How to Source Wood for Woodworking

Wood is the foundational material for any woodworking project, and sourcing high-quality wood is essential to achieving successful and beautiful results. Whether you are a seasoned woodworker or just starting out, understanding how to source wood effectively can save you time, money, and frustration. In this article, we will guide you through the process of finding the perfect wood for your projects, from local lumberyards and specialty suppliers to online options and sustainable practices.

When it comes to woodworking, not all types of wood are created equal. Different woods have unique characteristics that impact their strength, grain patterns, color variations, and durability. Understanding the different types of wood available and their qualities is crucial in selecting the right material for your specific project. In this article, we will break down common types of wood used in woodworking and provide insights into their characteristics.

One of the first places to consider when sourcing wood for your woodworking projects is your local lumberyard. Lumberyards offer several advantages such as personalized service, expert advice, and a wide selection of options. They often carry a variety of hardwoods and softwoods suitable for various projects. Additionally, building relationships with lumberyard staff can help you gain valuable knowledge about different wood species and their applications.

Finding quality wood is the foundation of every successful woodworking project. By understanding the importance of sourcing quality wood and exploring various options like local lumberyards, specialty suppliers, online sources, salvaging materials, building connections with tree services, visiting sawmills, and prioritizing sustainable practices-you can embark on your woodworking journey with confidence and ensure that your creations stand the test of time.

Understanding the Different Types of Wood

Woodworking is a craft that requires a deep understanding of the materials being used. Different types of wood have unique characteristics that can greatly affect the outcome of a woodworking project. In this section, we will explore some common types of wood used in woodworking and their unique properties.


Hardwoods are a popular choice for many woodworking projects due to their strength and durability. Examples of hardwoods include oak, maple, cherry, and walnut. Oak is known for its beautiful grain pattern and resistance to wear and tear, making it a great choice for furniture pieces.

Maple is often used for its light color and smooth texture, making it ideal for creating cabinets or cutting boards. Cherry has a rich reddish hue that darkens over time and is commonly used in fine furniture making. Walnut is prized for its rich, dark brown color and is frequently used in high-end woodworking projects.


Softwoods are another category of wood commonly used in woodworking projects. Despite their name, softwoods are not necessarily softer than hardwoods but rather come from coniferous trees like pine, cedar, and spruce. Pine is widely available and affordable, making it a popular choice among beginners or those on a budget.

It has a light color with prominent grain patterns. Cedar has natural oils that give it resistance to decay and insects, making it an excellent choice for outdoor furniture or decking. Spruce is commonly used in construction due to its workability and strength.

Exotic Woods

Exotic woods offer woodworkers the opportunity to create unique pieces with stunning visual appeal. These woods come from trees native to regions outside North America, such as African mahogany or Brazilian rosewood. African mahogany has beautiful reddish-brown tones with interlocking grain patterns that are highly sought after for fine furniture making.

Brazilian rosewood is known for its distinct fragrance, exceptional durability, and stunning purple-brown color. While exotic woods offer some of the most luxurious options for woodworking projects, they can be more expensive and harder to find than other types of wood.

Understanding the different types of wood and their unique characteristics is crucial for woodworkers. Each type of wood has its own set of advantages and considerations, influencing the final outcome of a project in terms of appearance, strength, and functionality. By familiarizing oneself with the properties of different woods, woodworkers can select the most suitable materials for their specific projects, ensuring successful results that will stand the test of time.

Local Lumberyards

Local lumberyards are a valuable resource for woodworking enthusiasts, offering numerous benefits when it comes to sourcing quality wood for projects. These establishments provide personalized service and a wide selection of options, making them an excellent choice for woodworking materials.

Personalized Service

One of the main advantages of shopping at local lumberyards is the personalized service they offer. Unlike large chain stores, which may have limited knowledge about woodworking, local lumberyard staff members often have expertise in the field.

They can provide guidance and advice based on their experience, helping customers choose the right type of wood for their specific project. Whether you need assistance with grain direction or determining the appropriate wood thickness, the knowledgeable staff at a local lumberyard can guide you in making informed decisions.

Wide Selection of Options

Local lumberyards typically offer a wider range of wood options compared to big-box retailers. They carry a variety of species, including both domestic and exotic woods. This allows woodworkers to experiment with different types of wood and explore unique characteristics that each one possesses. Local lumberyards often stock specialty woods that may not be available elsewhere, giving you access to more diverse choices for your woodworking projects.

