How To Pick Wood For Wood Woodworking Projects


Choosing the right wood for your woodworking project is essential for a successful outcome and taking pride in your work. Woodworking projects allow you to bring life to a piece of natural material. The key to beautiful and long-lasting furniture, decorative objects, or whatever your wooden creation may be, is selecting the correct type of wood for the job at hand. The ideal piece of wood will perfectly complement all other components in the project and demonstrate both beauty and strength as well as durability. Here are some tips on how to pick the best woods for your projects.

First, consider the type of project that you will be creating; different types of wood have their own unique characteristics that fit certain needs better than others. For example, hardwoods such as oak are popular choices when making furniture due to its natural strength and attractive grain patterning. Softwoods such as pine on the other hand offer less hardness but more malleability which can be useful for achieving specific shapes or designs with relative ease.

Apart from selecting a suitable species of wood for each project, there are also factors such as texture to consider. When deciding on texture, one should look out for defects such as knots or splits since these could compromise overall stability or weaken joints depending on where they occur. Apart from unevenness in terms of texture, look out also for consistent coloration within each board since an inconsistent tone could make overall finishing difficult even if knots are absent in a particular piece of timber. Last but not least pay attention to grain structure; this plays a fundamental role during machining operations like drilling where having an end-grain aligned with tool motion could mitigate chances split boards or undesired tearouts during cutting operations.

Types of Wood

Woodworking projects require the right type of wood. As a woodworker, one should be familiar with the various types of woods that are available and how they would best fit a project. Hardwoods are generally heavier and more expensive than softwoods; however, they also tend to be more stable when worked on due to their higher longevity and durability. The most common examples of hardwood include cherry, maple, oak, walnut and mahogany. On the other hand,softwoods such as pine and cedar are lightweight and relatively inexpensive options, making them ideal for smaller projects.

For custom designs or those that require specific qualities of the wood itself, exotic woods can provide a unique outcome for furniture making, cabinetry designs or other carvings. Some of these rarer examples include teak, zebrawoods, bloodwood and bocote. They all vary in coloration but can bring something special to any given project while providing a better stability than some softer varieties like pine or spruce. When picking the right type of wood for any project it is important to determine the intended use as well as any environmental factors that may affect the wood in different conditions such as humidity or temperature levels in a setting where it will reside thereafter.

Grain and Direction

When selecting wood for woodworking projects, long grain patterns are often preferred. The longer the grains, the stronger and sturdier a piece of wood wil be. Additionally, the direction of the grain is important as it will affect how strong a piece of wood will be in different directions. Wood that is cut across its grain can tend to be weak when loads are applied perpendicular to the grain. This is because dividing an end-grain fiber weakens and fractures it. On the other hand, directionally cutting with or parallel to the grain ensures that all fibers from one side are connected to fibers on the other side of a joint region, allowing for balanced loads in multiple directions along a piece of wood’s surface.

Wood Quality

When it comes to woodworking projects, wood quality is one of the most important factors for success. There are different grades of quality wood that can be used for a variety of applications. Generally speaking, higher grade woods are more desirable for fine furniture and heirloom pieces, while lower grades are best suited for construction/structural purposes or other utilitarian items.

Getting Paint Off Woodwork

When selecting wood for a project, some notable qualities should be taken into consideration: grain pattern, coloration, hardness/density, weight rating, size availability and cost. It is important to note that each species of lumber has specific characteristics associated with the grade given.

First Grade (Prime) Wood: The highest degree of sawed lumber quality is referred to as “first grade” or “prime” and will have no blemishes or defects of any kind including knots or pitch pockets. Absolutely clear boards without sapwood on both faces may also be graded as first grade material. This is the ultimate choice in terms of aesthetics and should command a premium price point due to its rarity and perfect appearance.

Second Grade (Select) Wood: The select grade is often used in cabinetry or furniture projects where good looks constitute an important factor ” but not necessarily a perfection requirement like that of the first grade category.. This type typically has limited knots and few open crooks only along the raw edges; burls and pitch pockets however are still possible at levels much lower than those seen in Common Grade selections.

Common Grade Wood: Common Grade lumber will contain sound tight knots up to 2″ in diameter on one face as well as frequent pitch pockets or open crooks but with generally consistent texture across the board face. These pieces should be properly sealed prior to use in order prevent further warping due to moisture-separate joints overtime. Common grade woods can exhibit irregularities such as stained sections, burls, wane on edges or additional defects such as knot-digging -all being considered acceptable qualities beneath first & second grade classifications.

