Small quantities, tied to S4S versus large quantities of of S2S or rough. Lots
of difference there. The buyer gets to eat the trimming in both cases, of
course, but the result is much higher pricing for the S4S. Advantage is set up
to deal with lumber in large amounts; Lee Valley is set up to deal with almost
everything in small amounts, relatively speaking. Lumber always costs more per
unit in small bits and pieces. I think if you'll check a couple of other mail
order general woodworking supply places, say Rockler and Woodcraft, you'll find
little or no difference in the prices. Woodcraft actually does more, shipping
S2S wood to their local stores that isn't available by catalog or on-line. I
don't know if Lee Valley does the same. Even then, Woodcraft keeps a fairly
large scale wood shop going to get the wood in shape for the catalog.
Add that to the simple fact that the more wood you buy at one time, the less
you pay for it, and you'll note that Lee Valley, Woodcraft, Rockler and others
are almost certainly paying more per BF than is Advantage.
A few years ago--2-3?--Grizzly started adding wood to their catalog. IIRC, that
venture lasted about one catalog series. Grizzly's owner is no fool: in fact,
he's a very astute businessman. If there had been more money than hassle, he'd
have kept it going. Rob is almost certainly correct in saying providing wood,
at whatever cost, is a customer service and not a profit center of any kind.
"Man is a reasoning rather than a reasonable animal."
firstname.lastname@example.org (Charlie Self) wrote in message
<snip my question>
So there is a qualitative difference between Rob and Robin's stock? I
want to be sure you know that for sure because Rob's post implies that
there is not: he compared them as equivalents.
True, but even if Robin were to buy retail from someone like Rob, a
jackup of 4.7 times seems steep, that was the issue. I would assume,
furthermore, that someone like Robin would be able to get wood for
less than what Rob retails it.
My question would be the same to Rockler, Woodcraft and the others.
Are they selling wood that is really 4.7 times the value, at the
consumer end, than Advantage?
<snip about Grizzly>
[I think you'll want to revise that last sentence on several
Man, there is something I'm just not understanding about this. Before
Renata et al. were discouraged by the new minimum limits, they
apparently thought Advantage's wood was fine in terms of quality. The
boards at Rocker, Woodcraft and LV are by reason of quantity more
expensive, but surely not 4.7 times as much. Is that great a
difference to be found in quality and prep? If so then Rob's earlier
post equating his wood with Robin's was misleading, right?
[NPI!!!]--but no one jumped on him for that, so I'm left to think
Floundering in a sea of construction-grade pine,
Rob implied a lot of things. Actually, when selling small quantities (really,
small pieces) of wood, it's easier to get pieces that are top quality, because
you can cut around the faults. All boards have faults. Almost all, shall we
say. Faults are allowable under hardwood grading standards, within certain
limits. But when you take a board down to 3/4" x 3" x 24", you cut off the
faults and either toss them or use them elsewhere...usually, they're tossed.
That means you get less out of the big board, with more going to the scrap bin,
so you have to charge more. Add that to the extra processing and you should
start to see the light.
I don't know the actual costs in either case, but as Robin said, his turnover
of wood isn't that great, so he's got to supply warehouse space for several
pieces of each size in each species in each store, as well as in the main
warehouse. That is an expense. Why would you assume Robin could get wood for
less than Rob retails it? He's not buying huge amounts, so the mills that turn
out loads of many thousands of board feet aren't going to be interested. He may
be able to work the price down, but how much?
No. Really, your question should be for the customer: is the wood they buy
worth 4.7 times (and this is Rob Pelc's figure, IIRC, and one I've not
checked--have you?) what Advantage charges for it? For those who find it a
sensible value, I see no problem. They can avoid buying a jointer and planer,
and build their projects, saving the shop room and tool expense of prepping
their own wood. For those who do not find it a sensible value, then there is no
need to purchase it. Go to Advantage, Steve Wall Lumber or another, lower cost,
supplier who get about 6 or 7 or 8 times what I pay for green, rough lumber at
most mills around my Virginia house. But I have to have the machinery to work
those boards up, the space to store them green until they're ready, and the
strength to handle larger boards. I wonder how many woodworkers out there are
limited to handling smaller lumber for any of a variety of physical reasons. Is
the smaller size worth more money to them?