Additionally, these establishments usually offer various grades of wood suitable for different purposes. Whether you require high-quality hardwood for furniture making or lower-grade lumber for practice pieces, local lumberyards are likely to have options that cater to your needs.

Another advantage is that some local lumberyards allow customers to browse through stacks of boards before purchasing them. This hands-on approach enables woodworkers to assess the quality and appearance of individual boards before committing to a purchase, ensuring that they select the best pieces for their projects.

Specialty Wood Suppliers

When it comes to sourcing wood for woodworking projects, specialty wood suppliers are a valuable resource to consider. These suppliers carry a wide range of unique and exotic wood species that are not typically found at regular lumberyards. Whether you’re in search of rare woods like zebrawood or purpleheart, or simply want something with more character like spalted maple or figured walnut, specialty wood suppliers can fulfill your desires.

One of the main advantages of purchasing from specialty wood suppliers is the opportunity to work with more diverse and distinctive types of wood. These suppliers often have access to a broader selection of woods from around the world, offering greater options for creativity and customization. If you’re looking to add a special touch to your woodworking projects or create one-of-a-kind pieces, specialty wood suppliers can fulfill those needs.

Another benefit of working with specialty wood suppliers is their expertise and knowledge about different types of wood. They can provide valuable advice on which woods are best suited for specific projects based on their unique characteristics such as durability, grain patterns, and color variations. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced woodworker, this guidance can help you make informed decisions when selecting the perfect material for your project.

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When purchasing from specialty wood suppliers, it’s important to consider factors such as cost and availability. Exotic woods can be more expensive than common varieties due to their scarcity and transportation costs. Additionally, some rare species may have restrictions on harvesting and exporting due to conservation efforts. Therefore, it’s essential to research your desired wood species beforehand and ensure that they meet ethical standards.

Online Wood Suppliers

In today’s digital age, online wood suppliers have become an increasingly popular option for sourcing wood for woodworking projects. These suppliers offer a wide range of conveniences and options that make it easier than ever to find the perfect wood for your specific needs.

Pros of Online Wood Suppliers

  1. Convenience: One of the biggest advantages of online wood suppliers is their convenience. With just a few clicks, you can browse through their extensive catalogs, compare prices, and place an order from the comfort of your own home. This saves you valuable time and allows you to explore a greater variety of wood species and cuts than what may be available at local lumberyards or specialty wood suppliers.
  2. Wide Selection: Online wood suppliers often offer an extensive selection of both domestic and exotic wood species. This allows you to access a greater variety of grains, colors, and textures to suit your specific woodworking needs. Whether you’re looking for a common type like oak or maple or seeking something more exotic like padauk or purpleheart, chances are you’ll find it from an online supplier.
  3. Expanded Market Reach: Another advantage is that online wood suppliers often have a wider market reach compared to local options. They can source their products from various locations around the world, providing access to unique types of timber that may not be available locally. This expanded market reach also means increased competition among online suppliers, which can lead to competitive pricing and better deals for customers.

Cons of Online Wood Suppliers

  1. Inability to Inspect Wood Personally: One drawback when sourcing wood online is that you cannot physically inspect each piece before purchasing it. While reputable online wood suppliers usually provide detailed information about the appearance, quality, and dimensions of each product, there is still a possibility that the actual wood may not fully meet your expectations. It’s important to review customer reviews and ratings, as well as inquire about return policies, to mitigate this risk.
  2. Shipping Costs: Depending on your location and the size of your order, shipping costs can add a significant expense when purchasing wood online. Some suppliers offer free shipping for certain products or purchase amounts, but it’s important to factor in these costs when comparing prices between different suppliers. Consider buying in bulk or combining orders with fellow woodworkers to reduce shipping expenses.
  3. Environmental Impact: Online wood suppliers often have a larger carbon footprint compared to sourcing locally. The transportation involved in shipping wood over long distances contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. If sustainability is a priority for you, consider purchasing from suppliers that demonstrate commitment to responsible sourcing practices and carbon offset initiatives.

Overall, online wood suppliers offer convenience and an extensive selection that make them worth considering for woodworking projects. As with any sourcing method, it is important to research and compare different options before making a final decision. With proper consideration of the pros and cons, online wood suppliers can be a valuable resource for obtaining quality wood for your woodworking endeavors.

