Identifying and understanding different types of wood can be confusing. Since there are over 200 types of wood in the world, it can be hard to know what properties and attributes make one type of wood different from another.
If you’ve wondered about whether or not a specific wood is a softwood or a hardwood, and what makes one type of wood a softwood or a hardwood—stay with us! This article will answer all your questions about the different types of softwoods and hardwoods used in carpentry.
Here’s a guide to the different types of hardwoods and softwoods we use in our projects:
What Are Softwoods and Hardwoods?
Softwoods are a type of wood that shrinks less than hardwoods and has a lower density than hardwoods. When wood dries, it shrinks in size. Softwoods, like pine and spruce, shrink less than hardwoods, like oak and mahogany. This is because the amount of resin in the wood is higher.
Resin is responsible for that sticky sap you find when you cut a pine tree, and it’s what makes softwoods sticky when cut. Because softwoods have more resin, they don’t dry out as quickly as other types of wood, making them less susceptible to shrinking.
Hardwoods are a type of wood that has a higher density than softwoods. Hardwoods, like oak and walnut, are heavier than softwoods, like pine and spruce. Hardwoods are also less porous than softwoods, meaning they hold less moisture in the wood. A higher density and lower porosity means hardwoods tend to be more durable and last longer than softwoods.
Hardwoods vs. Softwoods: Which Is Better for Woodworking?
Although softwoods are less prone to shrinking than hardwoods, they also aren’t as strong. Because they contain less resin than hardwoods, softwoods don’t have the same durability or longevity as hardwoods.
This is why hardwoods are usually used in more construction and furniture projects. Hardwoods are also more expensive than softwoods like pine and spruce, which is why they’re often used in high-end furniture and flooring.
Softwoods are used in more outdoor projects and as framing timbers in construction, since they’re less prone to shrinking than hardwoods. Although softwoods are generally less durable than hardwoods, certain types of softwoods, like cedar and redwood, are more durable than other types of softwoods.
Differences between hardwood and softwood
There are many differences between softwood and hardwood, but the two most significant are density and moisture retention. Hardwoods have a higher density than softwoods, so they are heavier and less prone to shrinking.
Hardwoods also retain less moisture in the wood than softwoods, making them more durable. While softwoods are less prone to shrinking than hardwoods, they also don’t retain as much moisture as hardwoods. This means softwoods are less durable than hardwoods and don’t last as long.
Wood types we use
There are many different types of wood in the world, but the different types of wood you’ll likely encounter while woodworking are softwoods and hardwoods.
There are many different types of softwoods and hardwoods, but the below are some of the most common types used in carpentry and are all woods we use in our projects in varying degrees:
American walnut is a hardwood that’s used for making furniture and cabinets. It’s a durable wood that can be easily sanded, stained, and finished. It has a dark, rich colour that looks great with dark tones in furniture, cabinets, and other home decor items.
This hardwood is sensitive to changes in humidity, so it’s not a great choice for outdoor furniture. It also doesn’t take stain well, so you may get blotchy wood when you stain it.
Olive wood is a type of hardwood that’s often used for making cutting boards and kitchen utensils. It’s a beautiful wood with a rich, dark brown colour that’s used in many high-quality kitchen items.
Olive wood is denser than other hardwoods, which makes it a great choice for cutting boards and kitchen utensils. It’s a sustainable wood that’s grown and harvested in the Mediterranean region.
Elm is a hardwood that has a wide range of uses in construction, furniture making, and cabinetry. It’s a naturally beautiful wood with a tight grain pattern and rich brown colour. Elm is also resistant to insects and rot, making it an excellent choice for outdoor furniture and structures.
Elm is a very stable wood that works well for furniture, cabinetry, and other woodworking projects. It’s beautiful but also easy to work with, making it a great wood for beginners. Because it’s such a stable wood, elm is also a good choice for wooden bowels for piano keys.
Lime is a softwood that’s used in construction, furniture making, and other woodworking projects. It’s a naturally white wood that’s often painted or stained to add colour to walls and other furniture items.
Lime is a softer wood that can be easily scratched, so it’s not a great choice for wooden bowls or other items that need to be durable. It’s also a bit more expensive than other softwoods.
Sycamore is a hardwood that’s often used in construction, furniture making, and other woodworking projects. It’s a naturally brown wood that can be stained, painted, or left uncoloured.
Sycamore is a common type of hardwood, making it relatively inexpensive. It’s a durable wood that can be used in many different ways, making it a popular wood for woodworking projects.
Yew is a hardwood that’s often used for making bows for archery. It’s a naturally dark brown wood that can be easily stained or painted to add colour to furniture, cabinets, and other woodworking projects.
Yew is a rare type of hardwood that’s difficult to find and can be expensive. It’s a naturally dark wood that may need to be stained to create a more visible colour. Yew is a durable wood that can be used in many different ways.
- Alder – A softwood that’s lightweight and easy to work with. Alder is a great choice for outdoor projects, like decking.
- Almond – A softwood that’s heavy and hard to work with. This type of wood is usually used for flooring and finishing furniture.
- Ash – A hardwood that’s easy to work with, but isn’t a good choice for outdoor projects. Ash is best for furniture, cabinets, and other indoor projects.
- Beech – A hardwood that’s easy to work with and a good choice for both indoor and outdoor projects.
- Cherry – A hardwood that’s heavy and can be difficult to work with. Cherry is best for furniture, cabinets, and other indoor projects.
- Maple – A hardwood that’s heavy and difficult to work with. Maple is best for furniture, cabinets, and other indoor projects.
- Oak – A hardwood that’s easy to work with and a good choice for both indoor and outdoor projects.
With so many types of wood available, it can be difficult to know what type of wood you should use for your next project.
Softwoods, like pine and spruce, are less dense than hardwoods and are better for outdoor projects. Hardwoods, like oak and walnut, are denser and are better for indoor projects and furniture.
Whether we choose a softwood or a hardwood depends on what kind of project we’re doing and whether or not we want the project to last longer.