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How to choose the right lumber for your next project

Knowing how to choose the right wood for your project is critical to your success in woodworking. Let’s say you’ve found some amazing woodworking plans and now you’re ready to get started on that next great project out in the shop. There’s only one problem: What should you use? While there is no “right” answer, there are some advantages and disadvantages to the different types of wood available, so there’s this handy guide to some of the most popular wood types. This should help you get started on the right path. Raw lumber for woodworking can be divided into one of two categories: Hardwoods and Softwoods.




While which type you use depends on your wood plans, there are a few different kinds of lumber available within each category. Hardwoods are usually more expensive, and some are very rare. Here are three popular hardwoods used in woodworking.


  • Oak – One of the most popular (and in my opinion beautiful) woods used in furniture, oak is incredibly strong and heavy and you should be able to find at most home improvement stores. Oak is available in red and white; the color you choose will depend on your wood plans and your personal tastes (white oak is highly resistant to moisture and is great for outdoor furniture).
  • Ash – Ash is a pale-brown or white-colored wood with a straight grain. It’s not too difficult to work with compared to other hardwoods, however, it can be quite difficult to find. A larger lumberyard is going to be your best bet.
  • Mahogany – Another very popular wood used to make furniture. Mahogany is a reddish (sometimes deep-red) wood with a straight grain. It’s not as hard as oak, but it is easy to work with and it takes stain and oil very well. Unfortunately, mahogany is not available in sustainable forests which means that it is in danger of becoming extinct. Not only is this a tragedy in terms of the environment, but it will also have a hefty impact on your wallet.




They are usually less expensive than hardwoods and are often grown in sustainable forests to ensure they are protected from extinction. This guarantees that you’re not only protecting the environment but that you’ll always have lumber available for your next woodworking project. Here are three softwood species to consider on your next woodworking project.


  • Pine – Pine is another of the popular woods and comes in several varieties (Ponderosa, Sugar, Yellow, and White). Pine is a great wood for your furniture plans because of its natural wood grain and beautiful knots. Pine takes stain very well and it is great for furniture that calls for intricate detailing that needs to be carved out of the wood.
  • Cedar – Western Red Cedar, the most common type, naturally has a reddish tint. Cedar has a great smell to it and it’s a straight grain, but the best reason to use it on your next woodworking project is its resistance to rot. If you’re building something for an outdoor space, Cedar is the best way to go.
  • Redwood – like cedar, it is highly resistant to rot and moisture. Available for a moderate price at most home stores, Redwood is an easy wood to work with and has a straight grain.


Whatever wood you choose to use for your next woodworking project is up to you, but you should always keep their individual strengths and weaknesses in mind when selecting lumber for your woodworking project. Choosing the wrong wood can have a major impact on the final product, so choose carefully.

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