Woodworking on a Budget: What is the Least Expensive Hardwood?


While you might love the beautiful look and finish of hardwood, you would certainly appreciate it if you didn’t have to spend much to get hardwood. Unlike softwoods, hardwoods are expensive because they are stronger, more durable, and come in distinct colors. If you’re looking to build something to last for hundreds of years, hardwoods should be your choice. But with a high price tag, even for small boards, you have to be careful with your choice of hardwood for woodworking projects.

The least expensive hardwood depends on the area you live in and the availability of the hardwood. Some of the least expensive hardwoods are Maple, Poplar, Alder, Oak, and Ash. They might be available in your local lumberyard, or you can get them from online retailers who will ship them to your location.

Hardwood TypeTypical Cost
Maple(Soft)$3 – $7 /Board-foot
Poplar$2 – $5 /Board-foot
Alder$6 – $8 / Board-foot
White Oak$6 – $8 / Board-foot
Beech$6 – $8 / Board-foot
Ash$3 – $5 /Board-foot
Black Walnut$10 – $14 / Board-foot
Koa$40 – $60. / Board-foot
Ebony $80 – $150 / Board-foot
Typical Online Prices at a Lumber Yard. Expect to pay more than double at Home Depot or Lowes. Black Walnut, Koa, and Ebony added as an example of more expensive wood.

These less expensive hardwoods give you the extra durability and distinct grain pattern you’re looking for from hardwoods without the hefty price demanded by the more exotic species. In addition to the cost savings, the less expensive hardwoods are great to use for a lot of woodworking projects and look really nice. You will love the ability to easily work with them that they might even become your preferred woods to work with on many projects.

List of Least Expensive Hardwoods

You can work with Maple, Poplar, Alder, White Oak, Beech, and Ash as they are less expensive than more exotic species of hardwood like Cherry, Walnut, and Mahogany. However, the availability of these less expensive hardwoods depends on the area you live in. You can visit or get in touch with the lumber suppliers in your region to understand hardwoods’ availability.

We will understand more about these least expensive hardwoods, their properties, ease of use, and common usage.

1. Maple

Maple is a really clean hardwood and is very easy to machine and work with. Soft Maple is cheaper than Hard Maple. However, both of these types are harder than Softwoods. They are suitable for making furniture and have a hardness that is similar to that of Walnut wood. You will love working with Maple wood because you can effortlessly shape and carve the wood to suit your project requirements.

The best thing about using Maple wood is that you can get the bold and distinct colors of other exotic woods by staining the wood with various dyes. This will make the wood look more vibrant and add a more appealing look to it.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive option within Maple, you can go with the Soft Maple. While it is only a little softer and less hard than Hard Maple, the wood is easy to work with, and you can use it to build a lot of wooden items like tables and bookshelves.

If you can find the Maple wood available plentiful and in good quantities in your local lumber shop, then you can get them for a good price. This is one of the most preferred woods among hardwoods since it is not very expensive.

Maple is in some forms toxic. Make sure you are wearing the appropriate PPE when working with it, especially its dust.

2. Poplar

Poplar is cheap, soft, and easy to work with for your woodworking projects. The distinct white and green color of Poplar wood gives it a unique look. The boards are usually wider, with the color tone popping out. While some people do not like the color variety of the Poplar wood, you will certainly love it if you are looking for the wood’s natural color to be on display.

These woods are easy to machine, cut, and shape. Since the wood is really fine-grained and not expensive, you can try using paint on painted projects, although it is not recommended.

The natural color of the Poplar wood doesn’t need any painting if you choose to let it be. It comes in a greenish-white color with streaks of purple color in some places. Once you finish the wood, the colors will fade after time, leaving a good looking piece of wood.

Poplar wood is prone to denting, but you can straighten the dents and use it for many woodworking projects. The fine grain of the wood is a pleasure to work with, and you can seamlessly cut through and carve the wood.

3. Alder

Alder is another hardwood that is less expensive and nice to work with. You will not have any problems working on this wood as you can cut through it easily, sand it properly, and use other machines without any problems. They are on the softer side as the Poplar wood, and since they have a rustic look to them, they are used on entry doors, cabinets, and furniture.

If you can stain Alder wood, you can make it to match Walnut or Cherry wood’s color. This will can add a more colorful look to the wood. There are many possibilities with the staining that makes Alder a less expensive and very versatile hardwood. 

The wood is of uniform texture, and the grains are straight. There are no unusual streaks of color on the wood. The polished look of the wood is attractive on various wooden items. Alder can be used for large-scale projects once you’ve guaranteed a reliable supply of wood. The wood is also used for making shutters, carvings, and kitchen utensils.

4. White Oak

Oak has been the choice of hardwood for a lot of people throughout the years. It is appealing due to its strength, durability, and the beauty of its grains. Oakwood is used in flooring, paneling, and building furniture. The decorative properties of Oak come from the rich tone it infuses into the wooden work.

White Oak has a warm tan color that is amplified by the finish of the wood. This, combined with the wood price that sits in the mid-range, makes the White Oak ideal for woodworking projects. The wood is excellent for outdoor projects where it can stand the rain and heat from the sun.

White Oak wood is strong, tough, and looks good. It is very durable and used in boatbuilding. The wood is rot-resistant and works well with hand and machine tools. It is no wonder that woodworkers are looking to create elegant and custom wooden items that reveal the wood’s warm color.

5. Beech (European)

Beech is a fine-grained wood that is dense and inexpensive. The wood is not hard to work with, and you can cut and shape it with woodworking tools. The distinct color of the Beechwood from Europe makes it look good on wooden items. It has a pale cream color with straight grains of uniform texture.

Beechwood does not stain very well, and hence it is recommended to use clear finishes. The wood’s characteristics match that of Hard Maple’s as both of these woods are of similar density and hardness. Beechwood is a little easier to work with than Hard Maple wood.

They are commonly used for making cabinets, turned objects, plywood, and furniture. The strength, wear-resistance, and durability of Beech combined with its low price make it among woodworkers’ favorite woods.

6. Ash

Ash is a hardwood that has straight grains with a uniform texture. The wood has a color range from a light cream color to a light brown color. You can expect cathedral patterns consistent throughout the wood, making it a strong choice for making custom wooden products.

It has good general workability because these woods work well with machines and can be nailed, screwed, and glued easily

Ashwood can accept stains, and hence you can stain these woods to get a good finish. Relative to the weight of the wood, Ashwood has good overall strength. Since the wood has excellent impact resistance, it is used to handle tools like hammers and shovels. While the wood is being worked on, it can have a moderately unpleasant smell.

The Ashwood color can change depending on the growing conditions and can be light-colored or pale yellow in color with streaks of brown.

Some of the uses of Ashwood is its use in making furniture, kitchen cabinets, baseball bats, and other sports equipment. The wood is suitable for food containers since it does not have any odor or taste.

While the cost of hardwoods can differ in places, you can be sure that these least expensive hardwoods will be more affordable and much better to work with than Softwoods.

You will certainly love the hardness and durability of hardwoods, and with some woodwork, including adding stains, you can get the look of exotic hardwoods on less expensive hardwoods. Be sure to check the local lumberyard to get the best inexpensive hardwood that suits your woodworking project.

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