Feel like an idiot buying Timber at timber yards

Ok, so I am an inexperienced DIYer but at least im enthusiastic about the possibilities.
I want to build a computer desk and some alcove shelving. I need several sheets of plywood but i really dont have a bloody clue what im talking about. I really think if the whole industry was more accessible to dumbasses like me im sure it would be bigger. Second problem, and a big one - the ply wont fit in my car, obviously, so a delivery needs to be arranged but will anyone deliver a small quantity of timber to me economically ?... i doubt it.
I need some 18mm ply thats furniture grade for the desk and shelves( 3-4 sheets) and maybe some 1 inch by 2 inch battons for the shelving design i found online. It would be great if it was possible to buy this stuff online but i can only find www.buildercenter.co.uk and have heard they are expensive.
I have a list of timber merchants near me from yell.com
Is it a good idea to ring a few of these and bumble my way through a quote request?.. what kind of ply is best for me and what's a good price?
Thanks for any help.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 04 Oct 2007 18:43:21 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@orange.net wrote:

I'm not an expert about this but if you live near a B&Q, they keep a decent stop of ply of various thicknesses (& MDF). They also will slice it up into pieces for you (free, last time I did it). The last cinmputer desk I "hacked" together lasted about 10 years and that was made of chipboard and held together with a mixture of chipboard screws, right-angle shelving brackets and 2x1 wooden battens. Midn you it didn't look brilliant - but was solid and did the job just fine. For shelves I've used planed softwood. Just fix (rawlpug) some batten to the wall in the alcove and fix the softwood shelf across that. A piece if 2x1 can be fixed underneath the shelf to make it look more "finished" and be more solid. (ie avoid sagging with mucho weight). I use light-oak woodstain for the lot and it doesn't look too bad. HTH
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
hey dave, thanks for the advice. Just been onto B&Q website and i have seen ply there for cheaper than the link i gave above and in sizes that will fit into my car. result!
however, i notice they have hardwood ply and softwood ply - what is the difference?... i think im alergic to the look of veneer so i need the ply to look nice on one face. The edges i plan to conceal with some ordinary wood.
These are the shelves i plan to build, i really like the bracketless design even if they are overly chunky. http://www.diydoctor.org.uk/projects/makingshelves.htm
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 2007-10-05 03:12:03 +0100, snipped-for-privacy@orange.net said:

