When starting a woodwork project, one really important aspect of your planning is choosing the right wood. This can often be very complicated for beginners as there are so many wood types to choose from and going wrong could result in a failed project. To help you make this decision and to understand the wide range of terminology used to describe different types of wood, Calderbrook Woodwork Machinery have created this guide.
Making a choice between the different types of woods will depend upon the type of project you are attempting.
Hardwood or Softwood – What is the difference?
To pick your wood you should first choose from the two types of solid wood: hardwood or softwood. For products which require durability you should be opting for harder woods which will last longer and provide strength. Hardwood is much more durable than softwood, while softwood is a cost-effective choice which offers a great range of versatility. Many woodworkers opt to reserve hardwoods such as Beech, Maple, and Walnut for bespoke joinery projects thanks to their colour and wood grain. These often make for great furniture. Whereas softwoods can be used across a range of internal and external projects. Often used by woodworkers for interior mouldings, manufacturing windows, and generating sheet goods like plywood and fibreboard.
- Often more expensive
- Is denser
- Originates from deciduous trees, such as Oak and Mahogany
- Great for high-quality projects designed to last
- Less expensive than hardwood
- Almost always lighter
- Sourced from evergreen trees such as Pine, Spruce and Fir
- Often is not as fire resistant as hardwood
What kind of finish are you looking for?
Another thing to consider when choosing the wood you need for your project is the desired finish of your product. For example, when making a kitchen cabinet, you will likely want to finish the product with some paint or a stain. The wood, therefore, must have the ability to accept an even application of the product you use to finish the project. The wood should be smooth and consistent to keep the appearance looking professional and not rough or bumpy.
Will you be placing this wood internally or externally?
When working on a project which will be used outside, the wood should be resistant to the sun and to any weathering it will likely experience. Some woods can even help to protect against insects and water damage. This includes Acacia (a hardwood which is thick, strong and offers a high oil content) and Cedar (a softwood which is rot and termite resistant).
For internal projects you can focus more on the overall appearance of the wood such as the colour and grain. When working on bespoke furniture which will be kept inside, woodworkers can choose higher quality woods with rich colours for a professional and luxurious finish.
Cuts of wood
For certain projects you will require your wood to be stable in order to last and withstand excessive use. By understanding the cut of your wood, you will be able to determine the stability. The end grain of a board will help you to understand how stable the wood will be. Flat or plain sawn will be the least stable and will have a “cathedral” arched pattern on the end. Although you can use these types of wood in your projects, it may move overtime. Quartersawn wood offers more stability and will have a 90-60-degree vertical grain but even more stable is riftsawn wood which has an end grain of 30-60 degrees.