Author Topic: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood  (Read 7299 times)

nereo

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woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« on: July 19, 2015, 11:39:50 AM »
Hey all

I'd like to get some feedback on a question I've been wondering.  I'm really enjoying carpentry and have been slowly taking on progressively harder projects.  First simple shelves, then a build-in wall and deck box, now I'd like to build a bed with under-bed storage.  I've modified a set of plans I really like and I've gotten quotes for all the supplies I'd need.

Quandary: To make the visible portions (headboard, foot-board, outside rails and drawer faces) our of either oak or maple will cost ~$400 more than doing the entire thing in pine.  Total budget maple + pine = $680 vs all pine = $280.

I'm by no means a master craftsman here but I also know I'd we'd keep this bed-frame for years (perhaps decades).  Part of me wants to go for the nicer hardwood knowing I'll keep it so long, but another part of me says 'be realistic, I'm still a novice and pine can still look really nice with a good stain'.

$400 is about what we can contribute to our after-tax accounts each month (i.e. what's left over after monthly expenses and tax-advantaged savings), so it's a lot for us right now.
woodworkers - what would you do?

Joggernot

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2015, 12:33:37 PM »
I have a coffee table and end table that my sons (now 46 and 48) held on to to learn to walk.  I have some pine tables and benches that are going on 30 years.  Both will last as long as you want if made well to start with.  Me, I would go with the extra cost because it will look good in most décor.  Pine gives a house a more rustic look that might not be what you want 30 years from now.

risky4me

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2015, 12:45:46 PM »
While there is nothing wrong with pine, I try to think of ratio of labor to materials- if I am going to spend 100 hours on a piece, $400 more on materials would not be a problem for me. The pine is going to pick up wear more through the years, but that is not really so bad. With good joinery either material will last for generations.
The one lesson I have learned in my 40+ years of building wood projects is that the worst thing is seeing a piece and wishing you had spent more time on it- of course this is not always financially possible, but now that I can do woodwork and don't have to count on it feeding my family, I strive for perfection, and then accept the end result-generally less than perfection, but I feel better knowing I tried my best.
Good luck on your project!

nereo

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2015, 03:05:23 PM »
thank you both for the input.
Thinking of materials as a function of time spent on the project is something I hadn't considered.  I'm estimating I'll spend 30-40 hours (so probably somewhere closer to 50 or 60), which makes the added cost of hardwood seem less intense. It's still shocking for me to see that even common, locally sourced hardwoods can more than double the cost of a project. 

I also realize that, if built well, either wood type can last for generations.  My childhood pine bed-frame is now being used by my niece and still looks great 25 years later.

Rural

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2015, 07:15:34 PM »
My husband built our bed of pine and it's still wonderful ten years later, but our place is Craftsman style so it also fits.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2015, 07:37:17 PM »
I've built some pieces of furniture for our home myself, some from pine, some from red oak.  I would echo the comments of others--build it well, and it'll last.  As for what material to use, it's really up to your taste.  I will say that pine is a lot easier to work, and a lot less expensive when you inevitably ruin a piece while building.

Got kids? Use pine.  It *will* get dinged and abused, regardless of the material, so better to use something cheaper and easier to replace/repair.

Arktinkerer

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2015, 07:56:46 PM »
Longer term--Look for trees that are down or need to be removed.  Find a place to mill them into lumber for you.  I have a nice stock of black walnut, persimmon, and pecan from downed trees.  Averaging about $1 per board foot. Of course, it has to sit about a year before its ready for building with!

nereo

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2015, 08:06:54 PM »
I've built some pieces of furniture for our home myself, some from pine, some from red oak.  I would echo the comments of others--build it well, and it'll last.  As for what material to use, it's really up to your taste.  I will say that pine is a lot easier to work, and a lot less expensive when you inevitably ruin a piece while building.