Salvaging Wood

Woodworking projects can be both rewarding and environmentally conscious when using salvaged wood. Salvaging wood not only reduces waste but also adds a unique character to your creations. This section explores the option of utilizing salvaged wood for woodworking projects and provides helpful tips on where to find reclaimed wood and how to assess its quality.

One of the best places to find reclaimed wood is through demolition sites or renovation projects. Often, old buildings, barns, or even furniture pieces are torn down or discarded during remodeling efforts. By inquiring with contractors, homeowners, or local salvage yards about their disposal plans, you may be able to acquire usable wooden materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Another avenue for sourcing salvaged wood is through recycling centers or architectural salvage stores. These establishments specialize in repurposing building materials from demolished structures and offer reclaimed wood for sale. Visiting these stores can yield a wide variety of options, including various types of timber, doors, beams, and flooring materials that can be repurposed for your woodworking projects.

When searching for reclaimed wood, it’s important to assess its quality before incorporating it into your project. Look out for signs of damage such as rotting, insect infestation, or excessive warping. Inspect the overall integrity of the piece by checking for splits or cracks that may compromise structural stability.

Building Relationships with Tree Services

Establishing connections with tree service companies can be a valuable way to source wood for woodworking projects. These companies often have access to free or discounted wood from tree removals, providing an affordable and sustainable option for woodworkers. Building relationships with tree services not only allows you to acquire quality wood at a reduced cost, but it also helps in reducing waste by repurposing trees that would otherwise be discarded.

One of the main benefits of building relationships with tree services is the access to free or discounted wood. When trees are removed due to disease, storm damage, or construction purposes, tree service companies often end up with large quantities of wood that they need to dispose of.

By establishing a rapport with these companies, you may be able to take advantage of this surplus wood at little to no cost. This can significantly reduce your expenses on sourcing materials for woodworking projects.

Moreover, acquiring wood from tree services promotes sustainability and environmental consciousness. Rather than resorting to new lumber that requires cutting down fresh trees, salvaging the wood from fallen or removed trees minimizes the demand for new resources. This practice aligns with the principles of responsible woodworking and contributes towards reducing deforestation and preserving natural habitats.

When building relationships with tree services, it is important to establish trust and good communication. Reach out to local tree service companies and express your interest in obtaining salvaged wood for woodworking projects. Offer your assistance in hauling away and processing the wood if needed. This collaboration can create a mutually beneficial partnership where both parties benefit from each other’s expertise and resources.

Benefits of Building Relationships with Tree Services
Access to free or discounted wood
Promotion of sustainability and environmental consciousness
Reduction in expenses for sourcing materials

Visiting Sawmills

When it comes to sourcing wood for woodworking projects, visiting sawmills can be an excellent option. Sawmills are facilities where logs are transformed into lumber, making them an ideal place to find quality wood.

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Visiting a sawmill not only gives you access to a wide selection of lumber but also allows you to gain valuable knowledge about the wood sourcing process. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to navigate your visit to a sawmill and make the most out of your wood purchasing experience.

Firstly, when selecting a sawmill to visit, consider researching different sawmills in your area. Look for establishments that have positive reviews and a good reputation for quality products. It may also be helpful to inquire about their inventory beforehand, so you have an idea of what types of wood they offer and whether they meet your specific project requirements.

Once you arrive at the sawmill, take some time to observe the overall setup and cleanliness of the facility. Look for well-maintained machinery and organized storage areas. A clean and organized environment can be an indication of professionalism and attention to detail, which are important factors when choosing where to source your wood.

During your visit, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Sawyers or personnel at the mill are often knowledgeable about different types of wood and can provide valuable insights into their characteristics and potential uses. They can also help you determine which species would work best for your project based on its intended purpose and required durability.

When it comes time to make a purchase, carefully inspect each board or piece of lumber before finalizing your selection. Pay attention to factors such as moisture content, grain patterns, any knots or defects, and overall straightness in order to ensure that you’re getting high-quality material that will meet your needs.

Visiting sawmills can be an exciting and educational experience for woodworkers. Not only does it provide access to a vast selection of lumber, but it also allows you to witness the wood sourcing process firsthand. By following these tips and guidelines, you can make the most out of your trip to a sawmill and confidently select the wood that will elevate your woodworking projects.

