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Dusting for dollars

I clean my woodshop frequently, but lately I’ve been feeling pangs of guilt at how much money was ending up in my dust collector.

For the last year, lumber prices have risen faster (and higher) than a SpaceX rocket and, of course, Covid is largely to blame. Among other pandemic-related factors, staying at home for extended periods meant people had time for home improvements, causing higher demand. Same thing for a strong housing market. Even home hobbyist demand had an impact. All of a sudden, everybody wanted wood. High demand and dwindling supplies led to a 400 percent jump in lumber prices, according to a number of analysts.

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The hike mostly affected construction lumber, but hardwood got hit, too. Depending on the species and where you live, chances are you paid more – if you could find it. I didn’t make as much in the shop this past year, but still had to wince every time I bought wood. And while I try to be efficient when prepping stock, there’s inevitable waste. Watching wood chips fly through dust collection hoses or into my shop vacuum, I longed for the days when unavoidable wood waste wasn’t so painful.

The good news is that lumber prices are falling fast. After hitting all-time highs in April/May, prices are – to go full circle to my rocket analogy earlier – coming back down to Earth. And that means more mills are producing, supplies are being replenished, and small businesses like local contractors and furniture makers are seeing things begin to turn around.

I can’t personally remember a time when wood prices jumped so high and so fast over the span of a single year, so I couldn’t be happier. While I was minimally impacted, I still felt bad for everyone else connected with woodworking, especially my fellow small shops. As my shop returns to normal, here’s hoping yours is, too. With any luck, if this happens again this recent experience will help us have a better handle on it.

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