The post on wood quantities for different projects got me to thinking about how I buy wood.
First off, I have been known at times to buy wood that I came across with no idea what-so-ever what I was gonna make with it. Sometimes I'm at the wood store to buy wood for some project and come across some slab of some other sort of wood that I just gotta have. It might sit in the shop for a year or better before just the right project comes along. Or I might just come across some wood that is priced such that I can't pass it up. Other times I will trek to a favorite supplier to attend a social event of other woodworkers and hate to waste the chance to pick up some choice pieces. Of course, this can lead to a storage problem, but I rarely consider that until I get the stuff home and then try to figure out where to store it.
Until I discovered SketchUp, I rarely worked with any sort of plan beyond maybe a rough sketch to get overall dimensions of a piece to look right. I would just go to the woodstore, which is only a few minutes out of my way on my drive to and from the day job, and pick through the stack of my choice of wood, pulling out pieces that I thought would work in the project. When I thought I had enough, or when I grew tired of carrying pieces along the catwalk and lowering them down to where I was stacking them, I head to the office to pay. Most times I was pretty close, generally just needing a piece or two more, and since I mostly work with common domestic lumber, it wouldn't matter that the wood came from different trees etc.
Now, with SketchUp, I can make up detailed drawings and get an idea of how much and what widths of pieces I need, so I shop a bit more accurately. But the idea of counting up board feet and shopping to those figures still evades me. Besides, sometimes the pickins at the wood store are a little slim and I may find myself taking pieces that would be a second or third choice, while other times there are boards in excess of what I need that I can just not bear to leave behind. Since I often work with the same woods, any I have left for a project find there place in a project down the road. And it is nice to have extra wood around the shop for those times I just want to make something and don't want to go shopping.