Can I Buy Exotic Woods Online?


This is the main image for the Can I Buy Exotic Woods Online blog post. It shows Mahogany wood. Large image.

Can I buy exotic woods online? This question is more important than ever, since exotic woods are used in many woodworking projects. These can range from tables, cabinets, and even small turned items such as pens or multicolored bowls. 

It’s often possible to purchase exotic Woods at lumber yards. However they’re often quite a distance from your home. So, you can spend a considerable amount of  time getting there. Even gas can be a real expense. In this age of giant e-commerce sites such as Amazon.com, I wondered if it was actually possible to purchase exotic woods online and have them delivered to the home. 

After all, you can buy almost anything else you want through your computer. This is how things are done today. Most people don’t have the time to make an extended trip to a remote lumber yard when the wood can just arrive in the mail. So, is this possible?

You can buy Exotic Woods Online. Some sites take pictures of boards. This allows you to look at the grain patterns before purchase. In this way, you can pick the boards with grain that you feel is best for your project. Also, some stores offer free shipping for certain items to selected areas.

Note: Some of the links below can be affiliate links. For more information, see the disclosure page.

What Are Exotic Woods?

So, what are they?

Woods grown in the United States are referred to as domestic woods. Woods from other countries are called exotic woods. Some examples are:

  • African Mahogany
  • Bloodwood
  • Bolivian Rosewood
  • Bubinga
  • Canarywood

There’s also another case: Particular woods can grow in the U.S. and also in other countries. So, these are either domestic or exotic depending on where they come from. Walnut and Hickory are woods like this.

In general, exotic woods are very dense. They have pronounced grain patterns and are very colorful. These woods are excellent materials for woodworking projects of all kinds!

Exotic woods add distinctive character to your project and it’s no wonder that individuals want to purchase these items online.

So, how is this done?

How Do We Order Exotic Woods Online?

Often, online stores offer pre-cut exotic wood in packs or through specials. The dimensions are known beforehand, so the ordering process is straightforward. However, in other instances, you may need to order random dimension lumber in terms of board feet. These concepts are summarized in the sections below, in case you’re not already familiar with them.

You may need to know about these things before you can place an order. So, they’re highly relevant to this post: How can you buy exotic woods online if you can’t place the order? These ideas can make your online purchases easier, more enjoyable, and quick.

This image shows a crooked tree. The overall length of board cut from the tree is limited by bends in the tree trunk. Small image.
Board length is limited by bends in the tree

Random Widths And Length

When a tree is cut into boards, it’s unclear how long the boards will be. This is because trees bend from side to side as they grow upward. The total length of a board is limited by these bends. Usually, the lengths are from 6 to 14 feet.

This image shows why lumber can contain boards with random widths. The boards are formed through horizontal cuts. The further the cut from the center of the log, the more narrow the board is. Small image.
Random board width

Also, as the cut for the board gets closer and closer to the outer edge of the tree, the board width decreases. Usually, the board widths are from 4 to 12 inches.

Because of factors like these, you may need to order random size pieces of wood. This process allows for better use of the tree with as little waste as possible.

Select and better

The National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) established several wood grades. The most stringent is Firsts and Seconds (FAS), Next is FAS One Face (F1F), followed by Select (SEL).  Select and Better includes all of these grades. These boards have a minimum width of 4”, a minimum length of 6’, and about 83% of the board is free from defects like knots.

At least you know that your board will be at least 6′ long with this grade. However, it seems like there might still be a problem: Suppose you project calls for a piece with a width greater than 12 inches. As an example, table tops can often be wider than 12″. So, what would you do?

Actually, you could work with narrower pieces and glue them together. This might make the project even more attractive! Also, the wider a board is, the more chance that warping of the wood can affect your project. That is, it might actually be better to glue up pieces that are less wide.

Surfaced Wood (S2S) 

This stands for “surfaced on two sides” and refers to a situation where the board has been planed on the top and bottom. This makes the surfaces smooth and keeps the thickness constant throughout the board. This process saves the woodworker time. Also, it’s easier for him / her to see the wood grain. This allows the woodworker to join pieces together so that grain patterns match or there is a pleasing appearance.

Thickness Of Board

S2S planing reduces the overall thickness of the board. So, let’s say the board was initially 1 inch thick. This could also be referred to as 4/4 lumber. That is, 4 quarters.

After the wood is surfaced on both sides, the actual thickness is decreased to about 13/16 inch.

So, in summary, if you wanted wood with a final thickness of 13/16 inch, you would order 1 inch thick wood. This would have a designation of 4/4. The table below lists this information for several lumber thicknesses:

Wood FractionThicknessApprox. S2S Thickness
4/41 inch13/16 inch
5/41 1/4 inch1 1/16 inch
6/41 1/2 inch1 5/16 inch
8/42 inch1 3/4 inch
12/43 inch2 3/4 inch

Board Foot

A Board foot seems like a unit of length. However, it’s actually a unit of volume. 1 board foot would be the volume taken up by a board exactly 1 inch thick, 12 inches wide, and 1 foot long.

So, 1 board foot is also equal to 144 cubic inches. That is:

Board Feet = (Thickness in inches x Width in inches x Length in Feet) / 144

When you order wood online, you often need to specify the quantity in terms of board feet. You look at the thicknesses you need, and keep in mind that the wood may be planed down if it is S2S. Here’s an example:

Suppose you need ¾ inch thick wood for a table top. Looking at the table above, you need 1 inch or 4/4 wood for this.

