High-Quality Lumber: The Story Behind Our Signature Blue-End Studs

Mike

- Mike Dunn


Nothing says “Dunn-quality materials” like our signature blue-end studs. The story starts in the early 80s, when I moved from managing our Kirkland store to helping my dad with the lumber buying. At that time, our president bought all the commodities; signed all the vendor, payroll and expense checks; hand-priced all the inter-yard sales and inventories; set the prices; and wrote the purchase orders—along with all the normal duties you associate with being the president: legal, financial, insurance, and corporate governance.

To say that he had little time to talk to customers and salespeople would be an understatement. I, on the other hand, was only focused on buying, and I found that both customers and salespeople had a lot to tell me. I remember the day we put a 12’ two-by-four inside a salesman’s vehicle. We were actually able to close the door and roll up the windows because it was so warped.

Dunn Lumber High Quality Lumber the Story Behind Our Signature Blue-End Studs Seattle WA 1

It was clear that our number one job was to improve our lumber quality, but as I toured mills in Washington and Oregon, there was not one mill in the quality niche that could supply enough to come close to our needs of several million feet annually. I remember my first scouting trip to British Columbia. It was the days before Google, cell phones, or GPS, and everything had to be planned out in detail and documented on paper before I left. What an adventure. That’s when I learned the old lumber buyer’s trick of looking for the smoke of the wood-waste burner, and back then, every mill had one. Now, the only burners are at mills that also generate electricity, and the stacks release very little but steam. I traveled 1,500 miles that trip in my little car, and visited a couple dozen locations. Not a single one was shipping to Seattle, and it took me several months to convince the first one to give it a try.

Fast forward a couple of years, and we were buying 100 percent of our 2” framing lumber from British Columbia (BC). The interior of BC is much like Eastern Washington: hot summers and frozen winters. The primary softwood species that grows there are grouped as SPF: Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, and balsam fir. They are slow-growing, have small branches, and lose the bottom branches quickly as they race skyward to compete for summer sun. What this means for the mills is that the lumber is tight-grained (tends to be straight) and has small knots. Also, because the creamy texture and consistent light color is so popular in Japan, the mills learned early on to produce as much defect-free lumber as possible (because the overseas market would pay for the quality). In the U.S. at the time, there was little call for defect-free lumber where the post-war building boom had demanded quantity, not quality.

Out of all SPF, our signature blue-end 96” two-by-four studs are consistently our best framing lumber item, and a great fit for their end-use. If you’re framing a wall that needs to look perfect, whether it’s for a long, straight hallway, a wall of cabinets, a curved wall, or a wall that will have a high-end glossy finish that would show any ripple, you’re not going to find a better stud short of the TimberStrand-type manufactured studs or steel. And the benefits don’t stop there. As our DIY expert Kirsten has discovered, our premium-quality SPF lumber is a great resource for all kinds of projects.

Dunn Lumber High Quality Lumber the Story Behind Our Signature Blue-End Studs Seattle WA 2

SPF is soft in texture but strong, making it easy to fasten with nails or screws. The small, tight knots, lack of bark wane, and straightness due to its fine grain mean you don’t have to sort through the stack, and when you do need a special piece for a particular use, be assured we’ll do our best to help you find it. In addition, our blue-end studs are lightweight, which is pretty handy when you’re working on a big project or have to carry it upstairs.

As always, our hassle-free return makes it easy to buy everything you might need and return whatever isn’t used, and we help you through the whole process, from a free cup of coffee while you're asking questions to loading and a fond farewell until your next visit. I hope to see you soon, and if you have any questions, I’m always here at mikedunn@dunnlumber.com.