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Thread: Went to a Real Lumberyard

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM

    Went to a Real Lumberyard

    Friday I had a need (and the time) to drive into the heart of town to visit Bohnhoff Lumber. Finally, I found a real lumberyard in Los Angeles. I'd heard about them several years ago, but never had the opportunity to go there. They cater to the trades, but welcome the single-board shoppers like me. (I needed about 5 bf of maple for a dresser repair.) They sell a good variety of domestic species from ash to walnut, and from what I understand, they also carry some exotics. It's not really set up for browsing around and I was short of time, so I didn't do a whole lot of looking around.

    When you pull up to the front, there's a small building with two doors and a sign that says Office, and you can see several large open metal shed buildings in the yard. I walked in the office and told them I needed to buy a few board feet of maple. One of the guys behind the counter said to just go on back to the yard and someone would help me out there.

    So I wandered out the door and into the first of the warehouses. It's stacked 20 or 30 feet high with large pallets of all sorts of wood. In one corner a couple guys are busy ripping some long 12/4 stock, and a few guys are hanging out around a couple of large forklifts. I was kinds of gazing around the place trying to figure out who I was supposed to talk to, when the chatting guys noticed me, and asked if they could help me. I explained I needed some maple, and asked what the price difference was between 4/4 and 8/4 stock. One of the guys said "they didn't tell us the'll have to ask at the office." I figured it wasn't that big of deal, so I just said I'd go with the 8/4. "Hard or soft maple?" was the next question. "Hard. And I need it less than 6" wide so it'll fit my jointer." He said "That's OK, you can pick out the widths you want. I'll go get you some."

    He hopped on a forklift and headed off, and returned few minutes later with a full bundle of 10' S2S hard maple, I'm guessing about 180 to 200 pieces. He cut the bands off the stack and told me to feel free to pick through and choose whatever I wanted. He said the only thing they ask is that I stack things back up when I'm done. I asked if they sold partial boards, and he said they do, but they require that I leave at least 8' of the board to put back on the stack. (In other words, they'd sell me 2' off a 10' board. I needed something longer.) All the wood was S2S, and after quickly looking at just a couple of boards, I found a nice straight piece about 5 1/2" wide that looked perfect for my needs. I asked the guy if he could cut it in half for me to make it easier to take home, and he said it would be no problem. He did a couple quick measurements to figure the board feet, wrote out a ticket and handed it to me, and told me to go pay in the office...he'd have it cut by the time I got back.

    I went back into the office and the guy at the counter was on the phone. Another guy was sitting at a nearby desk and he motioned for me to come over. He took the yard ticket from me and jokingly said "Let's see how many thousand you owe us." Now all the while, I'd not asked for or seen any prices. I knew from reading about this place that their prices would be better than what I've gotten accustomed to paying at Rockler and another nearby hardwood store. He punched a few numbers into the computer, printed me an invoice, and handed it to me while telling me I could pay the lady sitting at the desk next to his. I checked the invoice. $38 plus tax. 10 board feet at $3.80 per board feet. I looked like this: The last time I bought plain 8/4 hard maple I paid somewhere around $10/bf. I think the best I've seen for 4/4 maple is about $8/bf. I had finally found a real lumberyard.

    The only downsides to Bohnhoff Lumber are their limited hours and the drive to get there. They're only open Monday through Friday from 7:30 to 4:30. Closed weekends. That's why I never went there when I had a real job. And although they are only about 19 miles from my house, it took me over an hour to get there due to traffic. (My route took me by downtown Los Angeles and through several major interchanges. True LA-style congestion for most of the drive.) The drive home took less than 30 minutes.

    Anyway, I'll definitely be going back. I don't have much need to buy flat lumber, but if it's more than just one or two board feet, it'll be worth the time and the drive. And next time I'll know the drill, so I'll make it a point to do some more browsing and pricing.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    Vaughn, California seems to be a mecca for fancy woods. When I was setting up to duplicate gunstocks (Fusco failed enterprise #374), I accumulated quite a few sources for fancy wood. Most were in CA. Searches for 'gunstock wood' or 'gunstock walnut' will find many of these. Many of those fancy gunstock blanks are quite pricey. Upwards to the thousands of dollars for one blank.
    Methinks a contact or visit with some of these might allow you to buy odd shaped chunks or end pieces for turning or other projects.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    Is it not a real pleasure to find a REAL lumber yard

    I guess you would not be going there all the time, but now you do know, so you can plan ahead and make the trip

    Oh yeah..............

    ........ What NO pictures.........

