How to choose the right wood for your project
Woodworking is a great way to relieve stress and spend your time productively; however, many beginners would be mistaken for assuming that all wood types are the same. Whether you’ve been woodworking for several years or you’re new to the trade, it can still feel overwhelming having to choose the right wood for your specific project.
Defining your woodworking project
It’s crucial to define your woodworking project before you set out to buy supplies. The nature of the object you’re building will determine what qualities you’ll need to look for in a wood.
Questions to ask yourself include:
- Will my project be exposed to direct sunlight?
- Does my project need to be durable?
- How do I want the finished product to look?
- Is my project going to be a usable, practical item or just for decorative purposes?
- Is the finished product likely to get scratched/damaged?
Now that you’ve established the project you’re going to work on – it’s important to take into consideration the following factors before choosing your wood type…
A crucial place to begin when selecting the best wood type for your project is whether or not the wood is closed grain or open grain. Each grain gives a very different aesthetic result – and will be affected by stains and varnishes differently.
Open grain wood includes visibly larger pores, which you’ll find often gives your project a rustic or rugged appearance. The pores on open grain wood can be seen from afar and usually form a distinctive pattern, with a textured appearance. For many home decor projects, this is a desirable result that can give a piece character. It is important to note that open-grain wood often requires a pore-filler in order to apply a stain evenly, due to its rough and uneven surface.
- Rustic, aesthetic appearance
- Textured wood
- Unique and distinct grain patterns
- May require pore-filler before varnishing
- Requires more layers of paint
- Rough and uneven finish
Popular wood types with open grain include: pine, elm, oak, ash, and cypress.
Meanwhile, closed-grain wood has very narrow pores that are not typically visible to the naked eye. The result of using closed grain is that your finished project will have a much smoother appearance, and won’t take as much prep time if you choose to stain it.
- Smoother appearance
- Requires fewer layers of paint and varnish
- Finished projects tend to look less unique
- Some closed-grain woods can cause blotchy finishes
Popular wood types with closed grain include: pine, cherry, walnut and maple
Another important characteristic to consider when choosing the right wood for your project is the density of your wood. Wood is typically classed as either hardwood or softwood.
Hardwood comes from deciduous trees, which lose their leaves annually. They typically offer superior levels of strength and durability and are often reserved for projects that require maximum resistance or that will get a lot of use. For example: bespoke joinery projects, wooden flooring and crafting furniture.
- Superior durability
- Scratches and dents are easily fixed
- More fire resistant
- Denser and more difficult to work with
- Less sustainable
- Requires special equipment (chainsaw or blade)
Popular hardwood types: beech, maple, oak and cherry
Meanwhile, softwood comes from ever-green conifer trees, such as pine, cedar and redwood trees. It is typically easier to source than hardwood and is, therefore, usually cheaper to get ahold of. Softwood gives a more seamless finish to woodworking projects, and is easier to manipulate and adapt. Additionally, softwood is a more sustainable choice than hardwood, as conifer trees grow much more easily.
- More sustainable
- Lighter in weight
- Easier to work with
- Less fire resistant
- Less weather resistance
- Weaker and less durable
Popular softwood types: pine, cedar and redwood
Furthermore, another factor to consider when choosing your wood type is how much sun exposure your finished product is likely to get. It is a well-known fact that UV light exposure can deteriorate or alter the colour of wood, due to its photosensitive nature. It is worth considering the scope of your project and what the final project will be used for when considering which wood to choose.
Examples of wood that will darken when exposed to sunlight:
To conclude, there are a number of factors to weigh up when choosing the right wood type for your woodworking project – however, the process doesn’t have to feel too overwhelming.
Here at VWM, we’ve been selling, manufacturing, installing and servicing woodworking machinery for over 40 years. If you’re considering investing into CNC or woodworking machinery for an upcoming project or business, get in touch with one of our experts here or ring us on 01282 870077.
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