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By Ed Snider

There are more than 5,000 species of commercial wood available in the worldwide market. The number is great for each continent has different species of trees indigenous to them. However, generally speaking there are only two types of wood: hardwood and softwood.

Hardwood and softwood do not necessarily mean that the wood is either ‘hard’ or ‘soft’. Hardwood comes from deciduous trees or angiosperms. These are trees whose seeds have covers and they shed their leaves annually. Some common examples of hardwoods are: maple, oaks, mahogany, ebony, birch, cherry, holly, balsa, beech and more. Balsa wood is a type of hardwood but it is one of the softest woods around.

Softwood are those that come from trees that are conifers or gymnosperms. These cone-bearing trees have seeds that are uncovered and fall from the tree to the ground. Some common examples are: fir, pine, cedar, redwood, hemlock and spruce. Redwood is softwood and it is a fact that it is one of the hardest woods.

Both types of wood are used in home construction and in the manufacture of furniture. Here are some common wood descriptions and their uses.

Hardwood Variety

Walnut – is fine-textured and strong. It resists shrinking and warping and best used for cabinetry, gunstocks, furniture and wall paneling.


Mahogany- reddish-brown and fine grained. It resists shrinking, swelling and warping and best used for cabinetry and boat construction.

Maple – strong, hard and fine textured. This wood is best used for fine furniture and flooring.

Oak – strong yet bendable. It resists absorption of moisture and best used for furniture, desk, boat framing and flooring, furniture, veneers and tool handles.

Rosewood – dark reddish-brown and very hard. It is closely grained and is quite hard to work on. Usually used for musical instruments.

Cherry- closely grained thus is not prone to warping and shrinking. Ages well and best used for cabinetry, furniture, boat trims and novelty items.

Softwood Variety

Cedar – reddish with a sweet fragrance. It has a uniform texture that is easy to work on. This wood is best used for constructing chests and other cabinets, roof shingles, dock planks and posts.

Pine- has very uniform texture that is easy to work on. It is not susceptible to warping and swelling and is best used for house construction, furniture, paneling, boxes and molding.

Fir – has very low resistance to decay but has uniform texture. Best used for doors, furniture, frames, windows, veneer, plywood and trims.

Hemlock- is lightweight and uniformly textured. Best used for planks, boards, paneling, crates, sub-flooring and construction lumber.

Spruce – is very hard and strong. It decays easily so that wood protection is needed to prevent dry or wet rot. It is lightweight and shrinks moderately. Usually used for spars and masts for ships, crates, boxes, ladders and general millwork.

Man-made boards come in different types too. Foremost is the plywood which is made of thin layers of wood that are glued together. Then there are the chipboard and MDF (medium density fiberboard) which are made of wood chips and dust particles glued together to make a board. Lastly, there are the laminated board and blockboard made of wood strips that are glued together.

About the Author: There are two basic types of


that you can use in house construction and furniture making. Know where to source the best

timber merchants

in your locality.


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