Types of Wood for Woodworking Projects

When creating fine woodworking pieces the outcome is often determined by the choice of wood used in the making if it.  Many choices are made according to the characteristics of the wood; determined by whether it is soft, hard or manufactured wood, its color, grain, durability, and whether or not it is readily available.  Also, it would seem reasonable to believe that the cost, skill level of the woodworker, the project itself, and woodworking tools on hand would also influence the choice of wood.  Some woods are only to be found in larger lumberyards, not in your local home center.  Most hardwoods can only be found in specialty stores.

Some commonly used soft woods are cedar, fir, pine, redwood, spruce and hemlock.  For the most part, soft woods are used in home construction and for some furniture pieces and outdoor projects.  Soft woods are generally less expensive than hardwoods, are easy to work with and don’t require expensive woodworking tools for good results; making it a good choice for the beginning woodworker.  One thing to remember when using soft wood in making furniture is that, being soft wood, it can be easily damaged.

It is more difficult and time consuming to work with hardwood than it is to work with soft wood.  Hardwood lumber requires drilling a pilot hole before driving a screw into it.  Extremely sharp cutting and planning tools are necessary for cutting into hardwood.  This adds to the already high cost of the hardwood and takes up more time in the construction.

Finding certain hardwoods is becoming more difficult, Brazilian rosewood as an example, because it is being cut down without regard for its sustainability.  Thus the cost of the wood is so high that many woodworkers can’t afford it.  Ash, birch, cherry, mahogany, maple, oak, poplar, teak and walnut are all commonly used hardwoods.  Out of all these hardwoods only red oak and poplar are stocked in home centers and lumberyards as a general rule.  Ash, birch, cherry, mahogany, maple, teak and walnut are more likely to be found in specialty stores.

There are numerous exotic woods which are imported from other countries.  Lace wood, granadillo and African mahogany are three examples of exotic woods.  Lace wood comes from Australia.  Its unusual grain structure creates a hammered copper appearance.  It’s used mostly for accent or in veneered tabletops.  Granadilo is from Mexico and is suitable for all furniture applications.  African mahogany is imported from Ghana and is also used in making furniture.

Plywood is made of an uneven number of alternating layers of wood.  Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) and particle board are both made from wood particles combined with glue and bonded under pressure.  MDF has finer particles; therefore it makes a smoother and stronger product.  The problem with MDF is that it is very heavy.  Hardwood veneer is used to hide the edges of plywood and manufactured woods.  Since the veneer is so thin, care must be taken when cutting or sanding it.

This article discusses the more commonly used woods and how they are used.  Generally speaking soft woods are easier to work with and less expensive.  It is best used for outdoor projects.  Hardwood is not so easy to work with but because of its durability it is often used for making furniture.  So, think carefully about the characteristics of the wood, the project, your skill level, etc. before choosing the wood for your next fine woodworking project.

Types of Wood for Woodworking Projects


Woodworking Tool Maintenance

This is my most recent article “Woodworking Tool Maintenance” which has been published on articlebiz.com.  Very exciting.

Keeping your woodworking tools in good working condition is important for safety and quality of the project when creating fine woodworking.  Maintenance of tools is as important as the woodworking project you are working on.  Keeping tools in like new condition, by proper woodworking tool maintenance, will save time otherwise spent on tool repair and money spent on ruined projects and replacement of parts or tools.

Purchasing better quality tools is probably the best first step in a successful tool maintenance program.  Look to manufacturers with a reputation for high quality materials and design when searching for a new tool.  They will most likely save money in the long run because they will last longer and stand up under rougher work load.

You will know that your tools are due for maintenance when they aren’t performing as well as when they were new and the quality of your completed projects are not up to par.  Things to consider in setting up your woodworking tool maintenance program are keeping cutting edges sharp, moving parts lubricated, alignment mechanisms true and tools and work surfaces clean and free of corrosion.

