To be in the woodworking profession, the foremost thing one must know is understanding the different categories of wood used in any project. This will guide you in deciding what type of tool would be suitable to cut woods of varied texture. Well, not just for the woodworkers, but this article will also be helpful for the DIY hobbyists in developing minor home decors and others. However, our prime attention is to the woodlers looking for best wood types for their next project.
We have prepared a list of top 10 best woods for woodworking, while giving vivid descriptions for each of the following. So, let's begin!
Types of Woods Used in Woodworking
It is not surprising that wood comes in different textures, sizes and width, etc. There are uncountable types of trees present in the global ecosystem. Many of these varieties have a lot of applications and usefulness in the field of woodworking.
This array of varieties is further narrowed down to three major categories, namely;
- Hardwoods: Cherry, Oak, Walnut, Mahogany, etc.
- Softwoods: Cedar, Redwood, Fir, etc.
- Engineered wood: Medium Density Fiberboard, Composite Board, Plywood, etc.
Each of these types have a wider stance in woodworking, as described under the following segment.
Top 10 Woods for Woodworking
1. Alder Wood
Out of the three major categories of wood (as mentioned above) Alder is a hardwood type. This particular wood is currently gaining demand on the market for its versatility, naturally attractive texture, and workability. Alder wood is found more frequently in the southwestern regions of Canada as well as the northwestern regions of California. Alder belongs to the family of birch trees and so, both these trees have similar applications. Alders are almost white in appearance when freshly cut. However, it quickly changes to honey brown as soon as the cut portion comes in contact air and sunlight. Alder is a medium density wood and features straight grain, and this wood can be easily turned, machined, and carved.
The wood looks great if passed through a variety of professional finishing treatments. Since the surface of Alder wood is naturally smooth, when sanded the wood piece can be easily painted or stained, as desired. The height of an Alder tree is not so tall, plus it is not so wide (in diameter). So, it will be a costly option to choose, if you are looking for large and solid wood pieces of Alder (as it will be practically difficult to obtain). Other than that, Alder is of great utility value; you can use it for furniture making, and other cabinetry projects. You can also use this wood for framing pictures and creating other home embellishing objects.
Alder is a perfect hardwood type for making hardy electric guitars. It delivers a clean toned outlook which is hard to be imitated by any other wood. It is the incomparable tone of Alder that makes it more preferable than other exotic hardwoods, like mahogany.
2. Ash Wood
Ash is currently on one of the hard to find wood types, typically because of the recent issues of invasive pests named Emerald Ash borer, that affected and killed many premature Ash trees. Only those people, who reside close to the areas where Ash trees grow abundantly, might get a hold of this species.
Ash shares the same characteristics and streaming strength as White oaks do. However, the former type is more cost-effective, only if you can manage to arrange it from your local lumberyard store. Ash wood can be easily stained and has a wider list of applications in different wood projects.
3. Aspen Wood
Aspen trees are frequently utilized in wood production for sauna. This wood is light in color; fit for both staining and painting. Aspen sometimes appears like a fuzzy textured wood. This harwood type is grown in northeast America, however, it is hard to find at times. Aspen has limited availability, l and therefore, it is only utilized in those projects where Aspen wood type is a must.
Aspen wood is mainly sorted to build saunas (as mentioned above). Why? Well, this type of wood does not conduct heat and can retain moisture with minimal swelling. Because of its non-conductive nature, this wood is also (rarely) used to make matchsticks. Other than that, you can also use the wood for making drawer sliders of wardrobes, and others, since it reduces sticking.
Note: Being a tasteless and odorless wood, Aspen is often used for making kitchen utensils and chopsticks.
4. Balsa Wood
Balsa is an extremely lightweight type of hardwood which is particularly used in DIY wood projects. Since the wood texture is not so rigid, this wood type is rarely used by the woodworkers. However, it is an under-appreciated wood type as uf has several practical applications in the woodworking industry. For instance, you can use it for building model kits, insulation, packing, etc. Though balsa is a child's play to the professional woodworker, it is the very stopping stone that introduces the concept of woodworking and construction to the rising budding woodworkers. Balsa wood had a bigger role in history as it was used as an alternative in ships and aircrafts during the World Wars (I and II).
Balsa wood is particularly imported from Central America and South America to North America. This wood grows comparatively faster but is short lived. The lumber of these trees are usually workable if the tree is not more than 8 to 9 years old. Because of its good buoyancy, balsa wood can be used for building rafts, life preservers, and other relevant times that can easily float in water. Surfboard is one of the craft project examples which can be built with balsa wood. On the other hand, being a low density wood type, balsa is often preferred after bitch and basswood, typically when high weight or stress handling is the ultimate requirement of your woodworking project.
