Hardwoods

Red Oak

Uses: Indoor furniture, trim, flooring, plywood and veneers

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight, wide grain pattern with larger pores. Tan to reddish pink in color. Quarter sawing reveals narrow medullary rays.

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits. Not prone to burning when machined. Drill pilot holes first for nails or screws.

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes well, but pores wall show through if painted unless they are filled

Price: Moderate

White Oak

Uses: Indoor and outdoor furniture, trim, flooring, plywood and veneers

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight, wide grain pattern, tan with yellow to cream tints. Quarter sawing reveals wide medullary rays. Naturally resistant to deterioration from UV sunlight, insects and moisture.

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits. Not prone to burning when machined. Drill pilot holes first for nails or screws.

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes like red oak, but narrower pores reduce the need for filling

Price: Moderate to expensive

Hard Maple

Uses: Indoor furniture, trim, flooring, butcher block countertops, instruments, plywood's and veneers

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight, wide grain with occasional bird’s eye or fiddle- back figure. Blonde heart wood.

Workability: Difficult to machine without carbide blades and bits. Dull blades wall leave bums.

Finishing: Takes clear finishes well, but staining may produce blotches

Price: Moderate to expensive, depending on figure

Cherry

Uses: Indoor furniture, cabinetry, carving, turning, plywood and veneers

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Fine grain pattern with smooth texture. Wood continues to darken as it ages and is exposed to sunlight.

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades but is more prone to machine bums

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes well

Price: Moderate

Walnut

Uses: Indoor furniture, cabinets, musical instruments, clocks, boat-building, carving

Sources: Eastern United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight, fine grain. Moderately heavy. Color ranges from dark brown to purple or black.

Workability: Cuts and drills easily with sharp tools without burning Finishing: Takes natural finishes beautifully

Price: Moderate

Birch

Uses: Kitchen utensils, toys, dowels, trim, plywood and veneers

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight grain with fine texture and tight pores.

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits. Good bending properties. Drill pilot holes first for nails or screws.

Finishing: Takes finishes well, but penetrating wood stains may produce blotching

Price: Inexpensive to moderate

Hickory

Uses: Sporting equipment, handles for striking tools, furniture, plywood and veneers

Sources: Southeastern United States

Characteristics: Straight to wavy grained with coarse texture. Excellent shock-resistance.

Workability: Bends well, but lumber hardness will dull steel blades and bits quickly. Resists machine burning.

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes well

Prices: Inexpensive where regionally available

Aspen

Uses: A secondary wood used for drawer boxes, cleats, runners and other hidden structural furniture components. Crafts.

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Indistinguishable, tight grain pattern

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits.

Finishing: Better suited for painting than staining. Tight grain provides smooth, paintable surface.

Price: Inexpensive

White Ash

Uses: Furniture, boat oars, baseball bats, handles for striking tools, pool cues, veneers

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight, wide grain pattern with coarse texture. Hard and dense with excellent shock-resistance.

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits. Drill pilot holes first for nails or screws. “Green” ash often used for steam bending.

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes well

Price: Inexpensive

Poplar

Uses: Secondary wood for furniture and cabinetry, similar to aspen. Carving, veneers and pulp for paper.

Sources: United States

Characteristics: Fine-textured with straight, wide grain pattern. Tan to gray or green in color.

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits. Not prone to burning when machined. Drill pilot holes first for nails or screws.

Finishing: Better suited for painting than staining. Tight grain provides smooth, paintable surface.

Price: Inexpensive 

Softwoods

White Pine

Uses: Indoor furniture, plywood, veneers and trim, construction lumber

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight grain with even texture and tight pores

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits. Not prone to burning when machined. Lower resin content than other pines, so cutting edges stay cleaner longer.

Finishing: Stains may blotch without using a stain controller first. Takes dear finishes and paints well.