Equipment and supplies needed for tool maintenance:

  • Tool sharpening system
  • Sharpening guide book
  • Table saw calibration system
  • Pitch and resin remover
  • Blade and bit maintenance kit
  • Lubricant
  • Maintenance guide

Keeping cutting edges sharp:

  • Have a professional sharpening service to put a new edge on a circular saw blade
  • It is best to replace dull band saw blades and router bits
  • A sharpening system that works for most popular drill bit types would be sound tool maintenance.
  • An advanced sharpening system and sharpening guide book are recommended for hand tools.

Lubricating moving parts:

  • Regularly lubricate bearings and moving parts
  • Use a blade lubricating stick on your band saw, coping saw, and scroll saw blades.

Woodworking Tool Maintenance

Keeping tools clean and smooth:

  • Have an adequate dust collection system
  • Clean saw blades with a pitch and resin remover and polish the blade when changing it
  • Clean router bits with same cleaner used on saw blades and lubricate
  • Replace worn drive belts and band saw tires
  • Put an add-on wheel brush on your band saw if it doesn’t have one
  • Kits for cleaning and lubricating all work surfaces are available which include everything necessary for this task.


  • A maintenance guide and table saw calibration system will help with this part of your maintenance program.
  • Upgrades to your table saws fence and miter gauge will improve its performance
  • Upgrade your band saw’s blade guiding system to improve its performance

The kits and supplies mentioned in this article may be found in most hardware and woodworking stores and on line.

To get the best results in creating fine woodworking projects, woodworking tool maintenance is a must.  Tools should be kept free of dust and cleaned properly after each use to maintain them in top working order.  Help in setting up a successful maintenance program is available in guide books, special kits for different phases of maintenance and different tools, and the instruction book that comes with each tool.  If you haven’t kept up with the maintenance of your tools before, now is the time to start regularly scheduled tool maintenance to prolong the life of your valuable woodworking tools and have a safe work environment while saving time and money.  What’s not to like about that?

Refinishing Fine Woodworking

Refinishing fine woodworking pieces that I find at garage sales and thrift shops is something that I enjoy.  My approach to doing this is not scientific and probably not what an experienced woodworker would do but so far it has worked for me.

First I clean the piece; using whatever cleanser I have on hand (usually soap and water) and on old rag.  Then I enlist my husband’s help in making any necessary repairs.  Actually he makes the repairs, he has the power tools, and I try to help by offering suggestions.  This is the time changes are made, if any.  After removing any hardware and stripping the old finish from the wood using liquid or gel stripper or sandpaper, and sometimes steel wool; it’s time to sand the surface smooth.  All the sawdust must then be removed with a tack cloth so the paint will go on smooth and even.  I can see some woodworkers cringe at the thought of painting wood projects, my husband does, but honestly some wood pieces just need to be painted.  And that is my favorite part.  Choosing the paint and design, then completing the project.  Now that’s exciting.  Once the painting is done, deciding what to do with it begins.  Do I give it away, sell it at a garage sale, donate it to a worthy cause or keep it?  So far, I’ve done everything except sell them.

No conversation about woodworking projects would be complete without discussing safety.  I know…women worry about being safe but men are made of tougher stuff and can’t get hurt.  Oh, yes you can!  So, think first of all the hazards involved in your project then take measures to prevent them.  Proper tools for the job and good ventilation in the work area are essential.  Proper gloves, safety goggles, ear protection, long sleeves, and proper respirator, especially when dealing with lead paint, are all important items in your arsenal of safety equipment.  This is a safety tip I read recently for properly disposing of rags and newspapers used in stripping: allow the solvent, mineral spirits or whatever to completely evaporate before discarding them.

I would say that in creating fine woodworking projects, repairing and refinishing fine woodworking pieces are the ultimate “green” in recycling.  What fun.

Refinishing Fine Woodworking



Practicing Safety in Creating Fine Woodworking

I have found in my desire to create fine woodworking I grow impatient to complete a new project too quickley.  The effect quite often is sloppy workmanship and more often than not some sort of injury.  I will admit when I was younger I managed to escape a lot of injuries, but as I grow older I find I’m not as fortunate.