Got kids? Use pine.  It *will* get dinged and abused, regardless of the material, so better to use something cheaper and easier to replace/repair.
Thanks.  No kids now but with some potentially in the near future that's a good thing to consider.  Building it well (regardless of the material chosen) seems to be the primary advice here.   Given that, and our own styles, I think I'll do this next project in pine.  There will be lots of opportunities down the road to use other hardwoods once we have more income and I have more experience.

Quote
Longer term--Look for trees that are down or need to be removed.  Find a place to mill them into lumber for you.  I have a nice stock of black walnut, persimmon, and pecan from downed trees.  Averaging about $1 per board foot. Of course, it has to sit about a year before its ready for building with!
That is something that really appeals to me.  Sadly, at present I live in the city, and ahve (literally) 0 trees on my property.  Eventually we'll move... I grew up around several acres of oak, maple and poplar trees, and have a few friends who have started rough cutting their own wood.  My boss built a large sailboat out of wood he harvested entirely on his property.  Someday, maybe if we move back to New England...

Arktinkerer

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2015, 09:14:08 AM »

Quote
Longer term--Look for trees that are down or need to be removed.  Find a place to mill them into lumber for you.  I have a nice stock of black walnut, persimmon, and pecan from downed trees.  Averaging about $1 per board foot. Of course, it has to sit about a year before its ready for building with!
That is something that really appeals to me.  Sadly, at present I live in the city, and ahve (literally) 0 trees on my property.  Eventually we'll move... I grew up around several acres of oak, maple and poplar trees, and have a few friends who have started rough cutting their own wood.  My boss built a large sailboat out of wood he harvested entirely on his property.  Someday, maybe if we move back to New England...

Nothing says they have to be on your property.  Some came from my mothers home, some from a rental house.  There is a local fellow with a portable sawmill here who charges for tree removal and then makes molding from the trees after he removes them.  Most folks who do removal will at least try and do firewood from the hardwood trees but that seems like such a waste to me for the main trunk.  That said, it isn't without risk for the mill.  Trees in yards often have nails in them that can damage the saw.

index

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2015, 10:25:58 AM »
You need to get on some woodworking forums and find a local saw mill. Oak/Maple shouldn't cost 3x what pine does (unless you are talking about dimensional lumber). Also, you can save yourself bunch of money and have a really nice looking finished piece if you use veneer plywood (furniture grade plywood). You can order any species of plywood you like through the home depot pro desk. Just tell them you want to order Columbia forest products ply wood. Edge banded plywood will look nearly identical to solid wood and is more dimensionally stable.       

James

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2015, 10:39:21 AM »
I would mostly consider what you want for your bedroom. Spending that much work on a project that you will constantly use for many many years and realizing later that you really would love having it be a particular species of wood would be unfortunate.


Usually you can find some species of hardwood on discount locally. Maybe it is in strong supply, maybe it is in low demand, but for whatever reason it is on "sale". Might need to look for more of a "wholesale" retailer rather than consumer oriented store in order to find the local deals though.


Nothing wrong with pine, it would work fine and might be a whole lot easier to work with when building the project. But if you really want hardwood I wouldn't mind the cost.


I'm a red panda

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2015, 10:41:05 AM »
We use a lot of poplar due to cost.  It stains beautifully, and makes gorgeous furniture.

starbuck

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2015, 11:44:17 AM »
We use a lot of poplar due to cost.  It stains beautifully, and makes gorgeous furniture.

Yup poplar is the common 'not pine but not hardwood' furniture making material, according to my spouse. You can use poplar in parts of the furniture piece that won't be visible, like the back.

I'm a red panda

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2015, 11:52:04 AM »
We use a lot of poplar due to cost.  It stains beautifully, and makes gorgeous furniture.

Yup poplar is the common 'not pine but not hardwood' furniture making material, according to my spouse. You can use poplar in parts of the furniture piece that won't be visible, like the back.

Haha- we use it in the visible parts.  If we are trying to save money, the non-visible partsget pine or plywood.  (But usually we just go all poplar.)

