DIY Tools

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.

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Which Wood is Best

 Storey Publishing

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

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

Price: $$


House Beautiful

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

Uses: Carving, cabinets, turning, kitchen utensils

Price: $$



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

Uses: Cabinets, architectural woodwork, furniture, pipes

Price: $$$

Hard Maple

DeVos Custom Woodworking

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

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

Price: $$


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

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

Price: $$$


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: $


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: $$$$


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

Uses: Outdoor furniture, boat decks, flooring

Price: $$$


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

Uses: Furniture, carving, gunstocks, cabinets

Price: $$$

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)

Price: $$