You have the perfect project in mind, but it needs three different woods, two of which are exotic, and none of them are available from the local lumberyard. How do you go about finding out who has what you want at the best possible price, and close to home? Go to www.woodfinder.com, of course.
Back in June of 1999, Ellis Walentine decided that woodworkers needed a way to hook up with the best wood dealers. As a result, he created a web site that did just that.
“Woodfinder is a web site where people can come to search for sources of supply for wood and specialty wood products.” Ellis explained. “It’s a specialized search engine just for finding wood.” The service is free to the user. All costs are covered by the suppliers, who pay a small fee for the privilege of being listed.
Thousands of visitors click through Woodfinder each week, looking for just the right material. “Our visitor base ranges from hobby woodworkers, who may buy just one square foot of some special piece of wood, to distributors and exporters dealing in container-load quantities.”
The search engine lets you restrict your search by wholesale, retail, export, or a number of other categories. You can also search by zip code, if you need to find a source within driving distance, wood species, or even type of material, such as certified wood, veneer, plywood, musical instrument wood, turning blocks, and many other options.
The brain behind this unique service is Ellis Walentine, whose name will be more than familiar to those of us who frequent his other free service, the Woodcentral.com bulletin board. He’s also well known as a writer, editor, web site creator, designer craftsman, and a fine woodworker with some 35 years’ experience under his belt. Woodfinder is staffed by only two people, Ellis and sales associate Rich O’Connor, who run the venture from their respective computers.
“We’re like the classified ads page for wood,” Ellis explained, “and as far as I know, we’re the only ones doing that. Anyone having difficulty finding just the right wood for their project, big or small, is a prime candidate for the site.”
Perhaps the slickest part of the web site is the online wood library, which lets you browse wood by species. Click on any species from a long list, and up pops a page that shows you a picture of the wood, a written description of it, both its common and Latin names, and a list of characteristics, such as specific gravity, wood movement, working properties, and origins. Click on the wood photo itself, and the web site zips you to a state-by-state list of suppliers who carry that wood.
Another special feature is the “Hot Deal Of The Moment,” an ever-changing potpourri of surprisingly good specials. The day I clicked in, the hot deal was wildly curly maple selling at $3.25 a board foot.
It’s no surprise that users love the service, and some wax enthusiastic about it with testimonials. “I used to travel more than 200 miles to get the right pieces of wood,” says customer Tony Brown. “Well, I searched Woodfinder, and found a wonderful dealer just a half-hour drive from home. Thanks again!”
The dealers feel the same way. Miles Gilmer, from Gilmer Wood Company of Portland, Oregon, summed it up best. “As long as I’m healthy and alive, I will be in Woodfinder.”