Here's an assortment of ideas.
If you are looking for a furniture grade ply, I don't think that you will find it in B&Q or any of the other sheds - I've certainly never seen it any of them. Generally they have a cheap construction grade material and sometimes one a little better, but the outer veneer is poor and usually patched with filler. You might be lucky in being able to select a few sheets that you feel are good enough for what you want and then you could use their rent a van/truck to get it home or alternatively ask them to cut it to size for you. A word of warning though. The panel saws in DIY sheds are usually not well set up and you can easily end up with something 3-5mm out. This is useless if you want to make something joined together. However you could work out a detailed layour sheet before you go using graph paper - do this anyway for best economy of material use - and then you should be able to have pieces cut in the correct order. Here what I mean is that for a freestanding piece like a desk, it may not matter if a dimension is 3mm out provided that the connecting piece is 3mm out as well by being cut at the same time without the saw being adjusted.
Nonetheless, a panel saw is able to do much better if properly set up, so I would ask them about that. Ask them to cut a piece of scrap and let you measure it. If it's out, then either they need to adjust the saw calibration or to allow for the error in other cuts. At a DIY store, this is an exercise to do in the week when they are less busy and perhaps more receptive.
If you are going to go for furniture grade ply, these start at the 40 range in 18mm depending on what you want. Note that there is also veneered MDF available which can be easier to work. The larger suppliers of these kind of boards such as James Latham http://www.lathamtimber.co.uk/ and Arnold Laver http://www.laver.co.uk/ will I think, only want to sell complete 2440x1220 sheets but you could ask. Other than that, if you want pieces cut to size then it would be better to approach local timber merchants (not builders merchants). Fax them a list and a cutting diagram and ask them to quote. You will pay rather more than for uncut sheets.
If you are going to cut furniture grade ply yourself then you need to invest in a good quality circular saw with a cast base, not a stamped one - e.g. Bosch, Hitachi (expect to spend 80-100) and get a good quality sheet materials blade for it. You then need a work area large enough and to properly support the material for cutting. For this, you need to have a cutting guide or guide clamp. If you can find good quality and a straight piece of 100x25mm timber, you can use that, clamped to the sheet. The idea is that you run the left side of the saw against it, so it needs to be positioned precisely for that to happen. Alternatively, you can invest in guide clamps. Look at www.axminster.co.uk and catalogue number 340954 for an example.
An alternative to ply, which you may or may not like, is laminated board - normally in pine. This is strips of wood laminated together into boards of various lengths and widths and intended for shelves and some furniture construction. It's easy to work with and generally straight and flat. Most of the DIY stores have this, some more than others and prices do vary.
The box type design that you are looking at also has the advantage of providing strength as well as a fairly easy way to neaten edges as long as you adequately fasten the front and lower pieces. Note that there is a grade of ply which has one good side and one moderate side which would be a good choice for this. Either it is best grade material with one dinged side or specifically made that way.
You can also fit (for example) hardwood in a strip to the edge of ply arranging for it to be just the thickness of the board. It does need to be carefully trimmed after gluing it one - typically with a small router with trimming bit. The result looks very good in a contrasting timber, but it's something requiring practice on some scrap material because it's easy to wreck the veneer of the board. Another similar approach is to use an iron on veneer. This has a hot melt adhesive and you iron it on to the edge of the board. After cooling you can carefully trim (or sand at an angle) to finish it.
If you are going to be doing a fair amount of this kind of work, you might want to look at getting a biscuit jointer. These are ideal for joining panels side by side or at angles. The tool is like a small circular saw with part projecting blade which cuts a segment slot in the edge or other position of material. It has fences to register the tool and then it is pushed against springs to make the cut. The idea is that the slots are accurately referenced to the edges. Assembly is then with beech biscuits which can be bought very inexpensively and glued and clamped into place The biscuit swells with the glue (e.g. white wood glue) and makes a very firm and accurate joint. Professional biscuit jointers with fine adjustments cost up to 400, professional ones around 150-200, but there are quite usable ones at around 50-60. The very cheapest are often reviewed as being inaccurate so to be avoided. The results are good. You can make very strong constructions without using those horrible plastic blocks or having screws on show - e.g. putting shelves part way up a cabinet.
For the desk that you have in mind, another option to consider for the top is to buy a length of woodblock kitchen worktop - available in almost any wood you like This will give you a very sturdy top with a finished front edge and little to do to finish apart from several coats of Danish Oil with a light sanding.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@orange.net wrote:

Just say you want good quality 18mm birch ply, cut and delivered, and get a quote.
Ply seems to come in about three gared.
Crap stuff which is useful for structures, but dosn;t look that good and mustn't get wet.
WBP (?) which ain't that great either, but can get a bit wet.
And quality birch ply that smells lovely when you cut it (except on a laser) and has a fine finish.
I would expect to see much change out of 50 notes for an 8x4 sheet of birch, cut and delivered. Bit its ages since I bought some, so I could be well wrong..
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I have bought 8 x 4 plys a long time back. personally i find that its best that you can select it if you can. some could have chipped, dirtied, water stain sides being dragged or stored on the floor. My experience is that if you do not supervise the selection, sometimes you end up with wrapped plys.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I'd agree about the birch ply as one of the better buys at the moment for furniture. It tends to be very flat and square with a very uniform structure and attractive outer faces.
Like all sheet materials 8 by 4 feet (2.4 by 1.2m) is the standard sheet size, with other sizes derived from halving that. 18mm thickness is the most commonly used.
Ask specifically for birch ply or if they don't have it, red ply. I think I got mine from Travis Perkins last time.
Some useful info here: http://wiki.diyfaq.org.uk/index.php?title=Sheet_Materials
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Oct 5, 2:43 am, snipped-for-privacy@orange.net wrote:

B+Q is about the cheapest for birch ply at the moment, but it's worth going and selecting your own rather than having it delivered as they don't always store it very well. I usually get pieces that have been damaged and get them to knock a decent discount off. Full sheets are better value than their small sheets, and because they cut to size for free, there's no disadvantage.
A
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 04 Oct 2007 18:43:21 -0700, mgnlloyd wrote:

