An expanded creative palette, quality guarantees, searchable wood libraries, secure packaging and UPS delivery are taming Internet-mail order
At its best, woodworking is a handcraft like painting. It requires not only creativity and precision, but also the best materials available.
Yet for far too long, woodworking enthusiasts and custom furniture builders have been hindered by the limited choices of local hardware and big box stores, as well as by the large required minimum purchases of industrial distributors.
While some woodworking enthusiasts and custom furniture builders have been hesitant to buy materials via the Internet, recent advances in the industry have virtually eliminated any risk to them.
Buying premium, hardwood lumber by Internet is finally catching on as an expanded creative palette, quality guarantees, searchable wood libraries, secure packaging and UPS delivery are taming Internet-mail order.
Limited Choices, Large Minimums
There are hundreds of beautiful hardwoods available for wood artisians but limited hardwood lumber selection can hinder a woodcraft project, or result in a generic end product that doesn’t meet its full potential. Yet finding hardwoods beyond the usual selection of oak and poplar at a local hardware or big box store can be nearly impossible.
The other alternative is to purchase hardwood lumber from one of the few industrial hardwood distributors in big metro areas. However, industrial distributors seldom stock the more colorful and unusual woods. Unfortunately, these firms deal in volume and often require large, minimum orders of typically 1,000 board feet.
For smaller retailers and woodworking enthusiasts, this can far exceed their current project’s requirements. As far as customer service and getting questions answered, good luck. Industrial distributors are not inclined to spend much time with customers looking to make small orders.
“I need a wide variety of hardwoods to give my work the look families want,” says Ray Vines, owner of Arizona Urns, a Kingman, AZ manufacturer of handcrafted cremation urns sold throughout the U.S. “At local stores, hardwood choices are usually limited to domestic choices like oak, and if I need exotic woods, forget it.”
“Driving to a specialty lumberyard would take me several hours roundtrip, my orders would be too small to get the attention or price I need, and minimum purchase requirements would kill me in inventory cost,” adds Vines, who has two employees and typically uses just 10-15 board feet of hardwood at a time.
According to Vines, Internet auction sites did not have what he wanted. “I looked through hundreds of auction entries mixed with nonsense results,” says Vines. “I never dealt with the same person twice, and could not get next day delivery if I needed it.”
Taming the Internet
Like a growing number of woodworking enthusiasts and professionals, Vines has found a way to buy a full range of domestic and exotic wood for sale, with the quality, quantity, price, and turnaround he needed, through Internet-mail order.
“For me, Internet-mail order is often the only alternative for the kinds of quality hardwood I need,” says Vines.
Vines’ hardwood horizons were expanded when he turned to Woodworkers Source, an Internet retailer that features more than 100 varieties of exotic wood for sale ranging from andiroba to zebrawood, along with premier hardwood plywood, tools, finishes, and accessories. The company, which has three retail warehouse stores in Arizona, began as a retail/commercial distributor of hardwood and imported lumber, hardwood plywood, veneer, woodworking tools, and related products in 1978.
“I appreciate the quality and cost of the hardwood,” says Vines, who notes that it arrives in a protective layer of cardboard, double layered on the ends, wrapped in plastic to waterproof it. “It is good furniture-grade wood, usually 6% moisture, kiln dried to eliminate shrinkage, so it’s stable and won’t crack. The price usually beats any comparable local stock.”
“Today’s woodworkers can actually get better quality wood via Internet-mail order than in store, if they look for a 100% guarantee, where the company picks up the shipment and returns their money if they’re not satisfied,” adds Mark Stephens, Marketing Manager, Woodworkers Source. “We ship only premium quality wood, 100% guaranteed. Otherwise, returns would be too costly. Typically Woodworkers Source will buy a container load at a time, about 12,000 board feet, and pass along the savings.”
According to Vines, he now routinely uses about ten different hardwoods, and more than that occasionally – from oak, ash, walnut, and cherry to mahogany, bloodwood, zebrawood, bubinga, and purple heart.
“A lot of my urns use combinations of different woods such as ash and walnut, or walnut and zebrawood,” says Vines. “With access to 100 hardwood varieties, the creative contrasts you can make by mixing colors, grains, and other properties truly enhance the art of the woodwork.”
Vines appreciates that he can order hardwood special requests, cut to size, in the quantities required, with next day UPS shipping when necessary.
“It helps that with Woodworkers Source I can order my hardwood cut to size, with special requests such as width, color, grain, no sapwood, and a straight edge on one side,” says Vines. “While normal shipments can take about a week, I can ask for overnight delivery when I need the wood to complete a sale.”
To get the most out of his woods, Vines refers to Woodworkers Source wood database and searchable library, which contains detailed info on about 1,600 species of wood. The info ranges from wood photos, common and botanical names, to wood uses and working properties including color, grain, texture, weight, strength, stiffness, and density, as well as how the wood cuts, planes, nails, screws, glues, stains, dries, finishes and polishes.
“Since some of my urns are lathe turned and glued in segments, if the woods are oily then I can’t glue them together properly,” says Vines. “The wood database and searchable library helps me to know which woods will glue, hold together, and finish properly.”
Enjoying Home Woodworking
Home woodworking enthusiasts, who enjoy the craft’s creativity and low-cost ability to supplement income, are also turning to Internet-mail order across the U.S. and Canada.
Several years before retiring, George Germin of Regina, SK CAN, placed his first Internet-mail order for several types of exotic wood for sale including maple, bubinga, zebrawood, and canarywood.
According to Germin, who enjoys building tables, cabinets, jewelry boxes, and replica spice boxes in his garage workshop, “At first I was wary of buying hardwood sight unseen by Internet, but I couldn’t have picked nicer boards myself.”
“Over the years, I’ve bought about 30 species of exotic hardwoods from Woodworkers Source, saving about 40% per board foot compared to local prices, including shipping, duty, and taxes,” says Germin, who used a spreadsheet to do the comparison. “The variety is never ending, and combining the hardwoods in different projects is a pleasure.”
“I look forward to working with teak, wenge, and yellowheart hardwoods,” adds Germin, who has a passion for woodcrafting intricate joinery and decorative inlays. “Working with every species of hardwood is a unique experience, and my friends and family appreciate my one-of-a-kind gifts.”
Internet-mail order is also easing access to hardwood plywoods for woodworking enthusiasts and custom furniture makers. Woodworkers Source, for instance, ships Baltic Birch Plywood, used in European cabinet making, via UPS in 60”(l) x 20”(w) sheets.
“Baltic Birch Plywood is commonly used to build tables, shelves, cabinets, drawers and other furniture,” explains Stephens. “It’s one of best plywood choices for its void-free core, superb screw-holding ability, and outstanding strength in the layers adhered with waterproof glue.”
Whether hardwood or hardwood plywood, there is no doubt that Internet-mail order is expanding the creative palettes of woodworking enthusiasts and custom furniture makers across North America, at a cost they can afford. And considering the quality guarantees, searchable wood libraries, and UPS delivery available, the greatest risk is never trying it out.
For more info, call toll free 800-423-2450; visit www.WoodworkersSource.com; or write to Woodworkers Source at 18115 N. Black Canyon Hwy, Phoenix, AZ 85023.
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