Finding wood for a project from a wood store can be both confusing and intimidating. Starting out, you’re probably not super familiar with types of wood and don’t know which one to pick. You also get that uneasy feeling of “oh crap, I’m getting ready to spend a bunch of money”. In this article, I am going to discuss some various types of wood you can use on your projects to hopefully get you started in the right direction.
At first, you’ll probably find yourself going to the big box stores, where they have tones of lumber stacked up high on all the metal shelves. These woods are usually SPF, which is Spruce, Pine, or Fir. They are great for building material as they are pre-milled to uniform sizes. However, these woods are cost-effective for a reason…moisture. You see, the more dried a piece of wood is the more expensive it will be. Drying takes time, and time is money. These SPF lumber choices are cheap because they still have lots of moisture left in them. Be careful using these for fine furniture. Since they come off the shelf with a high moisture content, they will eventually dry and cause bowing, cupping, or even cracking. Those are negatives that you definitely don’t want with your fine woodworking art pieces.
With that said, let me expose you to some other choices that can be used for furniture making or home décor woodworking projects.
- Soft Maple
- Knotty Alder
- White Oak
This wood is super clean and really easy to machine, but is durable and hard enough for furniture. It roughly has the same hardness as Walnut. It is easy to work with and can be tooled or even carved. This wood is also great for staining or dying to get some awesome colors to pop within the grain and wood texture.
This wood is super soft and very easy to machine. These boards can get really wide, sometimes 12 inches or more! This wood does a negative in that it has a wide color variety, but can obviously be stained or painted to hide that. Not much other wood types machines and tools as easily as poplar does.
This wood is a little harder wood that is strong and has a dense grain pattern. Beech is very inexpensive, despite the fact that it comes all the way from Europe. This wood makes rock solid tight joints and isn’t very heavy at all. Much of the furniture you find at Ikea is made of Beech so if you’re ever trying to match a piece of furniture, keep Beech wood in mind. This wood doesn’t stain very well, its better suited as a natural look. It has a distinct grain pattern and has a warmer, creamy-tan color to the wood.
This wood has a bit more character than the previous woods. Its about as hard as Poplar, but is loaded with sound, tight knots. Just like Poplar, Knotty Alder is easy to manipulate, cut, shape, and sand. This wood is a West Coast wood. It is usually seen with project having a rustic charm or southwest style décor.
Of these woods, White Oak is probably the most different. It has a very distinct grain pattern and is the hardest and heaviest. It has a warm open grain and texture and is cost efficiency is a real sweet-spot. White Oak is a great wood to use when making an outdoor project due to its ability to handle getting wet and withstanding the sun’s rays. This wood is stable, tough, and good looking.
That wraps up this discussion on various woods you can use that are durable yet inexpensive. If I missed anything, please leave a comment and we can continue this discussion.