Best Wood For Woodworking
Carpentry Techniques, Furniture Building

4 Ways Choosing the Best Wood for Woodworking

Key Takeaways:

  • Understand the differences between hardwoods and softwoods and their applications in woodworking.
  • Discover which types of wood are recommended for wood carving beginners.
  • Learn about the specific characteristics of various woods that make them suitable for different woodworking projects.

Woodworking is both an art and a science – a craft that requires the right materials to achieve both functional and aesthetic excellence. One of the key decisions you’ll face in any woodworking project is choosing the best wood.

This choice depends on a multitude of factors including the wood’s hardness, strength, workability, and appearance. So, what is the best wood for woodworking? Let’s explore the options.

Best Wood For Woodworking

Best Wood For Woodworking

The first step in selecting wood is understanding the categories into which it is typically divided: hardwoods and softwoods.

This categorization is based on the trees from which the wood is harvested – deciduous trees yield hardwoods, while coniferous trees give us softwoods. However, the terms can be misleading, as not all hardwoods are inherently harder than softwoods.


Hardwoods generally come from deciduous trees that lose their leaves annually. These woods are noted for their durability and are widely used in high-quality furniture, flooring, and joinery. Here are some popular hardwoods:

  • Mahogany: Valued for its beauty and longevity, mahogany is often used in making premium furniture and musical instruments. Its ability to resist rot also makes it a prime choice for boat building.
  • Ash: Offers excellent shock resistance and is commonly utilized for tool handles, sports equipment, and durable furniture.
  • Cherry: Cherry wood has a fine grain and attractive reddish hues that deepen with age. It’s a popular choice for intricate woodworking projects because of its smooth texture and rich color.
  • Hard Maple: Known for its strength and hardness, hard maple is a go-to for heavy-use items like bowling alleys and butcher blocks.
  • Teak: With its natural oils, teak provides exceptional weather resistance, which is why it’s a favorite for outdoor furniture and boat decks.
  • Walnut: This sought-after wood features a distinctive grain and rich color that can add a touch of luxury to any piece.

While there are many types of hardwoods, those listed above are widely regarded for their workability and beauty. For more detailed information on the types of woods suitable for various projects, refer to our guide on wood types.


Softwoods are derived from coniferous trees and are typically more abundant and grow faster than hardwoods. Here are some of the most commonly used softwoods in woodworking:

  • Pine: This lightweight wood is known for its affordability and is used widely in construction and furniture making. Pine also takes stains and varnishes well, which can enhance its appearance.
  • Basswood: A favorite among wood carvers, basswood’s softness and light grain make it ideal for detailed work.
  • Butternut: Often referred to as “white walnut,” butternut shares a similar grain pattern to its harder cousin but is much softer and carves easily.
  • Cedar: With its distinct aroma and natural rot resistance, cedar is perfect for outdoor and indoor furniture. It’s also often used for lining closets and chests due to its moth-repelling qualities.
  • Redwood: Highly durable and resistant to rot and pests, redwood is often used for outdoor furniture, decks, and other constructions that require a durable, yet beautiful wood.

Softwoods often provide a more cost-effective option for projects that do not require the hardness and durability of hardwoods.

Best Woods for Beginners in Wood Carving

Best Woods for Beginners

Starting with a suitable type of wood can make learning the craft of wood carving much more enjoyable. Here are woods recommended for beginners:

  • Basswood: It is soft and easy to carve, with a fine, even texture.
  • Butternut: Another softwood, butternut has a coarse texture and is easy to work with, making it perfect for beginners.

For those starting in carving, choosing woods that are softer and have a straight grain, such as those mentioned, can lead to better results and a more pleasant learning experience.

Choosing the Right Wood for Your Project

Choosing the Right Wood for Your Project

Selecting the best wood for woodworking goes beyond just picking hardwood or softwood. Consider the following for your project:

  • Durability: Hardwoods like oak and teak are known for their long-lasting qualities which are great for pieces that will bear weight or endure heavy use.
  • Aesthetics: The color, grain, and finish of a wood can dramatically affect the appearance of your final project. Woods with attractive natural grains like cherry and walnut are excellent for showpieces that will be on display.

When it comes to choosing the best wood, you must balance practicality with aesthetics. For additional insights on crafting your projects, our overview of basic carpentry techniques is a valuable resource.

Woods Based on Woodworking Applications

Furniture Making

For furniture, hardwoods are frequently favored for their robustness and finish. Some top choices include:

Sure, here’s the updated table with the additional wood types and their characteristics and best uses:

Wood TypeCharacteristicsBest For
MahoganyDurable, rich colorHigh-end furniture
CherryAges well, smooth grainElegant cabinetry and joinery
White OakStrong, water-resistantDurable outdoor furniture
AshStraight grain, durableTool handles, sports equipment
Hard MapleHard, fine-grainedFurniture, flooring
TeakHighly resistant to decayOutdoor furniture, boat decks
WalnutDark, rich colorFine furniture, carvings
Red OakDurable, open grainFurniture, cabinets
CedarLightweight, aromaticOutdoor furniture, closets
RedwoodLightweight, decay-resistantOutdoor construction, decking

Carving and Sculpture

Carving requires woods that are not only soft but also have fine grains to ensure detail and precision:

Certainly! Here’s the updated table with the additional wood types, characteristics, and best uses:

Wood TypeCharacteristicsLightweight, straight-grain
BasswoodSoft, even textureIntricate carvings
ButternutCoarse texture, easy to shapeBeginner carving projects
PineLightweight, straight grainConstruction, furniture
SycamoreFine texture, easy to work withFurniture, carving
TupeloFine-grained, easy to carveWood carving, sculptures

Structural Work

Structural projects demand woods that are robust and can withstand environmental influences:

Certainly! Here’s the updated table with additional wood types relevant to structural projects:

Wood TypeCharacteristicsBest For
RedwoodRot-resistant, durableOutdoor structures
CedarStrong, lightweightFraming and construction
Douglas FirStraight grain, strongStructural framing
HemlockUniform texture, decay-resistantBeams, framing
LarchTough, durableHeavy construction
OakHard, durableTimber framing, beams
SpruceLightweight, easy to work withFraming, trusses
PineStraight grain, affordableGeneral construction
CypressDecay-resistant, durableOutdoor projects, decking

My Last Word

In conclusion, the “best” wood for woodworking is a matter of matching the material’s properties to the demands of your specific project. Considering the above, you can make informed decisions that balance functional needs with the desire for aesthetic appeal.

Don’t forget to equip yourself with the right set of tools for your woodworking endeavors; for instance, consult our guide on power tools for beginners for a comprehensive look at essential equipment. With the right wood and tools in hand, your woodworking projects are bound to be successful.

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I'm Joseph Winters, a carpenter, and handyman by trade and a passionate blogger by hobby. I have been in the construction industry for over 10 years, and I've gained an immense amount of knowledge and experience. I'm passionate about sharing my experience and expertise with others, which is why I started


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