I like the new tablesaws that have all the safety features to keep us whole while creating fine  woodworking projects.  My own experience is to some times take shortcuts that can cause injury.  It can be a frightening thing to watch your thumb and that rapidly spinning blade make contact.  I think of many times I’ve had a piece of wood fly by my head because I was in too much of a hurry to install the guard.  My father-in-law watched me cut up a two by four with a skill saw and warned me that I would injure myself.  He was right because witin 15 minutes I was in need of bandages.  He, in earlier days, had worked in a saw mill where he had lost a finger.  I worked with a man that lost most of a thumb in a router and another man lost fingers twice in a shopsmith.  None of these accidents were the fault of the tools, only the operators.

My wife and I decided to remodel a bathroom.  One of the fixtures was a castiron bathtub.  The tub was too heavy for the two of us to carry out and once again, being impatient to get it out, I decided to break it up with a sledgehammer.  Swinging a 16 pound sledge against that tub and watching it break up can sure make you feel manly until a two pound piece of porcelin covered iron whacks you on the ankle.

I enjoy watching HGTV and DIY programs where remodeling and creating fine woodworking projects are shown and even there you can see the possibility of accidents happening.

As I look at my own family and friends and casual aquaintences, I realize this is a bigger subject than I first thought.  Much pain can be avoided with patience, caution and poper safety equipment.  Woodworking and the use of woodworking tools can be very rewarding but ignoring the safety devices recommendations can be very costly.

Public Domain Woodworking Patterns and Plans

Unless you design your own woodworking patterns and plans, one of the first things you will need when starting a new woodworking project is a pattern or plan to follow.  In today’s economy we look for ways to cut costs when we can and a free pattern or plan is a great way to do that while creating fine woodworking projects.  And thankfully there are thousands of free woodworking patterns and plans in public domain.

“Public domain” woodworking patterns and plans are those which are no longer protected by copyrights because the copyright has expired. They have no restrictions attached.   Any plan that requires payment is not in the public domain and cannot be redistributed.  Commercial use of copyrighted plans is considered to be an actionable offense.  So before using free patterns and plans be sure to check the status of the copyright.

Detailed diagram from Woodworking pattern

Anyone can use the woodworking patterns and plans from the public domain in any way they choose.  Some believe the best plans can be found in the public domain while others think they have more errors and are more difficult to understand than the ones you buy.  Therefore when using woodworking patterns or plans from the public domain, it is important that you carefully check them over before you start.  It’s a good idea to read the whole plan for step by step instructions, diagrams and drawings, making sure you understand everything first.  Remember the saying “measure twice, cut once”.  That’s good advice.

The good things about woodworking public domain are that there are so many woodworking patterns and plans available, endless different types and styles and best of all they’re free.  So gather as many plans from the public domain as you can and go forth creating fine woodworking projects and spreading happiness along the way.

Free Woodworking Patterns and Plans

One way to cut the cost of fine woodworking projects is by using free woodworking patterns and plans.  These can be found on websites of large or local home improvement stores, websites of home improvement TV shows, in books and magazines, and through searches at Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Patterns and plans from large home improvement stores, such as Lowes, are of good quality with diagrams and instructions that are easy to follow.  The patterns and plans from well known TV DIY shows are also of good quality with the added advantage of having been made and tested in the making of the program.  Generally they will also include wood and power tools required, estimated time of completion, difficulty level and woodworking tips.  Check out Magazines.com for a list of magazines offering good quality free woodworking patterns and plans and some will offer free back issues of magazines and how to videos.  To avoid getting cheap or shoddy plans or patterns when using search engines, it is best to be very specific about the project name, using exact keywords in your search for a project pattern.

There are thousanda of free woodworking patterns and plans found on public domain but there are some wood workers who feel that these patterns and plans have more errors in them due to having been copied and passed down through the ages.  So care must be taken with regards to measurements and instructions if you choose to use a pattern or plan from the public domain.

Whether you choose free woodworking patterna and plans, purchase patterns and plans or make them up, have fun.  Receiving a fine woodworking project for Christmas would surely be a wonderful thing.