Different Types of Wood Used in Woodworking
Many different types of wood are used in woodworking, from common softwoods to rare and exotic hardwoods. When you're selecting wood for your woodworking project, think about your budget and what you want to accomplish.
Softwoods: Common and Inexpensive
When you're shopping for wood for your woodworking project, the vast majority of the wood you'll see in your local lumber store is softwood. Softwood trees grow fast and straight, and as a result, softwood is plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Common softwood options that you'll find at your local lumber store include cedar, fir, pine and redwood. Softwood is ideal for carving and can hold fine detail. On the downside, it's not terribly durable and some varieties can have a tremendous amount of sap that makes painting and staining difficult.
Hardwoods: Premium Price for Beauty
Hardwoods are more expensive than softwoods. They don't grow as fast, and in many cases, they don't grow tall and straight, making it difficult to find good lengths for building. As a result, they cost more, and they're less readily available. Common types of hardwood include ash, birch, cherry, oak, maple, mahogany, poplar, walnut and teak.
Hardwood typically produces more varied and interesting grain patterns than softwood. Woodworkers prize hardwoods for furniture and projects that showcase the natural beauty of wood. On the downside, matching hardwoods from several sources to make a piece can be difficult and some hardwoods are notoriously tough to carve.
Best Wood for Outdoor Projects
The most common types of wood used in outdoor projects are redwood and cedar. These are both relatively soft, but they stand up well to the elements. Cedar and redwood are popular choices for decks and outdoor building projects because they aren't as prone to rot and are easy to work. Teak is a great choice for outdoor furniture, because it's highly weather-resistant, and its grain patterns make beautiful pieces. Teak is one of the most expensive hardwoods, and its also very difficult to work.
Best Wood for Furniture
In many places, pine is considered the number-one wood to use for furniture-building. Pine is soft enough to carve, and takes stain well. Cherry is a popular furniture-building wood for formal and fine pieces. It's easier to carve than many other hardwoods, relatively easy to find and beautiful when stained.
Mahogany is another popular furniture wood. It looks great stained, but it is hard to carve and shape and it's difficult to find in large sizes or amounts. Oak is the last great furniture wood, with its two varieties lending itself to different types of projects. Oak is also less expensive than most other hardwoods, although it's still typically more expensive than softwoods.
Choosing Wood for Projects
First, consider the project you want to undertake, and which type of wood is best suited to that project. Will you be staining or painting? Are you hoping to add intricate details, or are you working in straight corners and boards? Where will the finished project be kept, and what types of wood will be around it? Remember that softwoods can be stained to look like more-expensive hardwoods, but they won't give you the same durability.
From there, evaluate your options based on availability and budget. You may not be able to find certain types of wood in large quantities, or you may have to special-order it from your local lumber yard. Even if you can find it, the price of some woods can be cost-prohibitive for large projects.