How do I determine the value of lumber?
A friend has some rough-sawnwalnut that was in his late father-in-law's basement for 30 years. Now, he wants to get rid of it. We think it was from the same tree. What is a fair price for 30-year-old, air-dried 5/4 walnut? I'd like to get a good deal, but I also want to be fair with my friend.
—Dennis Almond, Riedsville, N.C.
First assess the quality of the lumber, Dennis, especially if it has been stored in a basement where dampness could have caused warpage and discoloration. Lumber that's been stored outdoors at any time also might suffer insect damage, especially from powderpost beetles. Then use a moisture meter to check several boards throughout the stack. Moisture should be 6 to 10 percent for your area. Compare pieces to see if they come from the same tree. If so, that could allow you opportunities to bookmatch boards in glue-ups. After you check a sample with a metal detector, plane it to uncover any flaws, decay, or undesirable color.
Now that you know what you're buying, begin assessing its value by checking your local newspaper classified ads for comparable lumber, even if it's kiln-dried. Then contact area lumberyards for their rough-sawn walnut prices. Increase or decrease your offer according to the quality of the wood; then make an offer.