Sustainable Wood Sourcing

As awareness about environmental conservation continues to grow, it is crucial for woodworkers to prioritize sustainable wood sourcing. Sustainable wood sourcing involves obtaining wood from responsibly managed forests to ensure the preservation of natural resources and biodiversity. By supporting sustainable practices, woodworkers can contribute to the long-term health of our planet while still pursuing their woodworking projects.

When looking for responsibly harvested wood, one important factor to consider is certification. Look for products that have been certified by reputable organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). These certifications indicate that the wood comes from forests that have been managed in an environmentally, socially, and economically responsible way.

Another tip for identifying responsibly harvested wood is to look for local options whenever possible. Locally sourced wood reduces transportation emissions and supports local economies. Research local sawmills or lumberyards that prioritize sustainability and inquire about their sourcing practices. Often, these establishments will have a relationship with nearby foresters who practice responsible forest management.

In addition to certification and locality, it’s important to consider the specific species of wood being used. Some types of wood are more abundant and fast-growing than others, making them more sustainable choices. For example, bamboo is a popular choice in sustainable woodworking due to its rapid growth rate and ability to regenerate quickly.

By prioritizing sustainable wood sourcing practices, woodworkers can make a positive impact on the environment while still enjoying their craft. It may require some research and effort, but knowing that your materials come from responsible sources adds value to your woodworking projects beyond aesthetic appeal. Let’s all strive towards a future where sustainability is at the core of every woodworking endeavor.


In conclusion, the process of sourcing wood for woodworking projects is crucial to ensure the quality and success of your creations. Throughout this article, we have explored various methods and options for finding the best wood for your needs.

Firstly, we discussed the different types of wood commonly used in woodworking and their unique characteristics. Understanding these differences will help you select the most appropriate wood for your specific project.

We then delved into different sources of wood, including local lumberyards, specialty wood suppliers, online suppliers, salvaged wood, tree services, and sawmills. Each option has its own advantages and considerations, such as personalized service at local lumberyards or the convenience of online suppliers.

Lastly, we emphasized the importance of sustainable wood sourcing practices. By identifying responsibly harvested wood, we can contribute to preserving our forests and environment.

Now armed with knowledge about sourcing quality wood, it’s time for you to confidently embark on your woodworking projects. Whether you choose to visit a local lumberyard or explore online options, consider sustainability in your choices and make informed decisions about the type of wood that will best suit your needs.

Happy crafting.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get good wood for woodworking?

To get good wood for woodworking, it is essential to consider several factors. First and foremost, one must ensure that the wood is of good quality, meaning it is straight, free of knots or cracks, and has a consistent grain pattern. One way to acquire such wood is by visiting local lumberyards or specialized wood suppliers who offer a variety of high-quality timbers.

These suppliers often have an ample selection of hardwoods like oak, maple, cherry, or walnut with different grades available based on an individual’s preferences and project requirements. Additionally, one can also consider salvaging old furniture or repurposing discarded wooden items to obtain reclaimed wood which carries its unique character and history.

How do you get wood for a project?

Obtaining suitable wood for a project involves several avenues depending on individual preferences and accessibility. Visiting local home improvement stores can be a convenient option as they often carry a range of standard dimensioned boards suitable for various types of projects.

They may offer woods like pine or poplar that are more affordable compared to specialty hardwoods but still serve well for many woodworking applications. Another alternative is seeking out sawmills in the area; they can be a great source for purchasing rough-sawn lumber directly from the producer at potentially lower costs than retail stores while offering more options in terms of thicknesses and lengths.

What is the most recommended wood to use for woodworking?

The most recommended wood to use for woodworking depends on the specific project at hand and desired characteristics like durability, appearance, and workability. However, certain types of hardwoods generally receive widespread recommendations due to their versatility and desirable properties. For instance, hard maple is praised for its hardness and resistance to wear, making it popular for furniture making or items subject to heavy use.

Walnut is favored for its rich dark coloration and appealing grain patterns suitable for cabinetry or decorative pieces. Oak stands out due to its strength and availability in various forms such as red oak or white oak, which are often chosen for flooring or furniture construction. Ultimately, the best wood choice is determined by the project requirements, personal preferences, and budget constraints.

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