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Practical Tips for Making and Marketing Your Woodwork

Sourcing Different Coloured Timbers

Steve Bundred - Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Red Cedar Timber SampleA few days ago Maz from Australia asked, "Can you tell me where I can buy the wood here in Australia to make these great projects?

Before I answer Maz's question let me tell you a story.

A few years ago we used to travel around the country (Australia) exhibiting at many of the major woodworking shows. Someone might come up to me at our stall and say, "It's okay for you living up in Queensland. You have such a huge range of timbers to choose from up there. But you just can't get different coloured timbers around here".Leichhardt Pine

Half an hour later a different person would look at our work and say excitedly, "I'm so glad I've seen your patterns. They are perfect for us local woodworkers because there are such a lot of different timbers to choose from here".

A glass half full, glass half empty moment.

Back to Maz's question. You are looking for small quantities of interestingly coloured wood. To start off you should probably aim to accumulate a small stockpile of the following colours. The species I've listed are the ones I use here in Australia. Maybe someone out there can help with suitable species from the northern hemisphere.

Timber Species from AustraliaBrigalow Timber Sample

  • Red or at least reddish brown. Red Cedar. New Guinea Rosewood. Beefwood. Mackay Cedar.
  • A light colour, say creamy white. Quandong. Cork Bark.
  • Very dark brown if not black. Rosewood. (Acacia Rhodoxylon). Brigalow. Bauhinia. Desert Oak.
  • Yellow. Leichhardt Pine can be amazingly, wonderfully, bright yellow.
  • Brown. Lots of common timbers.
Quandong Timber SampleI'm sure you will be able add to this list.You are not going to find these at your corner store. You are going to have to ship them in. But as you only need very small quantities of timber for these projects this is not going to be prohibitively expensive. 

Sources
This list will point you in the right direction. And if anybody you speak to says they can't help you always ask them if they know some other place to try.
  • Australian Woodworker magazine. The copy I have in front of me, not the latest, has about a dozen ads for timber in the classifieds and the ad directory towards the back of the magazine,
  • Yellow Pages. Look up Timber, Saw millers, Wood Suppliers, Wood Veneers and anything else you can think of.
  • Your local saw doctor. Mine is really helpful and is in touch with local woodworkers.
  • Local woodworking clubs.
  • Local joinery shops. One I spoke to in Brisbane told me I could rummage through the skips outside to my heart's content. Any time I wanted. No need to ask. Take what you want. Please don't hassle us again! Mainly offcuts of Red Cedar. Perfect for our plans.
  • Earlier this year we bought half a cube of Red Cedar and a cube of Leichhardt Pine from a guy we met at a local swop meet. Bargain prices too. Wonderful.
I hope this helps. Because your initial timber selection can make a huge difference to your projects. An intarsia made from different shades of brown just isn't going to cut it against one with reds, yellows, light and dark. Good contrasting colours make for a great project.