20 Types of Wood and Where/How to Use Them

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Whether you’re into DIY projects or just browse the furniture market, it can be very helpful to know more about the different types of wood available. Depending on the type of tree it has been harvested from, wood can vary a lot in terms of aesthetics and important characteristics such as durability and flexibility. Being aware of the essential properties of particular types of wood can influence woodworking project decisions and allow you to make a smarter investment if you purchase wood furniture.

Take a look at our guide that explains in detail the most important features of popular types of wood. You will learn where and how to use these types of wood more effectively in your projects.

Best Wood for Woodworking

1. Pine

When it comes to woods that are simple to work with, pine can be considered one of the top options. This type of softwood will typically show off a pale yellow tone and a fairly rugged appearance. It can take some work to prepare it well for woodworking projects but it’s a user-friendly type of wood overall. Pine trees offer several species worth considering for wood projects such as ponderosa, sugar, and southern yellow.

Pine is a common and versatile type of wood striking a good balance between cost and durability. Pine trees are easy to grow compared to others so their wood can be considered a more sustainable choice. Although it’s a type of softwood, pine is reasonably durable making it an attractive choice commercially. It’s recommended for interior woodwork but make sure you choose high-quality pine because lower-grade varieties may be prone to warping.

Best Wood for Decks

2. Cedar

With great natural resistance to pests and diseases, cedarwood is suitable for many types of woodworking projects. This type of wood is prized for its durability and aesthetic qualities. Red cedar is one of the most popular varieties when it comes to appearance. It shows off a straight grain style and a rich shade of reddish-brown. White cedar is the other highly popular option but this one is paler, aging to a beautiful gray color.

Cedarwood is also very appreciated for its characteristic aromatic smell. The scent may not be intense enough to repel insects but it still makes it a popular wood choice for closets and storage furniture pieces. Outdoor building projects can also take advantage of cedar’s natural rugged properties. It’s a recommended option for decks, fencing, and other similar applications. Keep in mind that you need good protection against inhaling the sawdust from cedar wood if you have a sensitivity to its aroma.

Best Wood for Retaining Walls

3. Redwood

Thanks to its impressive resistance to moisture, redwood is another solid pick if you’re planning to work on some outdoor projects. As you’ve probably guessed from its name, this type of wood boasts a reddish tint. It’s a popular option but more restricted to certain areas of the US. The wood comes from Sequoia trees that grow to huge heights primarily in the Pacific Northwest.

Despite its great overall durability to rot and bugs, redwood provides a nice level of flexibility. It’s a practical type of wood for many applications when taking into account its low weight and color style. The grain of redwood is usually straight. There are many similarities to cedarwood. Consider using redwood for retaining walls, veneers, cabinetry, and decks.

Best Wood for Floors

4. Birch

A popular type of hardwood, birch responds very well to woodworking. This is a heavy and strong wood with a smooth grain that provides it with a uniform appearance. Among hardwoods, birch is known to be more affordable but that shouldn’t make it a less desirable option. Its impressive level of strength makes the wood practical for a wide range of applications such as flooring, furniture work, and toy making.

There are different species of birch trees used by the timber industry. White and yellow birches are particularly popular. They’re commonly found in the eastern parts of the US. The name of the tree also acts as a good indicator of the color of the wood. Birch is sometimes seen as a solid alternative to the more expensive oak. A notable disadvantage of birch wood is that it’s not stained very easily. It’s better suited to painted woodworking projects.

Best Wood for Construction

5. Fir

Fir is another durable softwood that represents an excellent choice for woodworking applications. This type of wood offers decent resistance to common pests and diseases. Fir trees grow quite tall with some mature specimens reaching heights of 300 feet. Similar to birch, the wood from fir trees doesn’t accept uniform staining too well. Some notable qualities include the reddish-tan tint and pronounced grain pattern.

When it comes to cost, fir wood can be placed in an affordable range. The dense style makes it suitable for construction lumber applications but it’s also recommended for DIY enthusiasts. If you’re a woodworking beginner, fir wood can be considered a solid pick, especially if you have painting plans. It’s a bit more durable than pine and works ideally for projects where there’s no focus on the wood grain finish.

Best Wood for Staining

6. Cherry

Cherry trees aren’t prized just for their delicious fruits. The wood has some exceptional qualities boasting high-end aesthetics once properly finished. Cherry wood usually has a light-tone color but it becomes darker after a period of aging. This type of wood mills well and can be stained without too many difficulties. It boasts a grain that’s tight and straight. Another aspect that contributes to its charm is the presence of natural black flecking from mineral deposits.

Cherry accepts staining well but many people opt instead for retaining the natural beauty of the wood as much as possible. This is usually achieved by applying a clear finish that protects the wood and emphasizes the changes occurring during aging. Whether you’re looking to craft premium furniture, luxurious musical instruments, or intricate carvings, make sure you select cherry wood pieces that match properly.

Best Wood for Baseball Bats

7. Ash

Offering a balanced ratio between strength and weight, ash wood has lots of popular uses. There are multiple species of ash trees with different color tints for their wood. The look of ash wood can be confused easily with maple but the texture is rougher. Thanks to the reliable shock resistance, this type of wood is often used for baseball bats, pool cues, and tool handles.

