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Prices jump, supplies tighten for white oak

White-Oak

Supply chain issues have taken their toll on the lumber industry in recent months, creating shortages while raising prices, and white oak (Quercus alba) is no exception, according to hardwood dealers interviewed by Woodshop News.

“White oak, right now, is crazy hot. Price is going up and demand is very high for it. It’s been a little bit spotty as far as keeping inventory around, where some of our sawmills that traditionally would have plenty of it have had times where they don’t have it, especially in the thicker 8/4 quartered and rift white oak,” says Chad Muterspaw of C.R. Muterspaw Lumber in Xenia, Ohio.

Last year, Muterspaw’s wholesale price for 4/4 plain-sawn white oak was $3.95/bf. It’s increased to $5.75/bf on orders of 100 bf or more.

“I hope it doesn’t get too crazy,” says Muterspaw. “When prices keep going up, you worry some people are not going to pay that and put projects on hold. We haven’t gotten there yet.”

Carl Mahlstedt of Goosebay Lumber in Chinchester, N.H. concurs. “It’s still very popular, even though the price is skyrocketing. People are still buying it. It’s at an all-time high, especially flat-sawn and quarter-sawn. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“The price has been creeping up the past two years,” Mahlstedt continues. “I think it’s gone up $2 a board foot at least. I actually think it’s going to keep going up. Even before the pandemic it was going up a lot just because it was so popular. Now the pandemic’s making it go up even higher. I don’t think it’s going to stop until next year. I just hope it doesn’t take a hard crash.”

Mahlstedt notes that while rift-sawn is very hard to get, it’s currently a top choice for designers and makers seeking a plain, straight-grain look.

Clint Dillon of Steve Wall Lumber in Mayodan, N.C. says higher prices are connected to limited supplies.

“From everything I’m being told it’s because white oak takes so long to produce from the time you cut it to the time it’s kiln dried. That adds to the fact of availability, which adds to the fact of the increased prices,” says Dillon.

“Quarter-sawn has been moving really well in the past year, but I really haven’t seen a huge increase as far as customers asking for white oak. It’s just unfortunate that it’s got to the way it has with the prices.” 

This article was originally published in the July 2021 issue.

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