Buying timber should be an easy thing to do, but it’s not like buying a standard product from a shop because you don’t fully know what you are going to get. In this post, I’ll share with you some tips on getting the best out of buying timber blanks online.
Not all of us are lucky enough to have bandsaws and chainsaws at our disposal to cut our own blanks. Nor are all of us lucky enough to have a supply of wood readily available for next-to-nothing or free to turn on our lathes. Some don’t even want to have to go to the bother of cutting blanks from boards. They just want to turn, so they choose to buy their blanks from one of the many suppliers our there.
But where, and who to buy from? There are a growing number of suppliers ‘out there’ who are selling blanks of all different sizes and species, and to a newbie, finding reliable quality can be a minefield.
These tips will hopefully help you make an informed decision when buying blanks online:
# One – Use Recommendations
Get recommendations from experienced turners on sites that in their experience consistently send out good quality blanks. You can’t beat word of mouth for finding new places to buy from. Remember though, what makes a good blank for one turner may not be considered as such to another turner, such is the joy of wood! A recommendation is an A1 place to start.
# Two – Make a Request
If you know what you are looking for in a particular blank of a particular species of wood, specify your (reasonable request) in the Notes or Special Request section on your vendor’s website if there is one. If not, then follow your order up with an email or a phone call. In my experience (especially with people I buy from regularly), vendors are generally happy to rummage around for a blank that gets as close to your request as possible. Of course, they cannot guarantee an exact match, but will generally do their best to send you what you are looking for.
# Three – WYSIWYG
Buy from an online store where you get a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) service where the blank on screen is one you will receive. There are few online shops I have come across where this happens, but there are a few on eBay. You will probably have to pay more than you would from a shop where they pick it off the shelf for you, but you do get what you see in the picture…and often with these sellers, the blanks are stunning and worth posting individually.
# Four – Visit If Possible
This probably isn’t for buying online, but if you know a supplier that has an online presence, you may be able to go and visit them and see the blanks in flesh so you can pick and choose. Ask first though before turning up at the address they must display on their website.
# Five – Use Social Media Groups
Use social media by putting a call-out in a Facebook group (if their rules allow) saying you are looking for ‘x’ blank and someone may well come forward. You can then do the deal away from the group or page. You can also join arborist groups or groups specifically for selling timber and blanks. Be careful on these groups though as there may be members selling wood from other countries. It might be worth finding a group specifically for our country or locale.
People tend to share information more often when they have received poor service, which is a shame, but that is the nature of service industry. With what must be hundreds of turning deliveries being made every day – why not share when you have experienced good customer service? Many vendors in the woodturning world are small businesses and as advertising costs money, a couple of minutes to share your experience and help spread the word about your vendor can really, really help them out. Share the love!
I buy from lots of places for different things. Here’s the list (in no particular order) of sites and people I have purchased from more than twice and would call my preferred list. It is not an exhaustive list, by the way!
Ed Oliver: www.oliverswoodturning.co.uk – Good functional website and great service
Leon Britton: firstname.lastname@example.org – Brilliant timber at good prices
Yandles: www.yandles.co.uk – Superb array of available timber. Website a little clunky.
Stiles and Bates: www.stilesandbates.co.uk – I use specifically for large blanks.
Michael18000: www.ebay.co.uk/usr/michael18000 – Beautiful blanks generally up for auction.
English Woods: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/English-Woods – Good array of different timbers.
The Sherwin Group: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/sherwintimber/ – Brilliant for large sacks of timber blanks.
WoodwiseUK: www.ebay.co.uk/usr/woodwiseuk09 – Superb Mallee Burr supplier.
Chris Black (Trees to Art): www.ebay.co.uk/usr/chris.black.001
There are of course, many more places to get your timber and blanks from, so shop around, try different places and share your experiences with friends on Facebook or at your club.
What do you think of this post? Let me know in the comments section below.