    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Tellico Plains, Tennessee
    If you are ever in Knoxville, I can direct you to my lumber supplier... I don't do much flat work, but buy some to do segmented work... my guy is a small operation... only one warehouse, with lumber standing on end in rows, most of it exotics.. some local stuff.. don't think he's quite as low priced as Vaughn's guys...but some nice stuff. I got a 2x8 or 2x10 don't remember which right now of bloodwood 8' long, cut to 4' lengths to fit in the car for under $50. And if you need it planed, Bob or Cynthia will run it through the planer for you.

    They also have a lot of their wood cut into turning blocks... I buy a lot of pepper mill blanks from them, as well as some bowl blanks.
    Tellico Plains, TN
    My parents taught me to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder to find any.
    If you go looking for trouble, it will usually find you.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    RETIRED(!) in Austintown, Ohio
    If you get down to Orange County, check out Austin hardwoods in Santa Ana - right next to the train station. They've got a good stock of exotics, and reasonably decent prices (for California). It sounds like Bonhoff is a better deal, though, for the maple, etc.

    Being used to California prices, I was (happily) amazed at the Ohio prices for native hardwoods. I just bought a mixed load of KD hardwoods last week - 270 bf. About a hundred bf each of hard maple and cherry, forty bf of oak -some red, some white - and thirty or so bf of poplar. All of it was 'shorts' between 4˝ and 7˝ feet in length, and virtually all clear, S2S. Got it all for $350.00 - about $1.33/bf. Now I've got more hardwood in the barn than I'll likely use in the next ten years, since I already had walnut, cherry, oak, poplar, and hickory in there. Wife says if I get any more wood I'll have to build another barn to keep the tractor, mower and other equipment in.
    Jim D.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    new york city burbs
    I agree with you vaughn, nothing like a lumberyard where the people are good enough to understand the needs of the small guys also.

    when I first got into all of this in late 06, I didnt know what a lumberyard looked like, so my first couple of trips to different yards were quite the experiences.

    I pretty much got the same service, tell them what I needed, they slid out boards, (I always bought alot since I built large units), and since I always bought finished stuff, it was all about the same.
    then I found a guy who had a half lumberyard, and half home improvements center, and I think they catered to the local contractors who didnt want to use the big stores and needed more than the occasional 2x4.
    I purchased around 120 linear feet of red cedar clear and when I went to load it into the truck, (they picked it, while I paid), I noticed half the boards had splits on the ends and I had some argument with the idiots trying to tell me all I had to do was cut off the ends. duh, Im paying top dollar for finished lumber, Im not going to cut off 8 inches off each end on 8 foot boards.(id gladly take the boards, but only wanted to pay for 6 linear feet then)
    that was the last time I went to that guy, just another moron in my book. and I did get all new boards.
    It kinda sucks cause hes 2 minutes from my house, and its times like now, Im fixing up the redwood table for my son, I need a 6 foot piece of redwood, and hes so convenient, but I wont give him the time of day now.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Puyallup, WA

    I think what you described is a west coast thing. I suspect it's due to our paucity of native hardwoods. I too have to drive 30 minutes away to a nearby fairly large city (Tacoma, WA) and visit a warehouse commercial-oriented type of operation to find a decent supply of most species of hardwood (e.g. eastern maple, walnut, cherry, etc.). They're usually very patient with me but I still feel a little silly buying such a small quantity when most of the other customers are ordering wood by the truckload. As a matter of fact, in reviewing my couple of dozen or so trips, a number of times I've purchased more than what I need due to what can only be described as a feeling of inadequacy.

    At least in the PNW, the only hardwoods that small sawyers typically only have access to is Alder, soft (or Big Leaf) Maple and, rarely, Oregon ash.

    Alternatively, I suspect that our access to exotic species is actually at least as good, if not better than the rest of the county due to our many high volume ports.

    Congratulations on finally finding a good supplier.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    I know how you feel Vaughn. I discovered my local place and now feel spoilt. They keep all sorts and i was amazed at what i got from them for $100.

    Suffice to say i wont be going anywhere else in future.

    Here is my local joint for anyone in the Ontario area.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Villa Park, CA
    You've probably been to Reel Lumber. It's not a giant place but it might be closer to you. I've been disappointed recently in Austin. The wood that's in the racks has been picked over so much that all that's left is junk. They really need to move the scrap out and re-stock. Unless you can get them to pull down a new bundle, it's extremely difficult to get decent wood from them in species like walnut or cherry.

    Also, Austin's somewhat expensive.

    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 03-13-2010 at 05:00 PM.
    Ancora imparo
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    somewhere east of Queen Creek, AZ - South East of Phoenix
    I'm with Mike, I used to use Reel a lot when I lived over there.
    "There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it." - Sam Maloof
    The Pessimist complains about the wind; The Optimist expects it to change;The Realist adjusts the sails.~ William Arthur Ward

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