1st Steps to Finding High-Quality Industrial Hardwood | Hardwood Value Explained

What is Industrial Hardwood?

stacks of industrial hardwood lumberGetting the maximum value or use out of a log is truly one of the most amazing parts of the industrial hardwood lumber industry. The sawing process creates by-products like hardwood chips, sawdust, etc. as the log is turned into individual boards. This process leaves nothing to waste, as all those byproducts are able to be repurposed. 

Sawmills often aim to produce as much grade lumber as possible. During the sawing process, the most valuable parts of the log are manufactured into grade lumber. The sawmill benefits most from this by maximizing its return on investment. The grading categories used are FAS, F1F, Select and Better, 1 Common, 2 Common, and 3 Common. Each grade represents how many clear cuttings are contained within each board, free of knots, wane, and other defects.

Usually, grade lumber is used to create furniture, cabinets, specialty woodwork items such as cutting boards or bowls, and hardwood flooring. The things we use in our everyday lives. 

Alternatively, industrial hardwoods are hardwoods that can’t be sawn into lumber of a usable grade. Despite the fact that it cannot be sawn into grade lumber, this product is still used and appreciated. If you’ve ever seen railroad ties, that is just one of many uses for industrial hardwood lumber or cants. Besides hardwood pallets, timber mats, and board roads, these industrial hardwoods are also used for making hardwood pallets.

These products are usually less expensive per board foot than graded lumber. However, it is important for a sawmill to find customers in the market who want industrial hardwoods, so they can get the most value out of a log.

The hardwood lumber industry is constantly evolving. A variety of hardwood lumber grades, products, and sorts are available, so choosing the hardwood lumber that best fits your needs is important.

Whether it’s industrial-grade hardwoods or grade hardwood lumber, it’s the supplier’s job to match products with their customer needs.

Industrial Hardwood Production and Pricing

a single piece of industrial hardwoodHardwood industrial products have become more expensive and volatile over the past 15 years.  Prior to 2003, hardwood cant price, the primary feedstock used to make wood pallets and industrial wood products, remained relatively stable for nearly a decade. Prices began to rise sharply in 2003, and this signaled a period of increased volatility and price increases.  How can this be explained and what can be expected in the future?

Where does industrial hardwood come from and what has driven price fluctuations?

To understand what drives the pricing of industrial hardwoods (and any industrial lumber), it is crucial to know where the hardwoods come from.  Most trees cut down are cut for making grade material. The few that aren’t used for grade material were either too small or defective, so they get ground into pulp for paper. Logs are cut into different board sizes and kiln-dried for structural and aesthetic applications such as studs, furniture, trim, veneer, and flooring. The remainder of the log, notably the center of the log called a cant, is discarded from the process and goes to the industrial wood market.  The key point to grasp here is that industrial wood is a by-product of, and is dependent upon, the grade lumber market.

Due to this, the traditional factors driving industrial hardwood pricing were largely a balance between the demand for grade lumber and the ability to log, the latter being primarily affected by the weather.  If housing booms, furniture, and trim are in demand.  Increasing demand for grade lumber causes industrial downfalls, resulting in oversupply and lower prices.  Weather conditions, such as heavy rain, prevent logging crews from accessing timberland and cause a decrease in log supply and rising prices. While the American economy was booming, the housing market was as well, so there was a nice balance that kept prices fairly steady, with only occasional weather fluctuations.

Production of Hardwood Logs

Around 2000, furniture production began to move offshore.  The production of hardwood logs was curtailed due to furniture production being a major market for grade hardwoods. Eventually, hardwood sawmills were forced to shut down, idle, and eventually close permanently.

Throughout 2003, industrial hardwoods seem to shift in price due to fewer logs being harvested for high dollar grade hardwoods. These effects have carried on, with prices steadily rising as logging becomes more and more obsolete.

Thanks for reading. We hope you learned something new about hardwood today. If you want to read more on the topic, keep exploring more on Woodworking and Machinery.