=================================Since you're not very experienced you might consider using 'Contiboard' which is a good general purpose material for what you intend building. It has many advantages such as a good range of fittings / connectors and it requires almost no finishing. You can get almost any size in your car even if that requires a few car park cuts. It's much cheaper at B&Q etc. than at a timber merchant. Look at: www.screwfix.co.uk for fittings and connectors.
As far as timber merchants in general are concerned it's worth visiting a few to find one with a friendly and helpful attitude. A good one will sell better quality *real* timber than B&Q etc. and delivery charges are usually quite reasonable.
Cic.
--
===================================
Using Ubuntu Linux
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
in 671305 20071005 024321 snipped-for-privacy@orange.net wrote:

My local timber yard (Goodwillie's of Waterlooville) cuts sheets of plywood to my spec while I wait. I'm sure most of them will.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 04 Oct 2007 18:43:21 -0700 snipped-for-privacy@orange.net wrote:

See if one of the Arnold-Laver Timberworld units is in your area.
http://www.laver.co.uk /
When I was new to woodwork I visited the Reading unit, and was helped to choose the right stuff. Their website is very useful, just to get the terminology right so you don't sound like a p....ock. They always have a panel saw there and will cut panels to your cutting diagram for a small fee - probably more accurately than you (or B&Q) could do it. When drawing a cutting diagram (there is software that will do it for you) remember that the saw kerf (3.2 mm usually, so say 5mm) has to be allowed for!
You could use WBP plywood (any Builder's Merchant) which is not too expensive, but it has voids inside and the surface veneers are thin and they split easily (and you get splinters!).
Proper cabinet-grade birch multi-ply is wonderful stuff, but you pay a big premium for it. I would guess that it is twice as strong as WBP too, and maybe 3 x the price.
Another alternative is Hardwood veneered ply, or MDF, I'm sitting at a desk made from Ash-veneered MDF now. It needs to be edged with real timber, but for big projects you can't beat it for stability and cost.
Finally, don't write off using real wood. Panels made of strip-wood, usually spruce, are not expensive in comparison to Birch Ply, and are easy to work with.
R.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Hi,
Whereabouts are you?
Someone might be able to make a local recommendation.
Probably worth going to see a couple of timber yards and what they have, most will either cut your selected ply so it fits in the car and/ or put it to one side for delivery.
If you ask them to write 'clean face' in big capitals on the order ticket you should receive just that, a clean sheet of ply.
Normal 'WBP' ply is very variable these days, the bigger yards should do birch ply or veneered ply plus edging.
cheers, Pete.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 5 Oct, 02:43, snipped-for-privacy@orange.net wrote:

So, sheet goods mainly: ply and MDF. These aren't too hard.

Welcome to the club! Timber yards are some of the worst places around at doing accessible retail, just as you describe.
Shop around. There are better ones. They're frequently a better range and cheaper too. There must just be a lot of inertia and convenience in the trade, I can't think how the bad ones survive otherwise.
My local good vendors (Bristol area):
Bulk or framing timber comes from http://www.bendreybrothers.co.uk / who are out by Warmley
Interesting Timbers (Emborough, out towards Wells) for nice furniture wood http://www.interestingtimbers.co.uk /
Avon Plywood (Keynsham) for plywood and flat stuff. http://www.avonplywood.co.uk /

Bigger car. All of my recent estates will take a number of sheets of ply, with one rip down to 4'x4' half-sheets. I think the record was a dozen in my Citroen XM, and and that wasn't even an estate!
Anyone want a dirt-cheap Volvo 740 in Bristol? (Old, huge, scruffy, reliable)

Usually yes, so long as you can wait a week and can accept it during the day. You piggy-back on a big delivery nearby.
There are several sheet materials you might use.
Chipboard. Worthless, avoid.
MDF. Dead handy, but it doesn't like damp and it will sag if unsupported.
Ply. _Lots_ of types and grades. Grade (quality) often makes more difference to suitability than type (function). I've recently had lovely very high quality cheap sheathing ply from Avon that's more useful than the asian hardwood ply and even better surfaced than some recent expensive birch ply.
Sheathing ply. Made from cheap resinous softwoods, it's not bad for damp and the surface can be attractive too. Start here.
Asian stuff. Made from tropical rainforests and there's a huge amount of fraudulent labelling around. Much of it is illegal(sic) logging from Burma or Cambodia, legalised by the fact it's their own government doing it. Heavy, expensive, plain surfaced, boring to look at. Avoid.
Oak veneered (or other hardwood). Top-end stuff, for cabinet backs. Looks good, not that much more expensive, far cheaper than doing it with solid timber. Bear it in mind, but don't waste it on dog kennels.
Birch ply. The usual stuff for "cabinet grade" plywood. Lightweight, strong, stiff and expensive. Grade matters a lot, because the poorer stuff can have a lot of repair patches in the surface. Grade is very variable, so ideally look before buying. Stained and varnished, it can look quite acceptable for "bare wood" furniture.
Valchromat. Like MDF, but with more colour and resin to it. Moderately damp proof and gives a good surface. If polished and waxed, you can leave it bare. I've even done woodturnings from it.
Versapanel. Like concrete MDF. Good for outdoor use, fascia boards, shower enclosures, firproofing, dog kennels.