Noahjoe

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2015, 01:25:36 PM »
I got S4S cherry from a local place for less than I'd have paid for oak from Home Depot or Menards - shop around and you might be surprised. I built a hidden platform/floating bed with a solid cherry headboard (kreg-joined 1x6x6s, about 48 inches tall) and solid 1x10 cherry frame for about 500 bucks in materials. If I were building a platform bed I'd for sure second/third/+1 the plywood route for large/exposed sections. Use cap trim on it and you'd be hard pressed to guess that it was plywood.

Also, check out Kreg jigs. It saved me hours of work and makes squaring up connections about 500 times easier. There is some good stuff on Youtube that the Kreg company puts out.

starbuck

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2015, 02:44:19 PM »
We use a lot of poplar due to cost.  It stains beautifully, and makes gorgeous furniture.

Yup poplar is the common 'not pine but not hardwood' furniture making material, according to my spouse. You can use poplar in parts of the furniture piece that won't be visible, like the back.

Haha- we use it in the visible parts.  If we are trying to save money, the non-visible partsget pine or plywood.  (But usually we just go all poplar.)

Oh for sure! I like poplar much better than pine for most furniture. My spouse has (fortunately/unfortunately?) gone through stages with his furniture making. Started with painted plywood, then poplar/pine, and now he's into veneer and inlay. Now our furniture is becoming a strange mishmash of stained pine, used pieces in need of refinishing, and fine furniture that I'm afraid to touch! :)

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2015, 04:30:44 PM »
We use a lot of poplar due to cost.  It stains beautifully, and makes gorgeous furniture.

Yup poplar is the common 'not pine but not hardwood' furniture making material, according to my spouse. You can use poplar in parts of the furniture piece that won't be visible, like the back.

Maybe I'm being pedantic... but it's hardwood.  Hardwood just means "not deciduous".

starbuck

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #17 on: July 20, 2015, 05:14:47 PM »
We use a lot of poplar due to cost.  It stains beautifully, and makes gorgeous furniture.

Yup poplar is the common 'not pine but not hardwood' furniture making material, according to my spouse. You can use poplar in parts of the furniture piece that won't be visible, like the back.

Maybe I'm being pedantic... but it's hardwood.  Hardwood just means "not deciduous".

Okay, how about "poplar is the common 'not pine but not very expensive other type of wood' furniture making material." Better? :)

Joggernot

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2015, 05:55:23 PM »
We use a lot of poplar due to cost.  It stains beautifully, and makes gorgeous furniture.

Yup poplar is the common 'not pine but not hardwood' furniture making material, according to my spouse. You can use poplar in parts of the furniture piece that won't be visible, like the back.

Maybe I'm being pedantic... but it's hardwood.  Hardwood just means "not deciduous".
"deciduous trees lose all their leaves each fall. Trees that keep their leaves all year round are called evergreen", from some dictionary online.  Pine is evergreen.  Oak by your definition of deciduous would be an evergreen.  I wasn't away that poplar kept the leaves all year round.

Spork

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2015, 07:07:06 PM »
We use a lot of poplar due to cost.  It stains beautifully, and makes gorgeous furniture.

Yup poplar is the common 'not pine but not hardwood' furniture making material, according to my spouse. You can use poplar in parts of the furniture piece that won't be visible, like the back.

Maybe I'm being pedantic... but it's hardwood.  Hardwood just means "not deciduous".
"deciduous trees lose all their leaves each fall. Trees that keep their leaves all year round are called evergreen", from some dictionary online.  Pine is evergreen.  Oak by your definition of deciduous would be an evergreen.  I wasn't away that poplar kept the leaves all year round.

More often than not, I type faster than I think.

Softwood means "not deciduous".  Hardwood means deciduous.  Softwoods are evergreens.  Poplar is a hardwood.

worms

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #20 on: July 22, 2015, 12:35:10 PM »
We use a lot of poplar due to cost.  It stains beautifully, and makes gorgeous furniture.

