I couldn’t find anyone 🙁

    I would love a co-op wood buying thing. If only there was a way to connect a group of people together in a given area.

  4. Dear Paul,

    there is a company named Cropp Timber (cropp-timber.com) here in Germany, which does sell to consumers. Maybe they also ship to the UK. The have an online shop for exotic woods, but for larger boards give them a call or send an email. I’m not associated, but any exchange I had was competent, friendly and professional. They have a wide range and amount of timber for sale.

    Cheers,
    David

  5. Paul, in the UK it might be worth woodworkers contacting local joiners. We often have clients popping in for small orders of PSE in various species. Joiners workshops typically have machines that can cut and plane to basic sizes too. Just a thought.

  6. The Greenwood Exchange facebook group might be a good place to look, Paul. Lots of UK folks there and many of them post regarding wood stocks/supplies.

  7. I have heard of cooperatives doing this kind of thing before but never with wood and I have never been involved with a cooperative. From this position of blissful ignorance, I can see there may well be challenge or two to get it off the ground but nothing insurmountable and it seems like a fantastic idea to me.

    The projects in my current pipeline are using recycled timber but, in a few months’ time, I will be looking to source more ‘interesting’ wood. My limited experience of buying small quantities of specialist timber from a reputable company made me aware that sourcing is far from easy and that shipping costs can be eye-wateringly high. Using Paul Sellers expertise and, where appropriate, cooperating with transport should benefit us all.

    If, as I hope, the idea grows legs, I will be more than happy to sign up for it.

  8. This is a great idea. Finding good quality wood is small quantities, and at reasonable prices, is a challenge in the UK and in most of Continental Europe. Big boxes and lumberyards are OK for construction timber, and sometimes a bit beyond, but are far from ideal for ‘fine’ furniture.

    I’m also sure that some people, especially beginners like myself, would be interested in ‘kits’ to make some of the projects in your videos, but this may add some more complexity.

    One could also consider an exchange, where people would list what they have to offer (where and at what price), so that they could share what surplus wood they happen to have

    • This idea has been proposed before.
      WWMC know the Cut-List for forthcoming projects and could bulk-buy timber to fulfil pre-ordered demand. They have suppliers, storage, thickness planer, table saw, and thousands of subscribers following the exact same project. Seems like a business opportunity to me? Most projects are small enough to be mailed.
      I bought the planes, chisels, books, DVD, and subscribed… but I can’t join-in with naff knotty pine from B&Q. This is turning potential UK woodworkers off.

  9. I have been very fortunate that in the San Francisco Bay Area we have an excellent hardwood supplier (MacBeth hardwoods). They have a huge selection of wood. The prices for rough sawn cherry runs about $3.75 a board foot. Last time I went, for $50 more (up to 100 board feet of wood) they would S4S it for you. For another $50 they would deliver it. As such, I could get 100 S4S board feet delivered to my home for $500. Other domestic hardwoods were similarly priced.

    Those 100 board feet will last about 2 to 3 years at the pace I work.

    If this wasn’t available, I would definitely be interested in what you mention.

  10. I do not understand what is being talked of here, how would a co-operative work.
    Your ex supplier has a problem and I tend to partially agree with his blocking small sales. If all and sundry stroll in, lacking in your experience, to select a few planks, it could be a very time consuming sale.
    So I do not think it is fair of you to put the company down, they are running a business not a charity. After your comments go world wide they have no hope of putting their case forward……What would happen when an amature like me makes a mistake and I go back for a short end. He has to sort his pile, assuming he had not sold it all and find a matching piece.
    On the other hand I do not know who he intends to sell to….bit of a problem

    Paul you often make a lovely piece from expensive wood type, where would I buy it from.

    Why don’t you buy, sort, and package a prepared bundle to suit your projects………obviously a very very time consuming and massively expensive exercise and at what gain to you?? I think you would soon react in the same way as your previous supplier.