Another advantage of ash wood is its ability to accept staining with minimal effort. It’s just as suitable for woodworking projects that involve painting. Finding ash wood can be harder than other lumber choices. This is due to the ash tree’s susceptibility to Emerald Ash borer pests. It’s recommended to opt for this type of wood if ash trees are native to your area and can be relatively easy to find. The budget-friendly cost of the wood makes it a worthy option for various DIY projects.

Best Wood for Guitars

8. Maple

Maple trees are commonly found in the US and their wood provides a wide range of benefits for woodworking enthusiasts. This is a type of hardwood with a tight and straight grain. Maple wood is durable and shows off plenty of variation in terms of tint colors that range from white to golden. Depending on the species, maple wood can have more unique characteristics. For example, curly maple comes with wavy grain patterns.

Compared to other types of wood, maple is very easy to carve. This makes it a suitable choice for crafting guitars and other musical instruments. Maple wood is highly recommended for delicate woodworking projects such as drawer knobs, spoons, and various furniture. The beauty of its grain makes maple the perfect choice for any application where it’s important to see the wood grain. Less workable varieties of this wood such as sugar maple are more practical for hardwood flooring.

Best Wood for Furniture

9. Oak

An extremely popular type of hardwood, oak provides impressive density and overall toughness. White and red oak wood variants stand out on the lumber market. Both types of oak wood offer similar durability and pack resistance against rot and insects. Somewhat surprisingly, oak wood remains very workable compared to other strong hardwoods. It’s not difficult to bend and adapt for more flexible applications.

Oak wood is a breeze to stain. Painting performance is not great if you’re planning to hide the wood grain because it persists even after applying multiple paint layers. White oak is a very appreciated type because it boasts wavy patterns. Red oak is the better option if you prefer a slightly darker wood tint. When it comes to specific woodworking projects, oak wood is the best choice for making sturdy heirloom pieces. It’s a great pick for crafting furniture. With proper treatment and sealing, oak works flawlessly for outdoor projects as well.

Best Wood for Cabinets

10. Mahogany

An exotic hardwood that’s extremely well-suited to staining, mahogany can be a pleasure to work with. Compared to other hardwoods, mahogany isn’t as rigid which allows you to adapt it more effectively to your specific woodworking projects. This is considered a luxury-grade hardwood. It’s sourced from Central and South America, making it harder to procure than others. It’s mostly used for custom cabinetry, high-end flooring, and similar expensive projects.

Thanks to mahogany’s ability to create clean acoustic tones, this wood is a premium choice for building pianos and guitars. There’s a big demand for this exotic type of wood so casual DIY woodworkers may not be able to afford it. Mahogany isn’t just incredibly flexible and resilient. It’s also a reliable choice when it comes to appearance. The wood is simply stunning when finished considering its rich brown-red color and dense texture.

Best Wood for Boats

11. Teak

Native to Asian rainforests, the teak tree produces a straight-grained wood rich in natural oils that give it protection against rot and bug pests. Teak wood is both attractive and reasonably durable showing off similar characteristics to mahogany. The color lacks a red tint though as it’s typically lighter brown. Costs of this wood are similar to other exotic picks such as mahogany. Teak trees grow very slowly so their wood is not the most sustainable choice out there.

It would seem that all the oils in teak wood can make it harder to handle for woodworking projects yet this is not the case. Teak wood can be finished without too much effort. It responds well to gluing and staining but the hardness of the wood can require additional sharpening of your tools. Traditionally, teak wood has been used by nautical crafters to build boats. Nowadays, this type of wood works well for many applications including outdoor projects such as decking and furniture.

Best Wood for Gunstocks

12. Walnut

Black walnut trees dominate large parts of the eastern US. Their wood is treasured by woodworkers everywhere because of its natural beauty, durability, and pleasant texture to the touch. The rich brown tint of the wood is elegantly adorned with straight grains showcasing some wavy patterns from time to time. Compared to other hardwoods, walnut scores high when it comes to warping stability and overall long-term resilience.

Given its exceptional characteristics, it’s not surprising to see walnut wood used for more expensive furniture pieces and high-end cabinetry. The wood has an important presence in the gun-making industry and artisans prefer it for carving and decorative work. Finding this wood at the regular lumber store can be more difficult. Even if it’s available, the high price tag will make it practical only for special projects. In terms of staining and protection, walnut performs excellently.

Best Wood for Model Building

13. Poplar

Due to lacking a distinguishable wood grain, poplar is among your best choices for painted projects. This is a very economical hardwood that boasts impressive versatility. Woodworking beginners can find poplar wood easy and practical to work with. This is because the light-toned hardwood is softer compared to other hardwoods. The weaker durability means that you need to be careful to avoid indenting.

Poplar works great together with hand or power tools but it can take a bit of extra work to obtain a smooth finish. Despite not being the most attractive type of wood out there, poplar’s utility makes it an attractive choice in various applications. Aside from painted projects, we recommend this wood for furniture frames and model building. Poplar wood is affordable and easy to find at most lumber stores.

