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How Do I Choose Wood for Woodworking?

Dan Cavallari
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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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.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari , Former Writer
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.

Discussion Comments

By umbra21 — On Jul 04, 2011

There are some really nice courses you can take if you want to start up woodworking.

It is a really interesting craft to take up, particularly if you have access to suitable lumber.

However, woodcraft can take a lot of work. Particularly if you want to do it from scratch. Drying wood for woodworking takes a while, up to several years depending on the wood in fact, and you also need to know how to cut it properly, as well as put it together.

So, if you have some beautiful wood from a tree that came down, and fancy making something out of it, you might be better off giving it to someone else who has the skills.

If you do decide to learn how to make something of it, good luck! It's a wonderful skill to learn.

By indigomoth — On Jul 03, 2011

If you are going to be using the wood in certain kinds of craftwork, you probably want to use balsa wood.

It's pretty good for whittling, but what's really nice about it is that it is one of the lightest woods in the world.

So, you can use it to do things like make kites or model aircraft. They sell thin sticks and planks of it in most craft stores.

I used it to try and make a model hot air balloon once as well, because if you purchase very thin sticks, they will bend a little bit.

Ultimately, I didn't manage to get it to work!

But, at any rate, balsa wood is a really good choice for wood craft. It should be part of any kid's craft set.

Dan Cavallari

Dan Cavallari

Former Writer

Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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