There is no argument about quality, nor have I seen one about price until Pelc
brought it up. The argument was about his treatment of a customer who publicly
complained about his new policy aimed at keeping only large customers. I once
had a book publisher like that: I bitched about his contracts to a writer's
organization after I received checks for many thousands of book sale royalties
that looked more like checks for a couple of relatively short magazine
articles. He jumped all over me with half-factual material and a refusal to do
business with me again (a foregone conclusion in my mind when I made the
And yes, there is that much difference in quality and prep. Lee Valley really,
really does have to pay someone to run all that material through machines until
quality is near perfect and size is something that will fit within their normal
shipping limits. And they really have to pay for the machines and the
electricity to run them. And they really have to discard more scrap...and I am
sure they have to pay to have the scrap hauled away. And they provide storage
Is the actual difference 4.7 times? I have no idea. And, in fact, it's none of
my business. (But I just ran a check, and Lee Valley gets 3.65 times the
Advantage price for cocobolo, so Rob Pelc's 4.7 is not exact.) If I find the
wood a good value, then I will purchase it. If I find the wood a poor value,
then I won't purchase it. The mark-up over another company's prices doesn't
enter into it unless they are offering exactly the same thing, which they are
not. Actually, even then it doesn't enter into it. There is no pistol held to
the customer's head, so he, or she, can choose freely.
"Man is a reasoning rather than a reasonable animal."
I've bought cocobolo from Lee Valley, mail order. It's very, very
convenient to add $10 or $20 worth of small pieces to a $150 order
(along with the set of 30 natural bristle brushe for $13 CAD... I add
those to almost every order) and it doesn't even increase the shipping
charges on what I'm already buying.
And considering my geographic location, even more so.
I could probably get that $20 worth of cocobolo for $10 somewhere
else... If I was prepared to drive 5 - 10 hours, or pay $10 in customs
duties, or buy a $100 board at one of the two places in town that sell
hardwood of any description, and mill it myself in my tiny basement
Or, I could chew on tin foil while shaving my head with a cheese grater.
I've said it before, and I'll repeat myself: Lee Valley offers great
value and trememdous customer service. Value and cost are not
The ONLY problem I have with LV is the lack of a store here in
Saskatoon... But I suspect a cabal of SWMBOs is paying Robin off.
Charlie, thanks for an articulate reply that answers most of my
questions. I get it now about the size differences: yours and Mike's
responses make it clear that the two products can't really be compared
fairly (although their cost and profit margins might be if we had a
few more figures). Apples and Oranges. I was kind of hoping Rob would
jump in to clarify his original comparison....
<snip good explanations>
OK, but given Mike's description of the size of Robin's bins ("a
rougly 5'x3'x24"), that seems a negligible expense--what, a few
pennies, literally? Educate me if I'm wrong, because I have no
experience with warehouse costs, that's just an intuitive guess. Plus,
Rob has the same warehousing issue, no?
Simple: because I can get it for what Rob retails it. I, a nobody, a
destructor and mangler of constuction grade pine, an academic nerd. If
a man who owns a fairly large and successful business in the industry
can't get it for a better price than I can, then I need to adjust my
view of how the world works.
<snip comment comparing other WW stores>
My question was for the customer ("at the consumer end")
No, I have not checked Rob or Robin's figures. They both stated them
in a public venue, and no one challenged those, so I took them both at
their word. Foolishly academic of me, I know.
<snip "de gustibus" comment>
Are you serious? That gives me hope....
<snip some obvious observations from both of us>
As a consumer I feel it's my business--just now I don't think it's
really possible (Apples and Oranges thing, not enough financial data,
etc.). 4.7 was my, not Rob's, figure. I arrived at it by adding the
prices of the three woods Rob mentioned and dividing them into the
figure Rob presented for Robin's wood. It was an average, IOW. Paduak
would be 6.3 times the price.
I did not include any other factors into the equation, which you and
Mike were quick to point out. For instance, Rob noted that he provides
"surfacing" for .30 bf. I don't really know what he means, but I'll
assume a 2s2 surfacing. So, for a 4/4, 8' Paduak board surfaced 2s2,
Rob would charge me $34, right? Let's even assume it gets down to 3/4
thickness--that matches Robin's thickest project wood piece (3"x24"),
which goes for $12.50 (1-4 quantitiy) or $10.60 (5+). I would suspect
I could get more than three pieces out of Rob's board, which at that
point would match Robin's price. The more boards (than three) I get
out of the eight footer, the better Rob's price becomes. I don't have
enough experience cutting boards like that, so I can't begin to
estimate if that's a gamble or not.
