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Choosing the Right Type of Wood for Your Job | Felipe Oliveira Engineering
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Choosing the Right Type of Wood for Your Job

When setting out on a DIY project there are a few main things you have to take into consideration. Firstly, you have to know your skill set. Don’t start a project knowing you don’t have the skills to finish it. If you don’t think you can do it, you’ll end up bringing in a tradesman and at more cost. Secondly, make sure you have the right tools for the job. This will just make your life a lot easier. Lastly, make sure you have the right materials. This is the focus of this blog.

Choosing the right type of wood

When choosing wood, you have to decide whether you need soft or hardwood and what type of grain you’re going to use, because this impacts on the look of your project.

Wood Grain

There are two types of wood grain; open and closed. Open grain wood has exposed pores and can sometimes need finishing with filler to make it even. Examples of open grain wood would be elm, oak and ash. Closed grain wood offers a smoother finish and is perfect if you don’t want to see the grain as much in the finished job. Examples of closed grain wood would be maple, cherry and birch. You can look at the difference between the pictures in the last section.

What is the difference between Hardwood and Softwood?

Hardwoods come from deciduous trees and softwoods come from conifers. The way trees grow mean that in most cases (not all) hardwood is of a higher density with tighter grain than softwoods. There are exceptions, however, Yew for example, which is a softwood, is harder and denser than a lot of hardwoods. On the other side of this, balsa is a hardwood but is less dense and easier to work with than almost all softwoods. Hardwoods take longer to grow, are typically more expensive and are less combustible.

Soft Woods

Cedar – Cedar is a medium softness wood with a straight grain pattern and usually has knots in it. It is a slightly red colour and is used for making birdhouse, models, fencepost and small craft items.

Pine –  Pine generally comes in softer and harder varieties and is yellowish in colour with a medium grain pattern. It is used in furniture, construction and is used to make wooden pallets and similar as well as being pulped for paper.

Alder – This slightly red tinted wood has a straight grain pattern and is used to make bodies for electric guitars made by Fender. It is easy to work with and is soft, so it can dent easily. It is excellent for glueing and staining, which is why it is used for sunburst guitar bodies.


Mahogany – This is a wood with tight grain and comes from rainforests. It has a reddish colour and is prized for being one of the hardwoods most receptive for working with tools with due it being less brittle than other hardwoods.

Maple – Maple is generally found in North America and is off-white to nearly red in colour with quite a wide grain pattern. It is prized by musical instrument makers for its grain patterns which can have a bird’s eye or burled appearance.

Oak – Oak is a very hard wood that ranges from nearly white to red hues. It is used in furniture making due to its strength and is also used to make whisky barrels.