18mm is thick and heavy. You probably need some, but I doubt you need it all to be this thickness. 12mm is fine for uprights and even bookshelves. 18mm is really only needed for desktops. Varying ply thickness is important if things aren't to look "boxy". Also MDF is much more sag-prone than ply. 18mm MDF is usually replaceable by 12mm ply. A good desk design would be 18mm MDF for the top (dense, heavy and stable), 12mm sheathing or birch ply for the sides, good 10mm birch ply for internal cupboard drawers and divisions.
Web search for the "Sagulator" too.
Tools are a 100+ Bosch jigsaw (maybe Makita). Read the group archives, but a _good_ jigsaw is worth it.
A biscuit jointer is a great way to join ply boxes quickly, easily and accurately. Aldi have them in at present (20 quid) along with biscuit and glue-bottle kits. Don't use dowels, they're a right old faff.
If you're going to use a circular saw, fit an appropriate fine-tooth blade.
A cheap router is useful, especially for edge treatments on MDF.
Don't think purely in right angles either. Look at some of Jarkman's dead-easy desks http://www.jarkman.co.uk/catalog/furnitur/index.htm particularly the wavy stereo. Curved front edges look so much better than straight.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
guys, that's fantastic. I really was not expecting that sort of response. I already have a good hitachi circular saw that i used to cut large new oak sleepers for a huge landscaping project in the back garden last year. I spent 200 + on that saw and it can go up to 90 cm cutting depth. A biscuit jointer sounds like alot of fun. I have seen Norm from New yankee workshop use one. Whats the minimum thickness of ply you could box with biscuits?
I thought they go a couple of centimeters deep or is there a really narrow type of biscuit to use for that? I really dont like materials with a plastic-y veneer. I would like to stain lightly and see the character of the wood. If i had the facilities to turn the oak sleepers into accurately cut boards and worktops then it would be a really economical source of timber. I had 40 of them delivered at about 17 each. Each 80kg of nice oak 1800mm x 225 x 125. Do any of you guys do this?... cut into peices this would cost 25 thousand pounds at homebase - never going back there again.
Pete C, i am in the islington area of london so if anyone has a reccomendation for top quality birch ply in my area that would be great.
thanks for all the links, will keep me occupied for a while.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 2007-10-05 22:28:01 +0100, snipped-for-privacy@orange.net said:

It might be a bit hefty for finer panel work but would certainly need a fine toothed blade.

It depends on the machine.
There are three major sizes of biscuit, 0,10,20 and all machines can cut slots for those. The more expensive machines are adjustable in fine increments, the cheaper ones not. There are some additional sizes such as FF (means face frame) and is a narrower biscuit and some machines have other depth settings.
I've used biscuits with 9mm material, but the most common tend to be 12 and 18 or even greater.

I completely agree.
If you are going to use oak, then Danish oil is a good finish. It doesn't come up too much above matt and is easily refinishable without stripping. Easy to apply as well.

I do cut, plane, thickness and machine my own timber where possible, but mainly to get specific sizes and pieces that are true and square. It is necessary to be careful though - for example metal and other embedded objects can take out a set of planer blades. At around 20 a reversible set of 4, I don't want to do that too often.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

If C.F.Anderson are still in Upper Street, they are a major supplier.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

fumes are strong though so needs lots of ventilation while drying
--
Si

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Si wrote:

I thought the Danes were a green lot
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 2007-10-11 12:40:58 +0100, Stuart Noble

Yer kidding. They have (or used to have) power stations burning oily fish industrially. The windmills are just a front.
Besides... what's the use of so called green products if they don't work?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Andy Hall wrote:

Oil finishes is probably the one area where solvents don't do much. The oil on its own is a good consistency and doesn't really need thinning for most applications.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.