Waste not…

Waste not…

As a student at Rowden, one of the harder concepts to get your head around is how much wood you need to buy to get a job done. When Daren taught me, back in the day, that we should calculate exactly how much we need for a project by listing every component dimension and multiplying it out, and then add 50%, I literally burst out laughing. I wanted to use Indian Rosewood and at ridiculous pounds per cubic metre, it was now going to cost me a large fortune. As opposed to just the small fortune I had previously imagined (OK, hoped!) So I decided to wing it and buy less.

But I’ll tell you what, after that project – a (very beautiful) coffee table – all I had left was enough wood to make a couple of coasters and a bookmark! It was a tense time with no room for mistakes. Never again would I question Daren’s wisdom.

That Coffee Table!

Rosewood Desk

Since then we’ve taken this excess even further. These days we typically buy 100% more than we need. While that may seem a little extreme, extravagant even, there is a logic. We’ve noticed that the price of wood is very fluid, and our suppliers seem quite happy to reduce the price “per cube” as we like to say in the trade. Oak may be £2,400/m3 if you’re buying a couple of planks, but a half dozen boards may well be purchasable for £1,750/m3. And the shipping charge is either zero or the same!

Factor in the next time I have to order Oak the price might be higher (they never go down), and you’re looking at some great savings over time if you bulk order. Of course, it can go wrong. We bought a load of Sycamore three years ago that never got used, and is right now being turned into shelves for our daughter. She better be delighted!

But in the main we buy wood assuming that eventually it will all get used. Every time you do a project that uses wood purchased way back when there is a lot of satisfaction in knowing that you’ll get a bonus on that project for having significantly lower material costs.

Buying too much also allows you to be very choosy in your board selection, making the project as perfect as possible. And if the bits left aren’t enough to make another project, or part of a project, there are always coasters and bookmarks!

Back at Rowden, the students often club together to buy their wood. This means they can place a larger order, take advantage of a better price point and share any delivery costs. It’s a win win.

Until next time,



David established Rowden Atelier in 1995, a now world renowned fine woodworking school. Discover Rowden, the woodworking courses, and the work that students go on to do.

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