Yup poplar is the common 'not pine but not hardwood' furniture making material, according to my spouse. You can use poplar in parts of the furniture piece that won't be visible, like the back.

Maybe I'm being pedantic... but it's hardwood.  Hardwood just means "not deciduous".
"deciduous trees lose all their leaves each fall. Trees that keep their leaves all year round are called evergreen", from some dictionary online.  Pine is evergreen.  Oak by your definition of deciduous would be an evergreen.  I wasn't away that poplar kept the leaves all year round.

More often than not, I type faster than I think.

Softwood means "not deciduous".  Hardwood means deciduous.  Softwoods are evergreens.  Poplar is a hardwood.

All of these terms are too vague for anyone to get overly pedantic about.  Some "softwoods" can be quite hard, some "hardwoods" relatively soft, some conifers are "deciduous" "softwoods", some "hardwoods" are "evergreen"...

nereo

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #21 on: July 26, 2015, 10:43:38 AM »
Still reading people's responses, and thank you everyone for commenting.  Had to leave town for a week for work so I haven't been able to follow up until now.  The pedantic discussion is particularly amusing... what about Tamaracks?

Regarding plywood w/veneers - I certainly plan on using plywood extensively - the center portion of both the headboard and foot-board will be plywood, and the boxes for the drawers under the frame will be made out of 3/4" stock -the drawer faces will be plywood veneer as well.
Ok, I know I will seem really stupid here, but it never occurred to me to use edge-banded plywood in place of the 1x4s - should cut costs further.

The main non-plywood comes from the four 4x4 posts (~12 lf total) and the trim and cap pieces on the head/foot-boards.  everywhere I've looked, 4x4s are ridiculously expensive except for pine/cedar.  Like ~$15+/lf.

I did find a local sawyer (saw mill guy) but he had mostly pine and cedar. The local "good" lumberyard has excellent pieces, but costs $$$.  keep searching for other sawyer/saw mill guys.

I will be using a kreg-jig for at least part of this project (the boxes for the drawers) - sometimes I'm afraid to admit that because true "carpenters" will scoff at it.  When building the actual drawers I'll try my hand at some rabbet joints.  I figure I can take my time making the drawers once the bed frame is complete.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #22 on: July 26, 2015, 12:27:12 PM »
For the posts, you might consider using a pine core (2x2 or 3x3), and cladding it on four sides with the wood of choice.  Or just skip the core and use four 1x3's to make a 3.25x3.25 post.

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #23 on: July 26, 2015, 12:48:58 PM »
Woodworker with a botany career here:

Now I am going to be the one to go pedantic. Softwood and hardwood have nothing to do with deciduous or not deciduous, or for that matter hard or soft wood.  Softwoods are Gymnosperms, and hardwoods are Angiosperms.  Trees that fall into the Gymnosperm category include the conifers along with a couple of weirdos like gingko, and some very hard woods, like bristlecone pine.  Many, but not all are evergreens. Angiosperms can be harder or softer than gymnosperms, and include everything from ebony to oak, along with some very soft woods like balsa. There are definitely distinct wood characteristics to the two groups that you can tell them apart by, but density and whether they lose their leaves are not among them.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2015, 12:52:03 PM by Botanist »

James

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #24 on: July 26, 2015, 02:46:57 PM »
I think for the 4X4 posts it is common to either use a pine core or make a box, nothing wrong with either option, but between the price of all the wood separately and the extra work it may not be the best choice. But yes, using 4x4 posts in furniture is going to add a lot of expense when using more expensive wood, unless you can find a source that isn't charging exorbitant prices just because it is less common. I would guess you would be able to find your best prices online. Shipping wouldn't be cheap, but on such a large order it might still give the best price.


If your local saw mill is willing to cut the 4x4 in oak for you that should be the cheapest. They might not do it much, but they only need to do it once...


