Cheap wood recommendations

Hey makers! I’m getting ready to protype a new product design and need probably 50 linear ft of some cheap wood for testing. The final product will be produced in a soft wood, haven’t picked out which kind yet. Is home depot pine going to be my best option? Where do y’all like to get cheap wood?

Hi Mollie

I got a bunch of cypress years ago to make caskets. This after hurricane Harvey devastated the gulf coast. I’ve still got a few boards you could buy. Much of it is clear - no knots or pin knots and wide.

Text me if you’re interested and I can get an estimate of how many feet I have.

What thickness are you looking for, and what are your tolerances? I get Home Depot / Lowe’s if all I need is crappy construction grade (the 1x is basically furring-strip grade) and can live with the uneven edges, twisting, cupping etc that can entail. I’ve also had good luck planing down the clear fir structural lumber into nice 5/4 shelving boards, but that’s not always available. Home depot “hardwood boards” (even when they’re softwood) have always been stupidly overpriced when I’ve looked at them. Lowe’s has a better selection but not really better pricing.

If you want something straight and true, you’re probably better off hitting up Fine Lumber and getting whatever’s cheapest.

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Thanks Jon. I only need 4/4 lumber. I’ve only seen Fir at fine lumber and plywood and assumed it was more expensive. I’ll price out them and home depot/lowes.

“softwood” technically means only pine, fir, spruce, cedar, and redwood, “hardwood” is basically all other lumber. It doesn’t necessarily denote strength or density, just leaf type. I was surprised to see Home Depot/Lowes now list all their cheap lumber products as “Spruce Pine Fir”, as in “these woods are interchangeable and the exact species on the shelf you’re going to get may vary”

Hardware store studs are pine or spruce. Spruce is stronger, pine has more resin and weathers outdoors better. Both types of stud have very wide grain and are poor for twisting, cupping, major defects (splitting, knots) etc, but there is an “appearance grade stud” which is much better for only slightly more money. Spruce can also be fine wood and is used for instruments and vintage aircraft, but it’s a notably different quality than appearance-grade studs.

Next up for cost is poplar, available at hardware stores. Poplar is low cost, low density, but technically “hardwood”. It doesn’t take stain easily, but can be attractive and strong with the right skills.

Past that, Austin Fine Lumber has a lot of cheap lumber, including poplar. The price varies a lot with the thickness, width, and available length, as well as month-to-month. I’d recommend you call them up and summarize your specs and see what they recommend.

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I’d second poplar, it is normally priced reasonable at fine lumber, it’s super straight, clear grain, easy to work with.