Choosing the best wood for woodworking starts with deciding what you will be building. Wood generally falls into two categories — hardwood and softwood — and each type is useful for certain applications. Construction projects, such as framing a house, will usually require softwoods, while hardwoods are useful for furniture making, fine woodworking, and so on. The durability of each type will vary: hardwoods tend to be exceptionally strong and resistant to damage, but they will be more expensive; softwoods dent more easily and can warp, but they are less expensive. Choose the right wood for woodworking by determining whether you need soft or hard materials.
Wood for woodworking is further broken down by its grade. The grade refers to the overall quality of a particular piece; high-grade pieces are likely to have few defects and imperfections, while low-grade pieces will have knots, cracks, splits, or other damage that will cause parts of the piece to be unusable for construction. High-grade wood for woodworking will, of course, be more expensive than low-grade pieces, though low-grade woods are still usable for some applications and can save the builder money if he or she is willing to go through the extra effort of cutting out the best pieces.
Many high-end furniture makers as well as woodworkers creating pieces that will be shown off as a centerpiece will use only high-grade wood for woodworking. In most cases, the woodworker is likely to use hardwood only, because the grain is likely to show through the finish. The grain is often one of the most attractive aspects of a piece, so if you are building furniture or other pieces intended to be shown off, be sure to choose a material with a strong, pronounced grain. Oak, mahogany, and teak often feature prominent and attractive grains, though again, such pieces are likely to be more expensive.
Construction projects usually call for less expensive softwoods because a significant amount of lumber will be needed for the project. Pine is a common choice for such applications, as it is generally inexpensive and easy to work with. The disadvantages of pine can include cracking, splitting, and warping, and the bare pieces of pine will require chemical treatment to protect them from water damage and bug infestation. Some types of pine tend to have a significant amount of knots as well, which can affect the piece's usefulness to the builder.