Which Wood is Best
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.
Characteristics: White to light brown; soft; straight, coarse grain
Uses: Carving, cabinets, turning, kitchen utensils
Characteristics: Light to deep reddish brown; straight, interlocked grain; coarse texture
Uses: Fine furniture, office furniture, decorative veneers, stairways, boatbuilding, caskets, pattern making
Characteristics: Pale yellow to light brown; soft and lightweight; stains poorly; good workability
Uses: Construction lumber, millwork, window sashes, doors, musical instruments, cabinets, paneling
Characteristics: Chocolate brown to violet brown; amazing figure; heavy, hard, and dense (barely floats); oily; rare
Uses: Stringed instruments, turning, fine furniture, decorative items
Characteristics: Light gray-brown to purplish brown; highly figured grain, burls, and crotches; polishes well; strong and stable
Uses: Furniture, carving, gunstocks, cabinets
White and 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)
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