How To Choose A Wood Species For Woodworking Projects

Custom woodworking projects come with a lot of fun and adventure if you are using the proper materials.

Whether you decide to carry out a DIY woodworking project because of something you came across online, or simply because you want a new piece of furniture, it helps to know the wood you plan on working with. 

Woods differ in characteristics and some of these properties can make one species a better choice than the other, depending on the project.

When it comes to selecting woods for woodworking, there are a variety of options you could be presented with. From dimensional lumbers to decorative woods, soft woods or hardwoods - it is easy to get stuck trying to make the right decision. 

To get past this, you should begin by asking yourself certain questions regarding the project. Deciding on a wood species becomes easier once you can provide answers to the following questions:

  • Does my woodworking project need to be heavy or is it expected to be hung up somewhere?

For instance, if the piece you plan on building is going to bear a lot of weight like a bed frame - you would consider using a common hardwood such as Maple, Cherry or Teak.

If you are setting out to build a small birdhouse, Cedar might be a better fit for the project, as Cedar is a relatively lightweight would naturally repel insects.

  • Is my project made for the indoors or outdoors?

When you realize how much effect the weather can have on certain wood types compared to others, this question becomes necessary. Natural factors like the sun, moisture, weather, insect infestation, and mold are bound to come in contact with your project if it would be kept outdoors. This would mean selecting the species of wood that can perform best in these conditions. Hardwoods generally do well in this regard but even treated softwoods can withstand rigorous weather conditions.

  • Do I want to highlight the wood grain or hide it?

If you are a big fan of wood grains, you could consider choosing a wood with elegant patterns such as Oak. Using a furniture butter, wax or oil over top of the prepped wood, will hydrate and highlight the wood grain and highlight the natural tone of the wood.
If you are someone who prefers a darker stain or a paint, those can be great alternatives as well. For painting, you will want to select a wood with not a lot of open grain - otherwise you will be spending more time than expected filling the grain to allow you to have a smooth painted surface. 

Artists new to creating woodworking projects often neglect the types of woods they use and focus more on building outstanding designs. However, answering the questions above will help keep you on the right track when deciding on the right wood for your project. To further ease your custom woodwork journey, consider the following types of wood that are regarded the best for woodworking projects. 

Pine - Soft Wood

Pine comes in many different species and is commonly used in woodworking projects. You could find a boat being constructed with this type of wood, or in everyday DIY furniture making and building. Pine is a softwood and provides relative ease when working with it. Beginners also tend to find them convenient to work with as carving and drilling into this species comes easy. This type of wood is excellent for custom woodworks meant to elevate an interior. They have a light colouring that is easily stained if you want to achieve a different look. Pine can be relatively inexpensive, which is why we always recommend using a Wood Conditioner before staining or paint washing. Another option can be to seal the wood, sand with 220, and apply a finish overtop of it.

Cedar - Soft Wood

Cedar is another fine-grained wood that is easy to use. Think of warmth, red tones, & a soft variety, and you have this wood type. They come in diverse types with aromatic cedar being popular for its use in lining closets. Since this wood type is a natural insect repellent, mainly known for its use with repelling moths back when Cedar Chests were a big thing. It is an excellent choice for outdoor custom woodwork projects.

Maple - Soft Wood

    In North America there are two names for maple to help differentiate the types. Soft Maple and Hard Maple.

    Soft Maple is less dense than Hard Maple with a similar grain and figure. Soft maple is used for furniture, kitchen cabinets, doors, musical instruments, turnings and millwork. It is lower-priced than Hard Maple and sometimes used as a substitute. Soft maple is also used in veneer, pallets, plywood, barrels, crates and flooring.

    Soft Maple is in the middle scale of affordability. It is more expensive than pine but cheaper than mahogany.

    Poplar - Soft Wood

    Poplar is often mistaken for hardwood but a fun fact is that poplar is one of the softest commercially used woods available and one of the least expensive woods you can buy. It’s easy to cut and nail and has uniform grain patterns. But, it doesn’t take finishes very well and is rarely used for where a natural wood appearance is important. Instead, it’s often used to make crates, pallets, furniture frames and paper. It’s readily available at lumber stores and home improvement stores. This DIY-friendly wood is perfect to use for home projects such as shelves and simple trim.

    Teak - Closed Grained - Hardwood

    If you want a hardwood with qualities that stand out amongst many others for your custom woodwork project, consider using teak. The species is a popular choice for outdoor projects because they tend to be durable and can withstand tough weather better. It is also not overly heavy and resists rot and moisture well. If you would be creating a piece of outdoor furniture or need wood ideas for flooring, consider this type of wood.

    Walnut - Straight Grained - Hardwood 

    If your custom woodwork revolves around furniture making or finishing, the walnut wood species may be one of the best options out there for you. In addition to being a super durable option, you can achieve easy polishing with this wood type. From light gray-brown to darker chocolate, there are a variety of shades to pick from if you decide to use this wood for your custom woodwork. Walnut has highly figured grains that are just gorgeous.

    Oak - Durable - Hardwood

    There are hundreds of species of oak. This wood type is common in many aspects of modern living. Oak is a highly dense and strong wood type and resists rot well. Because of its water-resistant feature, it is commonly used in building structures that hold water, like a boat. Oak is usually suitable for custom woodworks involving cabinetry and flooring, and a lot of antique wood projects were constructed with this wood type.

    White Oak - Hardwood

    Despite the name, white oak is actually darker than red oak. Rated as very durable; white oak resists moisture and decay, making it ideal for outdoor furniture and

    frequently used in boatbuilding, fences and more. Indoors, it's a cabinet-class wood for tables and chairs, floors and trim.

    The Takeaway

    Although only a few species of wood have been covered here, there are many more that could be fit for your type of woodwork project. Knowing the best type of wood for you would often revolve around answering certain questions that bother around the type of project you would be undertaking. Our crew of professional artists are well-versed in the various types of woods that may be best suited for your kind of project. Let us know if we missed your favourite wood for DIY woodworking! If you are a furniture artist, woodworker or home decor creator and have been looking for a new marketplace to sell your work on, Apply To Become A Vendor Today!