9 best types of wood for woodworking

Different types of wood

Identifying the qualities of Oak that make it a top choice for durability

Oak is a highly versatile type of wood. Oak is deemed a highly valuable wood due to its strength and durability. Oak ranges from light or several shades of tan or red color. Oak has a tight pattern of straight, wavy, or curvy grain pattern.

Oak is used for furniture because of its durability and long-lasting elegance. The longer Oak cures, the harder it becomes. Predrilling holes is recommended if using nails or screws. Both indoor and outdoor use. If outdoor use it is recommended to seal the wood.

On a different note, oak is widely used for whiskey and bourbon for age and flavor.

Oak barrels

Maple’s versatility and how it can be used to achieve different finishes

The qualities of maple wood are its hardness and machinability. Maple stands out because of its unique color pattern. The pattern ranges from light to dark hues in bursts throughout the wood. The grain ranges from tight to wide. Maple is used for musical instruments, baseball bats, furniture, cabinetry, trims and molding, countertops, carving projects, and customized wood projects.

Why Hickory stands out for its toughness and aesthetic value

The qualities of hickory are its strength, durability, and beauty. Hickory is ranked second amongst the hardest of the domesticated hardwood. It is used for flooring because it can take a beating. Hickory color ranges from light to medium shades of brown with streaks of elongated patterns and bursts of knots throughout the wood. Other uses are furniture and customized wood projects.

The classic beauty of Mahogany and its workability for intricate designs

Mahogany is an in-between type of wood, (hard and soft wood) meaning the wood is easy to work with and will last a long time due to its resistance to rot and decay. Mohogany ranges from light brown to dark brown with tight grain patterns. Mahogany gives the woodworker the ability to create intricate designs. ( For the topic of maple, hickory and mahogany read Pairing softwoods with hardwoods for creative and functional designs below in the next section of this article to see what the wood looks like.)

Ash: The underappreciated hero of woodworking with resilience and flexibility

The quality of Ash is its strength, durability, stability, and shock resistance. The color of Ash ranges from light to medium brown. Ash is used for fine furniture and construction (as long it is not exposed to moisture). Ash is used mainly for interior structures and is easy to maintain with few maintenances such as sealing and preserving the wood. The grains run straight which, makes the wood easy to work with, but on a different note, the grains make the wood easy to split, so pre-drilling is recommended. Ash is inexpensive and plentiful.

The rich hues of Walnut and its impact on high-end carpentry

Walnut is known for the dark rich brown to almost ebony color of the wood. Walnut is highly sought after for high-end furniture and floors, interior paneling (veneer), cabinetry, and small objects such as chess pieces because of its hardness, durability, and stability which is why woodworkers like walnut. It’s easy to work with in all aspects. It is also used indoors and outdoors.

Walnut is expensive because the wood is rarer than the other types of hardwood, but the value of the wood is overlooked due to the durability and beauty of the wood. Another well-known fact about walnut wood is that they’re shock-resistant and highly sought after gunstocks. The grain is closer which makes the wood not so easy to crack or split apart.

walnut gunstock

When sanding this type of wood, it is recommended to light sanding going with the pattern. Another fact is insects are attracted to the smell of walnut wood if not sealed.

Teak, prized for its weather resistance, perfect for outdoor furnishings

Teak wood is known for its high-end quality furniture, mainly outdoors. The quality of teak wood is strength, stability, durability, and workability making the wood easy to work with except for the fact that when cutting the wood will quickly dull the edges of the cutting tool used. Teak wood is widely used for boat building. Since teak is used for boat building, the wood has a low shrinkage rate and helps with waterproofing boats.

Boat made from Teak wood

The color of teak wood ranges from medium brown to golden brown but will darken over time. Teak wood can only be found in Southeast Asia and Latin America, but the wood is used worldwide which makes Teak wood expensive.

Softwoods and Cherries on Top: Selecting Softer Woods for Specific Projects

Cherry wood: balancing workability and aesthetic for timeless pieces

Cherry is picked amongst one of the favorites for interior furniture due to the rich warm and inviting appearance of the wood. Cherry wood has a natural patina which gives the furniture its warm and inviting appeal when maintained with oils and sealants.

The everyman’s choice: Pine, affordable and adaptable to various creations

Noodle board made from reclaimed pine and torchedAs a beginner woodworker, it is far cheaper and more realistic to use softwood such as pine to learn the trade or craft. If you make a costly mistake using softwood, you are not out of a lot of money versus using hardwood. As you grow more confident and your woodworking skill grows, you will start “growing and honing your skill” in using hardwood.

Another advantage of using pine is they are easier to manipulate, and they are lightweight and widely used for building materials, trim, molding, and crafts.

How to choose between hardwoods and softwoods for your next woodworking venture

Depending on what type of project and the amount of time you want to invest in the project. Depending on the client or yourself, softwood projects are faster, easier, and cheaper to make than hardwood. If using hardwood, you must consider the functionality and whether it be outdoors or indoors.

Maintaining and preserving softwoods to enhance longevity and appearance

It is a good idea to help preserve the wood with certain oils and seals. Doing so will not only give the wood an appealing look but help the durability of the wood to stay strong and flexible.

Pairing softwoods with hardwoods for creative and functional designs

Unfortunately, this is a big topic that is widely debatable. In reality, soft and hardwood doe not work well with each other in craft projects due to softwood durability. Now if you were to make a wood project and wanted to mix some dark colors with light colors for example, pine dowels pins with walnut as the main wood or vise versa, the wood project will have durability and stability as well as functionality. However, there are some projects where you can mix both softwood and hardwood. Another example, a 3-D tumbling charcuterie board. This wood project used three different types of wood with three different color as the contrast.

Charcuterie 3-D tumbling block board

 For this project I have used hickory, maple, and mahogany for the tumbling blocks. The color contrast of the wood and grains sets the charcuterie board with an amazing illusion of a “popping outward or upward” effect when looking at it either lying flat or leaning against something.

Final Thoughts

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, and there are many other types of wood that can be used for woodworking. The choice of wood depends on the project and the desired outcome.

Have you used rare or uncommon types of wood? If so, what did you use and what did you make?

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