    • it seemed that it worked fine and then they were taken over by a larger consortium and stopped. You seem sympathetic to them so why not sympathetic to a few of your mates, a few small guys banding together to be a little bigger with a little buying power maybe. What’s this, “put down” thing too? That’s just silly. And I don’t sell wood as a business. If I want to try to resolve a situation with an answer that’s possible vis-à-vis coopting then I simply will. No put down if they, as they are, are in the business to sell wood and they could sell to smaller guys as they always did in previous years. Just that people can organise themselves to buy quantities from a supplier and buy as they need to answer the problem as an alternative possibility and that is all. Is this really necessary? If you don’t agree then just say, “I don’t agree.” Furthermore, he does not have to sell ‘short ends’, that’s another exaggeration again. They can set a minimum amount, a full board times four, if they wants. You make a case by making out this is unreasonable and people have unreasonable requests when most people won’t but one or two occasionally might. It’s easily sorted For smaller orders they can mark up higher, that would pay the extra costs as most of us are willing to pay more for our smaller runs. See, I’m a solution!

  11. At one point in my life, I worked at a small start up company. Though it wasn’t my specialization, I was put in charge of much of the purchasing of equipment and tools we needed to do our work. I had a really tough time finding companies who wanted to spend the time to deal with us given our size. Suddenly, we were doing the cutting edge work that was hot and trendy and we raised 60 million dollars. We grew by a factor of 10. Suddenly, all kinds of vendors were knocking on my doors. Those vendors that had supported me when we were small got the lion’s share of our business. Those that had been disrespectful early on got nothing. I have no doubt that the sales persons who had supported me easily doubled their salaries (from commissions) for the next two years because of our growth. It wasn’t the only time this happened to me. It almost always pays to help the small company/individual person. You never know. Even if it is difficult for a company to help out, they should help create a process as there is always a way to do this. To this day, I still remember who was nice and who was disrespectful and I am and have shared this info with many over the years.

  12. A while after I started following your blog, I looked around for nicer wood than I could pick up at the local B&Q. In the end I got hold of a small bundle of assorted hardwood offcuts on eBay that are big enough for small projects (headphone stand, spoons, that kind of thing).

    If anyone would care to offer project packs or even just nicer timber broken down to the point I could use it (e.g. in my single garage where I have to resaw etc. by hand) at reasonable cost, I’d jump at it!

    • It’s not really for me that I am concerned, I have enough wood for a year or two. I might take a trip to Manchester for a load here soon anyway. I am never sure about suppliers either. I hear reports about suppliers that on the one hand sound good but then the dealings in reality are not so good. I am very happy with Surrey Timbers Ltd. They ship, sell small quantities and their prices are fair.

  13. I’m just really just getting started into woodworking and find that fitting out my garage to make a workshop or buying tools is not so difficult (with Paul’s advice) But to purchase a variety of various woods in common sizes that I can use to start a stock is proving difficult.
    A comprehensive (beginners starter supply) list/advice would be most helpful in getting my hobby of the ground, and even better if it could be supplied by some kind of cooperative here in the UK as Paul mentioned.

  14. I have visited several country shows this year, and as always, the steam engines never cease to amaze me. Whilst many of us are at home restoring and using hand tools, others are working on the engines that were once used to produce the timber that we depend on.
    Us ‘little guys’ forming a cooperative, could work hand in hand with others fascinated by history. At the country shows there is always an engine cutting boards, so why not form a group and have a purpose for the machine that is running?
    Using a steam engine certainly isn’t the most economic or environmentally friendly way, but the engines are going to run regardless, so why not have a real purpose for them to run? Not only would a group have the timber they need, it would also provide an income towards the cost of running and maintaining the engine, which is also going to be of interest to those running the machines.
    The shows are nationwide, so there is always the possibility of setting up regional group.
    I have no idea how you would go about setting this up, but it’s always food for thought.

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