Before you get started with a woodworking project, you’ll need to choose the right materials for the job. There is no decision more important than which wood to use.
Some wood types may be easier to work with, more visually pleasing, or more practical for building furniture and fixtures. Which is best for you?
If you’re unfamiliar with the different types of wood, read this article before you start shopping.
We’ll help you make the right choice, and explain the sometimes subtle differences between the many types of wood you’ll see in the store.
Types of Wood
To make this guide easy to understand, we’ll start by breaking the different wood types into two main categories, hard and soft.
Most hardwood comes from deciduous trees.
These species have leaves that they shed on a seasonal schedule, like oak, birch, mahogany, or maple. In most cases, they are physically harder than softwoods.
Most professional woodworkers agree this is the best type of wood for building furniture. Hardwoods often feature unique colors, textures, and grain patterns that make for more attractive furniture.
If you’re building furniture to put on display, the best wood for your project will probably be hard. These exotic options typically cost more and may be harder to find.
Softwood typically comes from conifer trees, usually with needles and cones.
Most conifers are evergreen, meaning they do not shed their leaves. Pine is the most common example of a conifer, but other species preferred by woodworkers include cypress, redwood, and cedar
Softwood is more affordable because it grows more quickly and is easier to farm. This rapid growth reduces deforestation, making it a more sustainable option, and a top pick for building green.
You should also keep in mind that the best wood for furniture building will depend on your climate and where your finish product will be stored.
For outdoor applications, choose a rot-resistant material like cypress or teak. If you’re hoping to get creative with finishing, opt for something attractive like cherry or chestnut. And, if you’re planning to whittle or carve some intricate details, you’ll need very soft lumber like balsa.
For framing, backing, and other lesser-seen project elements, your best bet is pine, or another affordable and easy to find option.
Get Your Project Started
Now that you know a bit about the different types of wood, you’re ready to start shopping.
Remember, you should choose the highest quality lumber you can afford, especially if you’re building furniture that will be kept on display. If you’re hoping to save money, you can always use a cheaper cut for backing and interior spaces that won’t be as obvious.
Always buy wood from a reputable source and visually inspect each piece before taking your purchase home. While some irregularities in grain and color can add visual appeal, too many flaws can leave your woodwork looking sloppy.
Looking for more inspiration? Read our other blog posts and articles for more helpful tips on DIY projects, crafts, hobbies, and more.