What Are The Differences In Wood Types?

The type of wood you use in your project will affect the quality of the ultimate finished product. Some woods are perfect for crafting, while others are needed in making fine furniture or flooring. Some of the characteristics of wood include the density of the grain patterns, the length of the grain, and the hardness of the wood. Crafts are usually made of softer woods, while hardwood floors are popular with many homeowners for a reason.

Soft Woods


If you build a chest of drawers out of yellow pine, you had better plan on sealing and painting it. This is because yellow pine has a hard yellow grain throughout the wood. You can see it in the raw wood, but it is really obvious once the piece is finished. The variation between density of the yellow streak and the white streak makes the wood take stain differently. This will leave a yellow streak in the finish, because the harder section does not absorb as much stain. In addition, these yellow streaks are more saturated with pitch, and tend to seep, even when the wood is fully cured. This can create a bleed-through on a finished paint surface. For this reason, yellow pine is best used for structural purposes rather than for furniture. It can be sealed and painted, but the best sealant will still allow some pitch to seep through.

Other softwoods are better for craft projects. Balsa and white pine are preferable for smaller projects, because they are lightweight enough to easily maneuver. They also will not dull the blades of your wood working tools as quickly.

Cedar is a popular wood for fencing and outdoor projects. Western red cedar cladding is a beautiful product that withstands weather and elements without rotting. When you shop for cedar, you’ll see that some of it is red, and some white. The red part is called heartwood, and is preferred to the white grain, although both are very good for outside use. The predominantly heartwood cedar timber will be more expensive.

Hard Woods


Hard woods are used most often in cabinetry and furniture. They are also used for specialty items or heirloom construction. Hardwoods typically have very tight grain, which makes them harder to cut. They will dull your woodworking tools quickly. Common hardwoods for furniture, cabinets, and flooring include oak, maple, mahogany, and ash. Other exotic woods are used in smaller amounts, mostly for accent and inlay. These include ebony and acacia. Some woods are so hard they have to be professionally cut.

Hard woods typically will take stain evenly. However, the exotic woods may be so dense that the best you can do is oil them, because they won’t take stain. Usually, people don’t paint hardwood furnishings or cabinets, because the wood rain is considered a work of art. However, painting of these surfaces is done for effect, when the owner wants to.

The type of wood you select for your project will depend on your budget and on your project. Get your sales person to advise you, if necessary.

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