If you enjoy woodworking projects, there is no shortage of woodworking tips that can help teach you various techniques or guide you through different tasks. However, many of these guides overlook one of the most important factors: the wood for woodworking.

If you are new to woodworking, finding the right type of wood can seem overwhelming. Once you get to the home improvement store, you see that there are so many types of wood for woodworking that you don’t even know where to start. 

The first thing you need to know is that there is no single best wood for woodworking. There are several different types of lumber and selecting the right woodworking wood can depend on a range of factors. In this post, we are going to look at some of the differences between types of wood and some of the points you will need to consider when selecting lumber for woodworking projects. Read on to learn more about hardwood and softwood, lumber grades and defects, and plywood.

Choose Between Hardwood or Softwood for Your Woodworking Project

You have two basic kinds of wood: softwoods and hardwoods. Softwoods come from conifers like spruce and pine while hardwoods come from deciduous trees like oak or maple. Hardwoods also tend to be more expensive because it takes longer for the trees to grow. 

Softwoods are not as dense as hardwoods and the surface of the lumber will be easier to dent or score. Hardwoods usually have a more noticeable grain pattern, which can make them popular for woodworking projects. With that being said, softwoods are usually cheaper, so they can work well for structural pieces that may not be visible.

Lumber Grades Differ Between Types of Wood

Once you select between hardwood and softwood lumber, you need to understand the different grades lumber can have. You should also know that softwood grades are different from hardwood grades

The first point about softwood grading is that the lumber is divided into two categories: dimensional lumber and appearance boards. Dimensional lumber is graded based on strength and appearance boards are the type of softwood that would most commonly be used for woodworking projects.

With appearance board, the grading is based on the number of imperfections on the surface. Grade A Select is the type of appearance board that has the least amount of knots, splits, and other blemishes at the surface. This kind of wood can be great for woodworking. At the other end of the scale, you have D select, which is the type of appearance board that has the most imperfections at the surface.

Hardwood grades are based on the number of defects in the board. At the top of the scale, you have firsts and seconds. After that, you have select and then common #1 and common #2. It is also important to note that different hardwoods can be graded based on different criteria. 

Be Aware of Lumber Defects in Woodworking Wood

The most common types of lumber defects include knots, cupping, splits, checks, and bowing. Knots are just the remnants of branch growth in the wood. With cupping, you have a board that is curved inward on the face, while splits and checks are different types of cracks in the lumber. Bowing refers to a piece of wood that is curved like a bow.

When it comes to woodworking wood, it is important to recognize the fact that a piece of lumber is not useless just because it has some defects. If the defects won’t be visible on the finished product, it isn’t much of a problem. If you just have defects at one end, they can easily be cut off. Even if a lengthwise side has defects, you could rip the wood with a tool like the BladeRunner X2 Portable Table Top Saw to salvage some of the board.

Is Plywood a Good Wood for Woodwork?

Plywood is a manufactured wood product that consists of thin sheets of wood pressed together. While it is not a fine woodworking wood, its strength can make it viable for some applications. Just like hardwoods and softwoods, plywood has its own unique grading system.

To start, you have different grades of plywood for exterior and interior use. Beyond interior and exterior plywood, you also have grades that rate the boards based on appearance. The rating system runs from A to D, with A being the plywood that offers the best appearance. You may also find some boards that have a grade like A-C, which means one side has a grade of A while the other side has a grade of C.

As another point, plywood may require different types of blades when cutting. You can use the same cordless circular saw you would on other boards, but you will need to change the blade. When cutting plywood, you generally want to use a blade with fine teeth and an increased tooth count. This design will help to prevent splintering when you cut through plywood.

This is just a guide to teach the basics of selecting woodworking wood. As you gain experience, there is a lot more you can learn when it comes to the different types of lumber that may come from different trees and how different kinds of woods may work well for different types of woodworking projects.


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