In Part 1, we explained why African sawmills simply don’t produce 4/4 African hardwoods. Now we’re getting to the part that’s more practical for you as a builder: your options. No matter what you choose, we’re here to make your wishes our reality. But we also believe in making sure you have all the facts, so that you can make an informed decision. So here goes.
An Expensive Answer: Re-Milling African Hardwood Lumber
African hardwoods come to us already milled into boards. But since J. Gibson McIlvain hosts an onsite millworks facility, we have the capability of re-milling high-quality African hardwoods to the thicknesses you prefer. Our fully equipped mill includes a Resaw Bandsaw, enabling us to cut thicker boards to 4/4 and thinner sizes.
We regularly perform this kind of re-milling on Sapele lumber, which is increasingly popular with our customers. An excellent alternative to South American Mahogany, Sapele is available at about half the cost of South American Mahogany. You should know, however, that due to the waste and added labor involved in re-milling Sapele, its price ends up being a tad less of a bargain. In addition, each Sapele shipment that we purchase ends up including some lower-grade boards, and the waste involved adds to your price tag, too. So if you want FAS-quality Sapele in 4/4 thicknesses, we can definitely make that happen! Just be aware: it won’t be bargain priced.
An Unavoidable Issue: Higher Prices for Thinner Boards
If you look up pricing for 5/4 Sapele, you may notice that it is typically higher than the price for 6/4 Sapele. Ditto with 10/4 as opposed to 12/4. Why? This seemingly illogical situation, of thinner boards costing more than thicker boards, makes sense when you understand that North American standard sizes require re-milling the thicker imported boards. Now, if you have re-sawing capabilities in-house, you may find it more cost-effective to purchase thicker boards yourself and have them re-sawn on site. Either way, African hardwoods arrive on our shores already cut into thicker boards that meet global standards, so the added labor will have to happen someplace, and when it does, it will be costly — in time, effort, money, or all three.
A New Approach: Reconsider Sizes
We already mentioned that preferences of certain thicknesses are somewhat arbitrary. So when getting African hardwoods re-milled to 4/4 thickness, you have to ask yourself the question: Is it really worth paying more simply to meet such standards? I mean, if the prices were even, it might be more of a contest, but it would still defy all practical logic to pay the same price for less lumber as you could for more. But the fact is, you’ll actually, in all likelihood, have to spend more to get less. Only you can decide if that’s a worthwhile trade.