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Top Tips for Choosing the Right Wood

May 26, 2020 2 min read

If you’re just getting started in woodworking, you might already know how confusing it can be to choose the right wood for your project. From understanding what type of wood to buy, to understanding more about the terminology surrounding woodwork, we have put together a helpful guide to get you started.

Choosing hardwood or softwood

The type of wood you choose depends entirely on what you are planning to build and how durable you need it to be. The more durable your product, the harder the wood you should choose to use.

Some projects can require either hardwood or softwood, or a combination of both. Workbenches can benefit from a softwood base with a hardwood top. This is because the base of the workbench won’t take much of a beating, but the top of the workbench needs to be much more durable for a longer amount of time.

Hardwood generally comes from deciduous trees such as oak and maple, while softwood comes from conifer trees such as pine.

Choosing stable wood

Stable wood is important if you are planning to build things like furniture or anything that needs good stability. For example, the panels of a door may have more decorative and less stable wood, but the parts of the frame itself will be much more stable.

Wood can change depending on humidity and temperature, and it can expand in width as humidity in the air rises. For this reason, you should aim to find wood that will remain as stable as possible during those changes.

Understanding the cuts

The board’s end grain will tell you how it was sawn from the log, and this can help you understand how stable it will be. Flat or plain sawn is the least stable, and will have a “cathedral”, arched pattern on the end. This wood may move over time, although it is still useable in your projects.

Quartersawn wood is more stable and has a 60-90 degree vertical grain. Riftsawn wood is similar, but has an end grain of 30-60 degrees which means it is even more stable.

Wood defects

Wood defects can cause some problems as you work through your project. It’s important to recognise them and look out for them when buying your wood. Wood knots can cause some issues and may fall out over time. While they can look great and offer a rustic look, it’s always good to be aware!

Sapwood and insect holes can also alter the appearance of your wood. You may also run the risk of insects continuing to eat at the wood long after the tree is cut down.

In some cases, when wood isn’t stacked, sealed or dried properly it can move. If it dries too quickly, it can crack and the cracks can move along the board. Wet boards can cup or twist if they are not stored properly, which can be difficult to correct.