10 Great Woods for Woodworking

Woodworking pro, Spike Carlsen, shares his pick for the top ten best woodworking woods, along with the characteristics, best uses and cost for each.

Expanded View >
  1. Which Wood is Best

    Cover shot

    For a seasoned woodworker, like Spike Carlsen, former executive editor of Family Handyman and author of “Woodwoorking FAQ: The Workshop Companion,” choosing the right wood for the right job is second-nature. For the rest of us, it involves a bit of research. If you are tackling a project—and in doubt, read on to find out Carlsen's top 10 picks for the best woodworking woods.

     Storey Publishing

  2. Ash


    Characteristics: Gray-brown; straight, pronounced grain; coarse texture; heavy and strong

    Uses: Bats, hockey sticks, tool handles, furniture, curved boat parts

    Price: $$


  3. Butternut


    Characteristics: White to light brown; soft; straight, coarse grain

    Uses: Carving, cabinets, turning, kitchen utensils

    Price: $$

    House Beautiful

  4. Cherry


    Characteristics: Light to dark, reddish brown; straight, faint grain; moderately hard; finishes well

    Uses: Cabinets, architectural woodwork, furniture, pipes

    Price: $$$


  5. Hard Maple

    Maple butcher block island countertop devoswoodworking

    Characteristics: Light, reddish brown; straight, faint grain; moderately hard; finishes well

    Uses: Furniture, cabinets, flooring, butcher blocks, baseball bats, piano actions

    Price: $$

    DeVos Custom Woodworking

  6. Mahogany


    Characteristics: Light to deep reddish brown; straight, interlocked grain; coarse texture

    Uses: Fine furniture, office furniture, decorative veneers, stairways, boatbuilding, caskets, pattern making

    Price: $$$


  7. Pine


    Characteristics: Pale yellow to light brown; soft and lightweight; stains poorly; good workability

    Uses: Construction lumber, millwork, window sashes, doors, musical instruments, cabinets, paneling

    Price: $


  8. Rosewood


    Characteristics: Chocolate brown to violet brown; amazing figure; heavy, hard, and dense (barely floats); oily; rare

    Uses: Stringed instruments, turning, fine furniture, decorative items

    Price: $$$$


  9. Teak


    Characteristics: Golden brown; resists rot and moisture; oily; abrasive on tool edges; sawdust is an irritant

    Uses: Outdoor furniture, boat decks, flooring

    Price: $$$


  10. Walnut


    Characteristics: Light gray-brown to purplish brown; highly figured grain, burls, and crotches; polishes well; strong and stable

    Uses: Furniture, carving, gunstocks, cabinets

    Price: $$$


  11. White and Red Oak

    Red oak

    Characteristics: Reddish brown to tan; strong grain figure; hard and heavy; stains well

    Uses: Cabinets, flooring, furniture; cooperage and boatbuilding (white oak only)

    Price: $$


  12. For More...


    If you are interested in more about woodworking, consider:

    Choosing Essential Tools for Woodworking

    5 Easy Woodworking Projects for Beginners

    Planning Your Woodworking Shop

    Fine Woodworking