There is a wide range of wood that can be used by the woodworker. Essentially there are three categories that the different types of wood fall into, hardwoods, softwoods and man-made woods.
Nature has produced thousands of natural woods (these are the softwoods and hardwoods), however, there are only between 60 to 80 that are actually used by the woodworker. Of the manufactured woods (man-made woods) there are only a half a dozen that are commonly used by the woodworker.
The texture you are after, how much you have budgeted, the availability of different types of wood and the project you are building will determine which type of wood you purchase. As there is such a variety of woods available you will always find the type of wood that you are looking for. The different types of timber, softwoods, hardwoods and man-made woods are described below:
Hardwoods – Hardwoods come in a wide range of textures and colors and as such are the preferred timber used by furniture makers. Due to the large variety of hardwoods available it is not possible to list them all in this article, however, a few of the most popular are:
Beech – Beech has properties such as being hard, strong and light and this makes it popular among woodworkers. Beech is easy to work with and has a whitish color and a fine texture. The timber is also able to bend very well and glue easily.
Oak – There are a few varieties of oak with the European variety generally being yellow in color and the American variety being a pink to reddish color. Oak is a sturdy and durable wood that has pronounced pores and is used for larger pieces of furniture such as cabinets and lounges.
Mahogany – Mahogany is a timber that has a distinctive coarse to medium grain and reddish-brown color. As the timber is extremely popular in furniture making it does tend to be hard to find and expensive.
Softwoods – Softwoods come from young trees that only tend to be 20 to 25 years old. Some of the popular softwoods are listed below:
Pine – Due to the large variety of species of pine found around the world most regions will have at least one species. Pine comes in a creamy yellow or clean white color and is inexpensive, easy to use and in plentiful supply. Pine is straight grained with a fine to medium texture and is known to be knotty.
Cedar – Cedar is well known for its aromatic fragrance and also known as a fine textured, straight grained timber with a honey color. The most well know variety of cedar is the Cedar of Lebanon and is generally used in cabinet making.
Man-made Woods – There are many timbers that have become rarer and more expensive and as a result we have become more reliant on man-made woods. Man-made woods have the advantage of being cheaper, more durable and more available than natural woods. There a few different types of man-made woods on the market, including:
Plywood – Plywood is available in a range of shapes, sizes and thickness and is known for its high strength-to-weight ratio. Plywood is made of sheets of wood laminated together with their grains being at right angles.
MDF – MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) is made by fixing tiny particles together with a tough resin. MDF is a very dense wood and is available in various sizes, shapes and thickness.