Density Considerations

In choosing the right type of wood for any given woodworking project, one key factor to take into account is density. Wood can vary greatly in density depending on the species being used. The best approach to measuring density is by employing the specific gravity method. This entails balancing a sample volume of wood (usually wood strips) on each side of an equilibrium beam and then determining the weight difference between them.

In terms of variations between species, some common hardwood species such as cherry and oak tend to be significantly denser than their softer counterparts such as pine or poplar. Furthermore, the age of certain trees can also play a role in how dense its end product will be. Generally speaking, older trees will create denser lumber than younger trees do. For example, old-growth Red Oak from centuries past has been known to have much greater densities than new growth oak found today.

For more exact measurements of density, special units like kilograms per cubic meter (kg/m3) can be utilized for calculating specific gravities and comparing different woods thereof. Additionally, it is important when looking at these results to bear in mind that even within the same species there may be varying degrees of densities due to factors such as location and growing conditions or even the manner in which particular pieces were cut before machining them down into lumber planks and other usable shapes.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Wood

Availability: Different types of wood can be found at different availability levels – some less common woods may not be available from the local lumber yard or hardware store, or they may have a higher price. Availability should be a major consideration when selecting wood for your project, as it will influence cost and timing factors.

Cost: Cost is a major factor for many people attempting wooden projects. Some woods are more expensive than others due to availability or difficulty in working with them. There are also certain types of wood that might be suited to your project but too costly for your budget.

Strength: While strength is important, don’t let it be the sole determinant in selecting a type of wood. Some woods are stronger than others and ideal for carrying heavier loads while others may not be as naturally strong but can still suffice if structurally reinforced with additional pieces of wood.

Wax For Woodworking Tools

Durability: Durability is another important factor to consider when selecting wood. Do you want something sturdy enough to last through years of use? Or do you need something that will easily break down over time so you can make changes and/or upgrades as needed? Knowing this ahead of time will help guide your decision-making process.

Shape: The shape of the wood should also be taken into consideration when selecting an appropriate type of wood for your project. You’ll need to think about what kind of joints you plan on making because certain types of planks (such as quartersawn) have a grain orientation that helps prevent splitting during joinery work. Rounder pieces of lumber might also suit certain projects better depending on their design elements or desired look and feel.

Finishing Your Wood

1. Start by sanding your wood with a medium grit paper (150-220) to make it as smooth as possible and remove any rough edges or imperfections.

2. Vacuum off the sawdust from sanding and wipe away the remaining dust with a slightly damp cloth.

3. If desired, apply a wood conditioner like Danish oil, mineral spirits, or clear shellac to help achieve an even coloring when staining the wood. Let the conditioner set for at least 15 minutes before wiping away any excess with a clean cloth.

4. Apply an even layer of stain to your wood taking care not to let it sit on the wood for too long or it could cause an uneven coloring; instead work quickly but thoroughly for an even application. Let the stain sit on your wood for around 5 -15 minutes then wipe away any excess using a clean rag or brush; be sure to go with the grain of the wood while wiping away any excess stain residue.

5. For added protection against moisture, apply a clear coat finish that is recommended for use with your chosen type of wood; once applied carefully follow instructions on drying times and number of coats required in order to fully finish your piece correctly and properly protect against future wear and tear.


For more detailed information on wood selection, woodworking forums and websites such as The Wood Database and Fine Wood Working are excellent resources filled with user-friendly advice. Additionally, a variety of woodworking guides, such as R. Bruce Hoadley’s Understanding Wood, Bob Flexner’s Furniture Fundamentals, or Andy Rae’s Start Woodworking Now!, are available for purchase and provide insight into different types of woods and their properties from an experienced professional’s perspective. Lastly, members of local woodworking clubs often have expertise regarding the types of trees and the qualities of each that can advise anyone looking to pick wood for woodworking projects.


Choosing the right wood for woodworking projects is essential for the success of any wood-related project. The right type and grade of wood, combined with proper preparation and care, can make a noticeable difference in terms of aesthetics and durability, as well as increasing the longevity and beauty of the finished product. When picking the right wood, it’s important to consider factors such as the type of work being done, the desired aesthetics, budgets, availability of woods and finishes, work environment, skill level and most importantly safety. Selecting wisely will ensure that you have all your bases covered when embarking on a new woodworking project. By selecting the appropriate type of wood for a particular job or aesthetic goal, woodworkers can create beautiful pieces which last for years to come.

Send this to a friend