The 10 Best Woods for Woodworking (According to a Pro)

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

  1. Which Wood is Best

    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.

     Storey Publishing

  2. Ash

    Ash Wood

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

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

    Price: $$


  3. Butternut

    Butternut Wood

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

    Uses: Carving, cabinets, turning, kitchen utensils

    Price: $$

    House Beautiful

  4. Cherry

    Cherry Wood

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

    Uses: Cabinets, architectural woodwork, furniture, pipes

    Price: $$$


  5. Hard Maple

    Maple Wood

    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

    Pine Woodworking

    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

    Walnut Wood

    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. Don't Miss!


    Clever project ideas and step-by-step tutorials delivered right to your inbox each and every Saturday morning—sign up today for the Weekend DIY Club newsletter!