Best Types of Wood for Woodworking

Are you considering diving headfirst into woodworking and starting a project that you’ve been keeping an eye on. Maybe you’ve been binge watching YouTube video’s on wood turning or joinery techniques and want to give it a try due to Covid-19 boredom.

If so one of the first things you’ll need to figure out is what the best type of wood is for your woodworking project. The different varieties of wood have completely different properties that will impact the project you are contemplating.

In this article we will discuss what to look for with the different types of wood and the properties and normal uses for standard project types. 

Hardwood vs Softwood

The first piece of the puzzle for choosing the right type of wood for a woodworking project is determining if you need hardwood or softwood.

Hardwood is usually denser and better for fine woodworking while softwood is easier to work with and is great for hobby and craft projects. The type you use for your project depends on your needs for cost, durability, appearance, stability, and hardness. 

best types of wood for woodworking

What is the Janka Rating System

The Janka rating is the standard measure used for wood hardness. This is an important tool to use when trying to figure out the type of wood for your project.

Hardwood Types

Hardwood trees are typically fruit or nut producing trees that go dormant in the winter with broad leaves. Examples include cherry, oak, ash, maple, poplar, walnutOpens in a new tab., teak, and mahogany.


Very durable and resistant to warping or swelling. Usually used for fine furniture and boat construction.


Black Walnut

Walnut is strong and easy to work with with a really beautiful texture. Resistant to warping and shrinkage. Easy to apply finishes to walnut. It is mostly used to make fine furniture, gun stocks, cabinets, and wall paneling. 


Oak is very durable and also flexible. Great for furniture, trim, boat frames and flooring.


Maple has a great texture and is very hard and strong. Its usually used for fine furniture and flooring.


Ages really nicely and is usually used for cabinets, on boats, and furniture handles.


Usually used for trim and accent pieces and artwork. 


Very nice fragrance that is hard to work on but polishes really nicely. Great for musical instruments, handles for tools, artwork,fine furniture, and veeners.


very moisture resistand and hard. Teak is typically used for outdoor furniture, exposed boat elements, doors and framing. 

Softwood Types

Think needles. Softwood trees are usually evergreen trees that have cones instead of fruit or nuts. They are typically used for structural components. Examples include pine, cedar, redwood, spruce, and fir.


Machines really well and is very lightweight. 


Pine has a light yellow color that is real easy to stain or paint. This softwood is one of the easiest to work with especially for drilling or carving.

  • Yellow Pine is the strongest softwood in North America with he highest compression and bending strength.
  • Eastern White Pine is mostly used for furniture. Think a bunk bed or other children furniture.
  • Lodgepole Pine is mostly used for flooring, roofing and making particleboard.
  • Parana Pine is used a lot for joinery
  • Scots Pine is used for interior construction.
  • Southern Yellow Pine is used for outdoor decking , joinery, and flooring.

Cedar Wood

Pretty red tones with great aroma that is a natural insect repellent.  Cedar is very easy to work with and is especially good outdoors due to its resilience to adverse weather.

  • Western Red Cedar is usually used for furniture, roofing shingles and decks


Redwood is soft and very easy to work with. It is quite moisture resistant so can be used for outdoor furniture. 


Yew is one of the hardest of the softwoods and is more like a hardwood for its characteristics. It is also extremely flexible and strong making it perfect for archery. The long bows from England in the middle ages were usually made of Yew.

  • European Yew is often used for wood turning projects, furniture, carving, and musical instruments.



  • European Spruce has excellent resonance characteristics so used in piano and violin crafting.
  • Red Spruce, White, and Black spruce are mostly identical and mostly used for boats(masts and spars)
  • Spruce has excellent properties for furniture making but is difficult to find.


Douglas fir is used for construction, doors, and joinery.

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