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