Price: Inexpensive

Western Red Cedar

Uses: Outdoor furniture, exterior millwork, interior and exterior siding

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight, variable grain pattern with coarse texture. Lower density and fairly light-weight. Saw and sanding dust can be a respiratory irritant. Naturally resistant to deterioration from UV sunlight, insects and moisture.

Workability: Soft composition machines easily but end grain is prone to splintering and tear-out

Finishing: Takes stains and dear finishes well, but oils in wood can bleed through painted finishes unless primer is applied first

Price: Inexpensive to moderate where regionally available

Aromatic Cedar (Tennessee)

Uses: Naturally-occurring oils seem to repel moths, making this wood a common closet and chest lining. Also used for veneers and outdoor furniture.

Sources: Eastern United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight to wavy grain pattern with fine texture. Red to tan in color with dramatic streaks of yellow's and creams. Distinct aroma emitted when machined, and dust can be a respiratory irritant.

Workability: Machines similarly to western red cedar

Finishing: Takes stains and dear finishes well

Price: Inexpensive

Redwood

Uses: Outdoor furniture, decks and fences, siding

Source: West coast of United States

Characteristics: Straight, fine grain with few knots or blemishes. Relatively tight weight. Reddish brown with cream-colored sapwood. Naturally resistant to deterioration from UV sunlight, insects and moisture.

Workability: Machines and sands easily

Finishing: Takes stains and dear finishes well

Price: Moderate to expensive and not widely available in ail nominal dimensions

Cypress

Uses: Exterior siding and boat building. Interior and exterior trim, beams, flooring, cabinetry and paneling.

Source: Mississippi delta region of the United States

Characteristics: Straight, even grain pattern with low resin content. Naturally resistant to deterioration from UV sunlight, insects and moisture.

Workability: Machines and sands easily

Finishing: Takes stains and dear finishes well

Price: Inexpensive where regionally available

Exotic wood types

Padauk

Uses: Indoor furniture, cabinetry, flooring, turning, veneer

Source: West Africa

Characteristics: Coarse texture, straight interlocked grain

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits

Finishing: Takes stains and dear finishes well

Price: Moderate to expensive

Zebrawood

Uses: Turning, inlay, decorative veneers, furniture and cabinetry

Source: West Africa

Characteristics: Interlocked, light and dark variegated grain pattern

Workability: Somewhat difficult to machine. Use carbide blades and bits

Finishing: Can be difficult to stain evenly

Price: Expensive

Wenge

Uses: Inlay, turning, decorative veneers

Source: Equatorial Africa

Characteristics: Hard, dense straight grain with coarse texture. Heavy.

Workability: Dulls steel blades and bits quickly, so carbide cutters are recommended. Drill pilot holes for screws and nails.

Finishing: Pores should be filled before finish is applied

Price: Moderate

Honduras Mahagony

Uses: Indoor and outdoor furniture, veneers and trim, boat-building

Sources: Central and South America

Characteristics: Straight, interlocked fine grain. Dimensionally stable.

Workability: Machines well with carbide blades and bits

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes well

Price: Moderate

Purpleheart

Uses: Pool cues, decorative inlay, veneers, indoor and outdoor furniture.

Sources: Central and South America

Characteristics: Straight grain with coarse texture

Workability: Gum deposits in the wood make it difficult to machine; cutting edges dull quickly

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes well.

Price: Moderate

Teak

Uses: Boat-building, indoor and outdoor furniture, veneers, flooring

Sources: Southeast Asia, Africa, Caribbean

Characteristics: Straight grain with oily texture. Dense and hard.

Workability: High silica content will dull steel blades and bits quickly. Oily surfaces require cleaning with mineral spirits first or glue will not bond.

Finishing: Takes oil finishes well

Price: Expensive

Rosewood

Uses: Inlays, turning, veneers, cabinetry, furniture, musical instruments

Sources: Southern India

Characteristics: Interlocked grain with medium to coarse texture

Workability: Dense structure dulls cutting edges quickly

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes well

Price: Expensive