Choosing the Right Type of Wood for Your Project- Hardwoods & Softwoods

Most woodworkers spend a lot of time and money purchasing wood for their next masterpiece. The type of wood that is chosen determines the beauty and strength of the finished piece.


Common Softwoods:

Some woodworkers enjoy using softwoods exclusively due to abundance, ease of cutting, shape and weather resistance. Utilizing softwoods is much more economical then hardwoods too! The downside to softwoods to consider is the uneven staining ability as well as more prone to breaking.

Cedar– The most commonly used type of ceder is the western red variety. It has a reddish color, a straight grain and a slightly aromatic smell.  This type of wood is relatively soft, and can be used for outdoor projects such as furniture, decks, and building exteriors because it can handle moist environments without rotting.

Fir– Known most often as Douglas Fir, this wood has reddish-brown color and a straight, pronounced grain. Fir is most often used for building and some furniture-making. However it doesn’t stain very well, perhaps it would be best used for a painted finished product.  Douglas fir is moderately strong and hard for a softwood.

Pine– Pine comes in several varieties- Yellow, White, Ponderosa and Sugar. Pine is very easy to work with.  Most pine varieties are relatively soft, making it easy to carve and make furniture with. In some parts of the country, pine is considered the wood to use.

Common Hardwoods:

Most woodworkers love to work with hardwoods. The variety of colors, textures, and grain patterns create very beautiful and interesting-looking furniture. The downside to hardwoods is their price. Some of the more exotic species can be too expensive to use for anything more than an accent.

Maple Maple comes in hard and soft varies. Both types are harder than most other woods.  Hard maple is so hard that it’s very difficult to work with. Soft maple however can be relatively easy to work with. Maple tends to be less expensive than other hardwoods. 

Oak– Oak is one of the most popular used woods for furniture. Oak is easy to work with and can be found in two colors- red and white. White oak is preferred for furniture-making because it has a more attractive figure than red. White oak is also resistant to moisture and can be used on outdoor furniture.

Mahogany One of the great furniture woods, mahogany (also called Honduran mahogany) has a reddish-brown to deep-red tint. It has a medium texture and is easy to stain. Mahogany must be purchased from a lumberyard because your local home center does not sell it.

 Once your project has been created you may want to apply a finish. Fine Woodworking Magazine has a great article that takes the guess work out of selecting the right kind of finish, “Selecting a Finish”, 2004.



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