Q. Can you suggest a reliable, quality supplier of walnut lumber? Right now, some loads are good and some are not. Someone commented that all the good lumber is going for export.

A. I cannot suggest a specific supplier, as I do not purchase lumber myself, so what I know is second hand info. (It is also like asking "Which full-size pickup truck is better...Ford or Chevy?” My answer, based on personal experience, gets Chevy, Toyota, and Dodge dealers and owners up in arms.) However, the concerns and questions about a consistent, reliable, supply of walnut point to a more serious lumber supply issue within our industry.

Many companies in our industry do not have a lumber buyer, full or part time, that works closely with lumber producers and suppliers to get exactly the material that their company needs and to assure that they get the volume they need on time.

A close connection with the supplier also assures a reasonable return policy for incorrect material and supplies in a tight market. Note: Some wholesale lumber suppliers do have staff that works closely with buyers, especially medium and small purchasers, but this is not always the case.

As I said at the Wood Pro Expo, our industry needs to begin working back into the supply chain for lumber, perhaps back to the sawmill. And maybe in the extreme, we will see some medium sized companies following the lead of some larger companies, like Ikea, that are purchasing their own forests.

Short of such land purchases, our industry will likely find direct contact with sawmills by a dedicated lumber buyer representing the manufacturer of wood products is essential as we move forward in the next few years.

Indeed, we do export lumber, but oak is the largest volume. Overall, we import 10 percent of our hardwood lumber needs. But, the big issue increasing hardwood lumber prices will be supplies, because of a lack of loggers.

Higher lumber prices mean that the yield of parts for lumber will be extremely critical for a profitable operation. I will be giving practical tips about improving yield at Wood Pro Expo educational seminars in Wood Pro Expo Lancaster this fall.

Gene Wengert, “The Wood Doctor” has been training people in efficient use of wood for 35 years. He is extension specialist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.