No matter what your next project is, choosing the right type of wood to use is important. There are many different types of wood for woodworking, as well as hundreds of species to pick from. While budget might be a consideration, other things to think about are the type of wood, the species, and the intended use for the wood. Read below to learn more about wood so you can choose the right type for your next project.
Soft, Hard, or Manufactured Wood is generally broken down into softwoods, hardwoods, and manufactured woods. Softwoods are those milled from conifer trees and are not necessarily soft – some of them can be hard and more difficult to work with. Hardwood, on the other hand, is wood milled from any other tree, and some of them can be softer and easier to work with compared to softwoods. Engineered wood, also known as manufactured wood, is a product that’s made out of different types of wood and is designed to have specific qualities. This includes OSB, plywood, and other types of wood that are created instead of milled.
Balsa Balsa is a lightweight wood and is not very strong, but can be used in a variety of woodworking projects. Since it is easy to work with and buoyant, it can be used for rafts or other surfboards. It’s often used for children’s woodworking kits, and thin pieces can be cut with a utility knife, making it a great choice for introducing woodworking to children.
Birch Wood One of the more affordable types of hardwood is birch, and it’s often easy to find. This type of wood is strong, so it can be used for just about any project where strength is required. It is difficult to stain birch, however, so it’s a better option for projects that will be painted.
Cedar Cedar is known for its smell, which helps to repel pests and moths. It’s also resistant to rot, so it’s a great choice for projects that will be used outdoors. There are different types of cedar to work with, depending on the specific qualities needed as well as color preferences. This type of wood should be worked with carefully, as cedar can cause irritations without proper protective equipment. It should not be used with any projects that will be in contact with food, like utensils or cutting boards.
Cherry Cherry is a reddish wood that is perfect for a variety of applications. It does have a natural patina as it ages, so most who work with it will prefer to leave it natural instead of painting or staining. Since there is a lot of variation within cherry, it’s a good idea to select the pieces carefully. Cherry is a hardwood and can be used for projects that will come in contact with food.
Maple Another hardwood commonly used is Maple, and it can be soft or hard. Sugar maple is hard Maple and can be difficult to work with, but it may be a great choice for hardwood flooring because of its durability. Red Maple is softer and easier to work with, so it’s often the better choice for woodworking. Red Maple isn’t going to be as hard on tools, so they won’t need to be sharpened as frequently as they would with sugar maple.
Oak One of the most popular choices for woodworkers is oak, especially if the project is going to be an heirloom piece that needs to last. White oak has a lighter color, while red oak has a little bit of red. Red oak is easier to work with, but they are both harder woods. Oak resists rot and decay, so it can be used outdoors as long as it is properly sealed. Oak tends to have beautiful grain, so it’s generally used in projects that will be stained or left natural.
Plywood Plywood is a manufactured wood product created out of layers of veneer that are pressed together. Plywood can be found in a variety of finishes and can be created to look like certain types of wood on the outside. The thickness can vary, as well, depending on the plywood sheet, and it is often purchased in four-foot by eight-foot sheets, then cut to the size needed.
Poplar Poplar is a hardwood that is very soft and easy to work with, but it is easy to cause indents when working with it. Poplar tends to be a lighter color and can have light green streaks through it, so it’s not considered a pretty wood and is often used in parts of projects that won’t be visible. It is often available in smaller sizes and used for building models, where it will be painted once the project is done.
SPF Lumber SPF lumber is commonly found in larger home improvement stores as well as anywhere that carries wood for woodworking. It is not a species of wood itself, but the wood labeled as SPF can be Spruce, Pine, or Fir. SPF is generally used for framing or for applications where it won’t be seen. It’s not generally used for fine woodworking, as it is sold for framing purposes and can require time to get it to where it would be ready to be used for a woodworking project. Walnut Another hardwood that’s commonly used for woodworking is walnut because of its dark color. It’s easy to work with but still a strong type of wood. Often, walnut is used for carving or decorative accents and can be used in the creation of luxury car parts, gun parts, or musical instruments. It is a more expensive type of hardwood but may be perfect for a variety of uses. These are just a few of the most common types of wood used for woodworking projects, though there are many different basic or exotic types to choose from. If you’re planning on using wood for a specific project, it is a good idea to learn more about the type of wood you’re considering to make sure it’s a good fit for the project and that you know how easy or hard it may be to work with.