Don't worry about the kreg-jig, as long as it is solid nobody who counts will care. :)

zolotiyeruki

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #25 on: July 26, 2015, 08:36:44 PM »
Woodworker with a botany career here:

Now I am going to be the one to go pedantic. Softwood and hardwood have nothing to do with deciduous or not deciduous, or for that matter hard or soft wood.  Softwoods are Gymnosperms, and hardwoods are Angiosperms.  Trees that fall into the Gymnosperm category include the conifers along with a couple of weirdos like gingko, and some very hard woods, like bristlecone pine.  Many, but not all are evergreens. Angiosperms can be harder or softer than gymnosperms, and include everything from ebony to oak, along with some very soft woods like balsa. There are definitely distinct wood characteristics to the two groups that you can tell them apart by, but density and whether they lose their leaves are not among them.
ROFL!  You, sir/madam, have just taken this thread to a whole new level! :D

Cranberries

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #26 on: July 26, 2015, 08:49:27 PM »
ROFL!  You, sir/madam, have just taken this thread to a whole new level! :D

Awww. *blushes*
I outgeeked the geeks!

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #27 on: July 31, 2015, 11:32:53 AM »
I think hardwood's worth it if you are putting time in and expect it to last.  My favorite piece of furniture I own is a desk I made out of cherry, and it's beautiful.  My Dad has a few really nice cherry, walnut, and maple projects in his house, many of which still look great after 30 years.  One thing to consider is that hardwood furniture generally remains in better condition - softwood tends to get dented more. 

Also, if you mess up and cut your expensive hardwood wrong, you haven't necessarily wrecked your project.  There are usually ways to cover mistakes - my cherry desk has a lovely inlay on the top that everyone thinks is an intentional design element but actually I accidentally ripped a big slash across the top when cutting breadboard ends with a tablesaw and subsequently used inlays to cover it up :)

If you are finding 4x4 to be pricey for posts - first of all, that seems enormous and overbuilt, would 3x3 work?  Or, if you are set on 4x4 for design reasons, any reason you can't get 2x4, smooth the edges on a joiner, then glue two together to make 4x4s?  As long as your wood didn't have crazy grain it wouldn't be too noticeable.

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #28 on: July 31, 2015, 12:21:29 PM »
I think it really depends on look you want.  My husband built our bed out of pine and I love the look.  It has been stained quite dark, and has held up really well so far (3 years).  There are a few dings on the platform, but nothing atrocious, and the headboard is in really good shape (it is bolted to the wall).

I'd consider pine, so long as the look is consistent with what you want to have as an end product.

nereo

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Re: woodworker's advice; spend $ for hard wood
« Reply #29 on: July 31, 2015, 12:25:24 PM »
I think hardwood's worth it if you are putting time in and expect it to last.  My favorite piece of furniture I own is a desk I made out of cherry, and it's beautiful.  My Dad has a few really nice cherry, walnut, and maple projects in his house, many of which still look great after 30 years.  One thing to consider is that hardwood furniture generally remains in better condition - softwood tends to get dented more. 

Also, if you mess up and cut your expensive hardwood wrong, you haven't necessarily wrecked your project.  There are usually ways to cover mistakes - my cherry desk has a lovely inlay on the top that everyone thinks is an intentional design element but actually I accidentally ripped a big slash across the top when cutting breadboard ends with a tablesaw and subsequently used inlays to cover it up :)

If you are finding 4x4 to be pricey for posts - first of all, that seems enormous and overbuilt, would 3x3 work?  Or, if you are set on 4x4 for design reasons, any reason you can't get 2x4, smooth the edges on a joiner, then glue two together to make 4x4s?  As long as your wood didn't have crazy grain it wouldn't be too noticeable.
Point taken about hard wood furniture remaining in better condition longer.
As for the 4x4s - it's entirely a design feature, but one I wouldn't want to give up for this piece.  Thinner 3x3s wouldn't have the same 'weight' and would look wrong in this application.  I may take James's suggestion and do a 3x3 core and clad it in hardwood - that seems my best bet.