Balsa wood is a great choice for preparing accident or fight scenes in a movie, where the wood can easily break apart in just a medium intensity punch. This wood is both easy to stain and paint and can be used as a veneer to achieve high quality looks of the wood project at a cheap price. However, make sure to use glue and avoid using screws or nails as the wood is too soft for the latter accessories. The wood is so delicate that it can even be cut with a craft or utility knife.
Technically a type of grass and not wood, the stems of Bamboo are hollow. However, they are too strong and can be utilized to conduct hardy woodworking projects, where hardness and density of bamboo are the ultimate requirements. Bamboo is found in the tropical regions, like India, Bangladesh, China, etc. But, the species of bamboo greatly vary from one region to another. These are ling, hollow stems that appear to be the magnified version of a grass stem. Though they appear to be very thin and can be easily run-through, the woodworkers make sure to use the high quality carbide saw blade to cut the stem into narrow strips to create veneers. The veneer made of bamboo is turned into plywood (engineered wood). Bamboo is a good comparison to hardwood Maple or Red Oak, in terms of sharing similar strength and hardness. The high density of bamboo can even be hard on woodworking tools at times.
Bamboo stems have a wider application in the woodworking industry, starting from cabinetry projects, flooring and construction, etc. The wax-like coating on the upper layer of bamboo resists decay. In case you need to glue, stain or paint the bamboo, you have to sand the bamboo wood to ensure better grip to it.
Basswood is yet another extremely lightweight hardwood, cream in color, and has tight, straight grain. This wood type does not get affected by warping once properly acclimated. Basswood is one of the most-sought types for pro-grade woodcrafters, typically the woodturners and woodcarvers. If you are more into building miniature wood projects and models, basswood is the top option. The wide availability and easy to use feature of this wood are what the woodturners like the most about it.
Basswood is odorless and tasteless. That is why this wood is utilized to make kitchen utensils and for food storage as well. The price of this wood is quite affordable. The wood delivers a smooth finished natural texture if coated with clear oil or simply painted. Most decorative painters prefer basswood for its smooth finish once the surface is primed.
Beech is basically used for making woodturning objects, veneers and others. This hardwood is cream (slight yellow-reddish) toned and has a continuous tight and straight grain pattern with occasional gray flecking.
Beech wood is well known for its steam-bending ability. That is the reason, this wood type is the best for home decors. However, there is a converse effect to it; the wood is prone to swelling and shrinkage if left open in high humid weather or exposed to the unpredictable moisture condition.
Beech is frequently used in pianos, especially in the bridge and pin block portions of the piano mechanism. This wood type is a cost-effective choice and is available in varieties of sizes. Beech wood is comparatively easy to work with, provided that your woodworking tools are sharp enough. The wood can be glued as well as stained, as desired, that too without much hassle.
8. Birch Wood
Birch is an abundant hardwood which is also quite an affordable species of hardwood. You can easily get it at any local lumberyard store or home center. The wood is quite sturdy and has a wider range of applications in building anything and everything that can be imagined. Most woodworkers prefer birch over oak because of the former's affordable price range. However, the only setback is the wood is a bit hard to stain as it results in blotchy, uneven looking patches on the wood piece. That is why, birch is an economic and ideal choice for those who are simply looking to paint their project.
9. California Redwood
California redwood is a softwood type tree. It is popularly used for outdoor woodworking projects for its ability to withstand and resist harsh weather conditions. California redwood is best known for its huge size and that red tone of it. The wood grain pattern is quite interesting and closely resembles its cedar counterpart.
Redwood is widely used in producing wood pieces for railroad ties and for trestle bridges. It is also sometimes used for preparing veneers for other wooden objects, for major woodworking tasks like cabinetry projects, etc.
10. Cedar Wood
Cedar wood is a well known type of softwood; not only for its color and wood grain pattern but also for its naturally pleasing fragrance which acts both as pests and moths repellent. This is the reason why cedar wood is mostly used to build closets and storage cabinets. Apart from that, cedar is a perfect fit for conducting outdoor woodworking projects as it is weather resistant. Cedar is rot-resistant as its smell ward off bugs from attacking the surface or within. These are the causes for which cedar is also utilized in fencing purposes, yard/patio furnishing, decorative slidings, etc.
There are several other species of cedar, each of which is meant for some specific applications only. Here are some of general varieties of cedar wood available on the market:
- Eastern Red Cedar
- Western Red Cedar
- Northern White Cedar
- Spanish Cedar, and
- Yellow Cedar
Note: Though a majority of the woodworkers prefer cedar for its aromatic, bug repelling and weather resistant properties, some may be allergic to the wood's natural oils. So, in case your next project includes the use of cedar wood, make sure to wear a mask as well as gloves to limit the inhalation of sawdust as least as possible.
Although the woods mentioned in the above list are unique and have different ranges of usability, price, features, and setbacks, you need to pick the one that meets the plans and requirements of your woodworking projects, accordingly.