Your point about customer needs is well taken. If I don't have or
don't want to use a TS and jointer or router to get those pieces out
of Rob's board, then Robin's service is worth it were he to charge
twice as much as he does. It's Apples and Oranges to this consumer.
But for the consumer who uses a TS/jointer, that's a relatively easy,
even enjoyable procedure and the circumstances now become more a
same-fruit type of problem, no?
Yes, that would be my point too, except that freedom of choice only
happens for those who have the knowledge and experience that makes for
an educated choice. Thus my questions--which, I fear, are beginning to
wear thin, so I'll end here.
Display bins and warehousing space are different. I don't recall what size, if
I even noticed--there's one heckuva lot to see--in the Ottawa store, the bin
was, but to keep it fed, there has to be more wood stored in back, plus what's
stored at the central warehouse, plus what is stored before being run through
the machinery. Unfortunately, the answer is never as simple as we'd like.
For the most part, Rob Pelc should be able to store most of his wood in an
enclosed environment with little in the way of shelving, etc., as most will be
palletized and stacked. This can't be done in a warehouse that also carries a
supply of 8000 other items (that figure may be low).
You can get it, if you buy $500 worth a time. Seriously, though, I really have
no idea at what stage Lee Valley buys their lumber--S2S, S3S, rough, dry,
green, half-dry, etc.--so I'd hesitate about making assumptions on price.
Generally, I pay from 50 to 75 cents a bf for rough, green lumber. I usually
figure 50% of that will make usable--not FAS--lumber, with a year drying, a
couple months finishing in the shop, planing, jointing, ripping. Sometimes I'm
wrong and I lose 70%. Sometimes I'm luckier and lose about 20% and on those
batches, I usually find much more FAS and much less #1 Common.
Suspicions don't always work out, as I noted above. I've seen some wood that
looked awfully nice in the rough turn out not so nice when planed. Usually, if
it looks really bad, it IS really bad. Sometimes, if it looks really good, it's
still really bad. Not always, maybe not often, but often enough to reduce
suppositions to a guess. There are many people out there who can read a rough
board better than I can, which is why I like skip planing once my wood is 6
months dry. Then, I can just about state I know what I'll have in 6-8 months.
But it shouldn't be a problem, because this is not the customer Robin's wood is
aimed at pleasing. As someone else noted, it is often easier and cheaper to get
inlay material from Lee Valley because handling is so much less of a hassle,
but for the most part, those of us with jointers and planers won't be buying
Don't sweat the petty stuff. And don't pet the sweaty stuff. It isn't hurting
anyone at all for you to ask questions, and it may be helping others, so if you
have more questions, keep asking. I'll keep trying to answer.
"Man is a reasoning rather than a reasonable animal."
email@example.com (Charlie Self) wrote in message
True, but real estate is real estate, and both have to pay for that.
The differences in building types and storage, for the same amount of
lumber to be stored, still amount to pennies--perhaps using the plural
here is excessive.
Or if I picked it up myself, or shared the cost with others for a
minimum order, as Rob pointed out, or if I go to a comparable lumber
But regardless it would be safe to assume that the cost would be lower
than what I would get the same lumber for, no?
Ah, but I also said, I don't know how much they keep in the back. I only
see what is out on the floor, and that is just a small cabinet.
I'm guessing you have never been to a LV store. They don't operate like
most stores. Other than a few exceptions (the project woods being one of
them), you can't just walk in, pick up your items off the shelf, and
then head to the cash. They keep one of everything out on display, and
everything else is kept in the back. You fill out an order form, give it
to one of the friendliest people you will ever meet, and they go gather
it up for you, and bring it back for your inspection, and then you
unfortunately have to pay for it (Rob, can you do something about that ;)).
Bingo. In fact, I've only seen the inside of one store that would
qualify as a real WWing store (can't remember the name, it's opposite
a HF in Raleigh NC). And where I live now I don't know of any nearby
(Sewanee TN) so I live the vicarious existence of a catalog reader.
Some of that stuff you have to see up close, though, I understand.
Yes - the economics are strange but here are a couple of the factors...