Where Can We Buy Exotic Woods Online?

Many online stores do sell exotic woods, along with other products. I’m including a small list here. However, there are many, many more. So, the list is not complete or exhaustive by any means:

This image shows the Amazon site. Small image

1. Amazon

Amazon is one of the largest online stores on the internet. They sell practically everything and this includes exotic woods. Many pre-cut wood packages are available. Also, some offer prime delivery while others have free shipping! Some of the wood packs can be used for smaller project. In addition, they have wood for turning on a lathe.

Amazon is a popular and trusted e-commerce site. They do a fantastic amount of business!

This image shows the Bell Forest site. Small image.

2. Bell Forest Products

Bell Forest Products is located in the beautiful upper peninsula of Michigan! They offer a large selection of exotic woods, as well as domestic woods. Also, they sell many packages with the wood needed for various projects. In addition, they sell Closeout & Special selections of wood at a reduced price.

This store has a really nice feature: They allow you to hand pick particular boards before you purchase them. They do this by giving some boards identifying numbers and photographing them. Then, they post these images on their website. The video below gives some information about this process: 

This image shows the Woodworkers Source site. Small image.

3. Woodworkers Source

This store also has a great selection of exotic woods along with domestic woods. You can order the board feet you need or or purchase packages with pre-cut wood. This store is located in Arizona. They offer free shipping with some of their items. That is, the shipping is free to states west of the Mississippi river. If you’re east of the Mississippi, there’s a service fee.

If you live in Arizona you can drive to one of the stores and pick the lumber on your own. This allows you to select the grain and figuring that is best for your project. However, it’s impractical for people who live a distance from this state.

There is no minimum order, and they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. For more information, see their website.

4. Rare Woods USA

This store allows you to buy many types of exotic wood, including wood for lathes and 20 board foot packs. They have many items on sale and they also allow you to purchase gift cards. 

The company is in Maine and they offer free shipping to the continental United States for orders over $100.00. They accept returns of unaltered wood (That is, it has not been cut, sanded, planed, etc.) within 30 days of purchase. For complete details, see their website.

5. Cook Woods

Along with exotic wood and wood for lathes, this online store sells custom slabs of wood. These are free-form and natural pieces of wood to be used in artistic projects such as tables, counter tops, and shelves.

Also, they sell wood for musical instruments, inlay materials to decorate wood, and power tools. In addition, they have special sales on rare woods.

6. West Penn Hardwoods, Inc.

This online store sells domestic and exotic wood. They also have items on sale. This online store stands behind it’s products 100%. However, there’s a 20% restocking fee for all cancellations and returned orders. 

7. Tropical Exotic Hardwoods

This online store is based in California. They sell a large variety of exotic woods. These are sold in terms of board feet,  as described in an earlier section.

The store also sells wood slabs to be used for coffee tables, bartops, shelves, etc. 

8. Amazon Exotic Hardwoods

Note: This store is not Amazon.com, the well-known online e-commerce store. The name is very similar, so it’s easy to confuse the two. However, this store is based in Florida. They sell many domestic and exotic woods.

They also offer special packages at a discount.

9. Keim

This store is based in Ohio. It  sells many types of domestic and exotic words. However, they also sell other products including plumbing supplies, toys & games, hand tools, food & snacks, and many other items! This family-owned business started in 1911 with 4 employees. Now, they have 500!

Gift cards are also available . These can be set to any monetary value and allows the recipient to choose the products of most interest to him/her.

They have indicated that for some returns, a 10% restocking fee may occur.

10. Griffin Exotic Woods

This store sells many types of rare woods. This includes woods from locations such as India, Hawaii, Brazil, Burma, and many others.

You can sign up for their newsletter. This will keep you aware of new arrivals and special offers. Also, they offer “Biblical Wood”. That is, wood from the Middle East. Examples are Shittim wood, Olive Wood from Bethlehem, and Carob Wood. In addition, there are many Clearance items on sale.

They sell gift certificates for any amount over $40.00. So, that means that someone else can receive the gift of exotic wood!

Items can be ordered through the phone, along with the Internet. However phone orders must be greater than $50.00. 

11. Rockler

You can buy many types of wood through Rockler, including domestic, exotic, plywood, dowels, and slabs of wood. However, you can also buy many other items, such as power and hand tools, hardware, and items for the workshop.

The Rockler site contains many articles with advice and instruction. They show you how to operate various tools. In addition, they also include free woodworking project plans.

 They allow you to buy gift cards. You can check the balance left on a card through the website.

Conclusion

Yes, you CAN buy exotic woods online. That is, through your computer. Then, they can be delivered directly to your home.  Exotic woods can include Mahogany from Africa, Ebony from Brazil, Rosewood from Nicaragua, and many other types! 

With most online stores, you need to specify the number of board feet you need. Board feet is a unit of volume. You can also buy packages of pre-cut wood, or other items such as blanks for lathe turning.

Many online stores sell exotic wood. They differ in the woods they offer, return policies, and services to the customer.

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This is the Pinterest image for the Can I Buy Exotic Woods Online blog post. It shows a background made of Mahogany wood.

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