Whether you prefer hand or power tools, there’s one thing that all woodworkers share in common: the material they work with. The choice of wood is arguably the most important factor in the appearance of any project, which is why most people spend lots of time and money looking for the right material. If you’re not sure of what to use for your own project, it would help to know what types of wood you could use to make DIY furniture.
Which Wood for Your Project?
The right wood to choose for your project will depend entirely on what you’re building. Some projects require a mix of both softwoods and hardwoods. In such cases, it’s important to get the right combination of hard/soft wood, as well as open/closed grain wood. You can take some time to figure out what kind of wood you’ll use for different parts of the object(s) you’re making.
Common Softwood Varieties
Softwood lumber is usually derived from coniferous trees. Because these tend to grow quickly, softwoods are usually less expensive when compared to hardwoods. Most woodworkers enjoy using softwood, due to its ease of cutting, defined shape, weather resistance and abundance. For your DIY project, softwoods will be a much more economical option when compared to hardwoods.
Cedar presents a great option for outdoor projects, mainly because it can tolerate moist environments without rotting. Western red cedar is not only the most commonly used variety but also the most recognizable as well. This is mainly due to its straight grain, soft texture and slightly aromatic smell. This wood type is moderately priced and can be found at most home outlets.
Pine comes in several varieties, all of which are great for furniture. Because they’re relatively soft, these pine varieties will easily lend themselves to carving and shaping. This wood type is also one of the most affordable choices for DIY woodworking projects.
That said, pine is quite susceptible to scratches and dings. It may thus not be the best choice for certain kinds of furniture. And while pine can be purchased from most home centers, it’s often of a lesser grade than what’s offered at decent lumberyards.
While fir is widely used for building, it’s relative affordability means it can also be used for furniture making as well. Fir has a straight, well-defined grain pattern, and a reddish-brown tint. And for a softwood, fir is also quite strong and hard, attributes which definitely add to its benefits. Still, it’s mundane grain pattern means fir is best used for products that will be painted when finished.
As the name suggests, this wood type has a reddish tint, as well as a soft texture and straight grain. Like cedar, it’s mostly used for outdoor projects, partly due to the fact that it’s easy to work with, and partly due to its resistance to moisture. Redwood is widely available at most home centers and tends to be priced moderately.
As you can probably gather from the name, hardwood lumber tends to be harder than most softwood varieties. Due to their variety of colors, grain patterns and textures, hardwoods are widely used in fine wood projects, cabinetry, and flooring. You might also prefer them for your project if you want something with even staining ability and resistance to breaking as well. That said, some of the more exotic hardwood species are quite pricey, and will only be used for accents by most woodworkers.
This is available in yellow and white varieties, both of which score quite high on the hardness scale. While birch is more available and cheaper than other hardwoods, it’s still lovely enough to be used in making fine objects. It’s also stable and easy to work with, albeit harder to stain. For this reason, you might want to paint objects you make using birch to prevent them from getting blotchy.
As a common choice for DIY furniture, maple is well-known for its durability and strength. It’s also available in 2 varieties, namely soft and hard. While the former is relatively easy to work with, the latter is so hard that most beginners will likely find it an unwelcome challenge. Still, both varieties tend to be more stable than other lumber types (which is due to their fine, straight grain with distinct swirls), and less expensive as well. You might also prefer maple because it resists moisture very well. Although you won’t find maple in most stores, your local lumberyard will likely have a good selection in stock.
For seasoned woodworkers, choosing the right lumber for a project is basically second nature. For most hobbyists, however, it takes a bit of research. If you’re trying to compare different wood types for your next project, you could contact an expert for advice on the various options available.