1) the smaller the piece - the more discriminating the buyer is, and higher
the "reject" rate is...when a consumer buys a 3" x 24" x 1/2" (.25 bd ft),
it has to be virtually perfect - no knots, sapwood, dings, bark, warping
etc. - an awful lot of it gets sold at much lower prices.
2) the volumes are not high - even in the best sellers, we would only order
at most 100 pieces at a time (see #3)
3) the turn rates are lousy - there are so many species, and so many
discrete sizes, that it really takes a lot of inventory to keep in stock
4) it's a pain for most wood suppliers to produce - again small quantities,
lots of labour - set-up etc.
5) small shipment sizes make for large freight factor.
If we sold in larger lots (say....500 bd feet or so ) then yes, the price
would definitely be a ton better. It's sort of like the difference between
buying a Coke from a vending machine, and buying a case from Costco....and
also realizing that the same Coke from a soda fountain only costs cents for
the same amount.... volume, packaging, ease of production, costs of
fulfillment - all factors that determine the product economics....
Thanks, Robin, for a fairly cogent reply. I like the Coke analogy,
which is illustrative except for the fact that instead of one
conglomerate selling in different venues, we are comparing here two
(quasi-competing) businesses in different venues. Makes it hard to
compare, I know.
As I understand it then, would you say that the difference in price
(4.7 times) is accounted for by a) wood quality and b) prep work for
smaller stock/higher quality items in a non-wood supplier store? Do I
have that right?
It's perfectly sensible, even probable given the many things I don't
know about preparing stock at that level of marketing--but still
surprising. I'm inclined to believe it if you tell me so.
It's as Robin said, LV is not a lumber yard. They primarily sell tools
and garden stuff.
The project wood they sell comes in 3"x24" pieces, with thicknesses
ranging from 1/8" to 3/4". There is no pine, oak or even cherry. It is
all reasonably exotic woods. When you are dealing with pieces of wood
that small, nicks and knots, or any other imperfections make a piece
unusable, so all of their pieces are completely clear.
As for volume, I don't know how much they keep in the back, but all the
pieces they keep on the floor in the store I go to, fit in a cabinet
rougly 5'x3'x24". That is for all species. That's pretty low volume, but
as Robin pointed out, it is meant as a convenience item for their
customers, not a major profit item.
I wouldn't be going to LV to buy enough lumber for a table, but if I
just need a little bit of something exotic for an inlay, it's much
better than the long drive to the lumber yard where I'll have to buy a
piece much bigger than what I really need.
I'm not Rob, but I'll chip in anyway.
Here's the gist of his point: a customer wanting 1 bf of nearly
perfect wood can buy it from him at a price that seems shockingly high
per bf when compared to quantity suppliers.
Ripped off? No. Consider this: to get the same perfect 1bf piece
from a quantity supplier would require purchasing several times that
amount -- 4 or 5 bf if you're lucky. Then you've got to join and plane
it, sort it, and hope you get the piece you need, or else it's back to
the lumber yard.
In short: if you're building 24 linear feet of walnut bookshelves,
then don't buy your lumber from Lee Valley. But if you need a premium
quality 1x3x24 board of a species you don't have in your wood shed,
then buying from LV (or Rockler, or Woodcraft) probably won't cost you
more money, and will certainly cost lest time, labor and aggravation
than buying in quantity and milling your own in hopes of finding a
If I understand it right, it's that and more. From a 10bdft board, it's
quite possible that only 1/2 of that is good enough to sell to their
audience, so the price doubles. Next, add actual milling costs. Next,
consider that they have to keep a large variety of sizes of each species,
and they do not sell quickly, so there is a lot of cost in just keeping them
on the stock (shelf space that could be used for things that move faster,
costs of money invested in this stock generating no revenue, etc). Finally,
pieces get damaged while they're around, and are lost that way as well.
That's my take at least.
LOL! First you trash a customer, now you trash other merchants. I'd
tell you to quit while you're a head, but we're passed that now aren't
firstname.lastname@example.org (Rob Pelc) wrote in message
Greetings and Salutations.
On 18 Dec 2003 12:13:29 -0800, email@example.com (Matt) wrote:
fine...I am sure that they realize that they are cutting out
a chunk of the population that might buy (or has bought) from
It always is a bummer when life changes like this...and
we have something taken away that we had before. However,
there are other sources of wood that still will go with the
smaller consumer...so the best thing to do is find them
and move on.
Man...from all the testiness in this thread, one
would almost think it is the Christmas Season!
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