All Wood is Wood -- or is it???
Looking for that perfect gift for a loved one or even home décor items for yourself can be overwhelming, especially when it is related to items made from wood. When asked “What kind of wood would you like,” many people have no idea what the differences are. The main thing to consider is will a hard wood or soft wood work best? There are two other wood categories, exotic woods and manufactured woods, that can also be considered. Once you understand the characteristics of these woods it is easier to narrow down what you desire.
Hardwood is wood that comes from trees that lose their leaves every year. Hardwoods are denser and usually able to last longer and hold up against wear and tear. These woods often tend to be darker and more expensive than soft woods. Examples of hardwoods include oak, ash, cherry, maple, walnut, and poplar. The most common uses for hardwoods are higher end cutting boards, finely detailed carved pieces, fine décor items and higher end furniture pieces.
Softwood is wood produced from trees who keep their leaves year-round. Softwoods are less dense, lighter, and less expensive than their hardwood counterparts. Pine and cedar are two commonly used softwoods. Pine is great for construction. It’s also great for use in less expensive furniture pieces. Cedar panels are great for inexpensive craft items but tend to warp easily as changes in weather will cause twisting.
Exotic woods are imported woods that come mostly from tropical trees. Some of the most common used are wenge, purple heart, yellow heart, red heart, and various burls. They are most often used as strips in cutting boards, handles, gun stocks or inlays to projects. Depending on the rarity of the tree and the cost of importing, exotics typically are the most expensive woods. However, buyers can save money and still enjoy the beauty of exotics if used for small projects or as accents, strips or inlays. The finished product demonstrates the wood’s potential without breaking the bank.
Manufactured woods are woods that typically are created by molding many chips, pieces, or leftover sawdust together to create one board. Examples are MDF and plywood. MDF or medium density fiberboard is made by heating sawdust and glue together until it melts creating one board. It can range from tan to a medium brown. Plywood consists of thin layers of wood pressed together creating one thicker piece of wood. These manufactured woods tend to be some of the cheapest options. These types of woods work well for larger projects in areas that won’t be seen or in projects that are 100% painted.Understanding the different types of wood can help you determine what kind of wood you want used in that special custom-made piece. In addition, this information is helpful in understanding the price of an item. Remember, even if two items look similar, i.e. cutting boards, the actual value is in how the item was crafted and the material used to craft it. If in doubt, ask a wood expert. We here at The Riverside Woodshop are available to answer your questions, design and craft that special item, and do so at a fair cost.