Best Wood for Sauna

14. Aspen

A very light-colored wood, aspen is a type of hardwood that’s not particularly easy to find in the US. That makes it suitable only for certain applications. Aspen wood has a fuzzy texture and a distinctive white bark. This hardwood shows off a good balance between durability and softness. It has some unique properties such as superior resistance to flame. For this reason, it’s a practical choice to craft matchsticks.

Aspen wood offers good moisture tolerance so it’s not as vulnerable to swelling in very humid environments. This is one reason why it’s among the best choices for building wood saunas. Aspen isn’t typically used for building furniture but it can be handy for specific parts such as drawer slides. This type of wood lacks aromatic properties making it a recommended option for kitchen utensils.

Best Wood for Cutting Boards

15. Bamboo

Technically speaking, bamboo isn’t a type of wood yet this plant stem has many similar characteristics to wood and is often used in the same ways. Thanks to its unique hardness and density, bamboo is a popular building material in tropical regions where it grows. Aside from simply using bamboo stems as they are, you will also find processed wood products made from narrow strips of bamboo crafted into a veneer.

Bamboo can appear more fragile compared to “real woods”. However, it’s just as hard to bend or cut as hardwoods like maple or oak. The large density can often make bamboo difficult to work with. The material has its place in woodworking nevertheless. Bamboo is very popular for building outdoor furniture, decorations, and other items. Thanks to a natural wax-like coating, bamboo wood performs great against the elements yet you should still give it proper sealing.

Best Wood for Chair Making

16. Beech

Beech wood is one of the best options if you’re looking to build interior furniture. This type of hardwood has a consistent grain pattern and can steam-bend with minimal effort. The color of beech wood is typically light-toned cream but some varieties can feature darker yellow tones with a red tint. Another solid advantage of beech wood is that it’s highly accepting of staining and polishing to create attractive finishes.

While the flexibility of beech comes in handy for many woodworking projects, the wood can sometimes be vulnerable to very humid environments where it may swell or shrink. Some of the best uses for beech wood include making chairs and curved wood pieces. Many parts of a piano can be made from this wood. Beech isn’t particularly expensive compared to other hardwoods so it’s accessible for any DIY enthusiast.

Best Wood for Outdoor Projects

17. Larch

Also called Tamarack, this type of wood is fairly spread out in North America. Larch trees are grouped with softwoods but they have interesting properties that could technically categorize them as hardwoods as well. They are conifer trees but the species sheds its needles which makes it deciduous at the same time. Tamarack wood offers great resistance to rot and insects so it’s recommended for outdoor applications.

The wood stands out compared to other softwood trees due to its superior level of strength and overall hardness. It’s similar to redwood and cedar considering that larch trees are part of the same Cypress family. Coupled with the straight grain, the hardness of this wood can introduce susceptibility to chipping so woodworkers need to be careful with it. Tamarack wood can irritate the skin if you’re sensitive to its natural resins and oils.

Best Wood for Polishing

18. Rosewood

Rosewood is another premium choice for crafting musical instruments. This exotic hardwood has some highly appreciated acoustic properties and it’s sourced from tropical regions such as South America. That makes rosewood quite expensive and unsuitable for the more limited budgets of casual DIYers. There’s also the matter of sustainability concerns because rosewood is known to be harvested using illegal logging practices.

Although it’s renowned for musical instruments, rosewood can be used for other projects as well. It’s very resistant to polishing and finishing treatments so the furniture industry will often incorporate it into high-end lines of products. The unique grain patterns of rosewood contribute to its charming aesthetic while the reliable level of durability makes it a good investment.

Best Wood for Carpentry

19. Spruce

With a very light color and subtle grain, spruce is another interesting softwood to consider for your woodworking projects. This type of wood is mainly used for construction framing projects but its versatility makes it suitable for a wide range of applications. When visiting a home improvement store, spruce can usually be found under the generic term “white wood”. It features a medium density and isn’t particularly heavy.

Spruce has been used in the past for making boats or airplanes but the weak moisture resistance no longer makes it suitable for such projects. Structural end uses are numerous for spruce wood. It’s also recommended for flooring, general carpentry, and decorative veneer. High-quality spruce wood sourced from mature trees shows off excellent resonance properties. That means it’s a very good option for the manufacturing of pianos, violins, and other musical instruments.

Best Wood for Decorative Pieces

20. Alder

Although it’s not as popular compared to other hardwoods, alder is worth considering for many woodworking projects. It shares some properties with birch so you can expect it to be used similarly as well. Alder wood is attractive and very workable. The tree is mainly found in western regions of North America. Thanks to its straight grain and balanced level of density, alder is suitable for machining and carving.

In terms of appearance, alder wood is very light-colored when fresh but will develop a dark honey color after some time. Due to the fact that alder trees tend to grow small, large solid pieces are harder to find. When it comes to recommended uses, alder wood works best for building furniture and cabinetry. Decorative pieces can also be made easily with the help of this versatile type of wood. The clean acoustic tone of alder wood is often sought after by electric guitar manufacturers.


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