Woodworking 101: Hardwood Lumber

Woodworking 101: Hardwood Lumber

The woodworking hobby is one that has been vastly popular for decades. With woodworking, having the proper set of woodworking tools can go a long way toward making projects easier and more productive. Understanding some hardwood basics will prove invaluable as you gain woodworking skills over time. We're not going to delve into specifics about wood cutting board kits, because if you're reading this post, it's likely you already know at least a little bit about them and want to brush up on wood basics in general.

There are many different types of trees scattered all over the world with many different types of wood in their trunks. We'll focus on wood that is commonly used in woodworking to keep things simple and straightforward, but feel free to do your own research into varieties you're interested in working with if you're looking for wood cutting board kits or other types of wood projects.

The best hardwood for woodworking

The type of wood typically used for woodworking is called hardwood, which refers to about 3,000 different species of trees worldwide. Popular hardwoods for woodworking include AshOakMapleWalnut and Cherry. There are also many exotic woods available for purchase including purpleheart wood and cocobolo wood. At Forest 2 Home, we specialize in domestic hardwood that comes from about a 100 mile radius from our facilities in the Northeastern region of the United States.

Ash hardwood tree growing in the Northeast

Ash hardwood tree

Two categories of hardwood

There are two main categories of hardwood: conifer wood and deciduous wood. Conifer wood, also called softwood, is a wood that produces cones instead of flowers in the spring. The wood from conifer trees tends to be lighter in color with a straight grain structure and is typically softer than hardwood.

Deciduous wood, also called hardwood, is a wood that has broad leaves in the spring rather than cones or needles like conifer wood does. This wood tends to be darker with visible grain striations. You'll find this wood used frequently for flooring, furniture making and various types of other home improvement projects including wooden cutting boards, DIY epoxy resin tables, coffee tables and more.

Factors to consider when buying hardwood

As you should already know, there are many different factors to consider when buying lumber, especially online. The overall condition of the wood will play a huge role in completing woodworking projects. You can also factor in cost, color and grain when choosing wood for woodworking projects.

Hardwood color 

There are a few different factors that contribute to wood color. Tree type, location where the tree was grown and wood preparation all play a role in how wood looks after it's cut and dried. The wood you choose for cutting boards or other wood home décor projects should complement your current décor in your kitchen or any other room if you're building custom wood furniture. 

You can alter the natural color of hardwood lumber by staining it. Learn more about wood finish types and techniques.

Types of wood grain

With hardwood, there are three primary types of grain: straight, flecked and curly. Straight grain is found in many different varieties including Cherry, see below image of Cherry grain, and Hard Maple lumber. These woods have very consistent growth lines running parallel with each board side to side.

Forest 2 Home Cherry hardwood showcasing straight grain

Cherry hardwood straight grain close up

Flecked grain typically include most Oak wood species along with some Sycamore and Beech wood varieties. The "flecky grain" comes from the manufacturing process, specifically the quartersawn and riftsawn processes. The standard definition that quartersawn and riftsawn lumber shares iis that the "ray fleck" must be obvious.

Curly wood grain is found in wood that has grown with undulating waves or ripples. There are many woods that have curly wood grain, including Curly Red Maple wood varieties, as you can see in the image below.

Forest 2 Home Curly Maple hardwood showing curly wood grain

Red Curly Maple hardwood grain

The best way to determine whether hardwood will be suitable for your woodworking projects at home really comes down to three questions:

  1. Is the wood able to be cut into your desired dimensions?
  2. How easy is it to work with?
  3. What condition is the wood in?

Answer those and you should be ready to move on to the next step, prepping your hardwood! As usual, happy woodworking!

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