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For a beginner starting in woodworking, choosing the right type of wood can be extremely overwhelming. Choosing the right wood depends on your specific needs and what type of woodworking projects you plan to make. Things to consider when choosing a type of wood for woodworking might include moisture level, density, stability, how well the wood will take stain, appearance, etc.
Let’s start off with softwood for woodworking. Softwood is not very dense, making it very easy to work with. You might want to use softwood on bigger projects as it will save you some time. However, because softwood isn’t very dense, it can be susceptible to warping, scratches, dents, etc. If you decide to purchase some softwood boards, make sure your wood isn’t warped or damaged, as this is fairly common for soft woods such as pine. Pine is the most popular softwood because of how easy it is to use. It also has that beautiful natural look that a lot of people like to leave unfinished. Personally, I don’t use softwood for woodworking very often, but it is cheap and easy to work with making it a great wood for beginners to experiment with.
• Easy to work with
• Not suitable for furniture
• High sap content
• Susceptible to dents
→ Most Common Projects: Sheds, Cabinets, Outdoor
Hardwood for woodworking is a little more difficult to work with, but a very popular choice among woodworkers. You have hundreds of different types of hardwoods, but the most popular include oak, mahogany, and walnut. They have many exotic hardwoods that have beautiful and unique grain patterns, but these can be costly, and you don’t really need to consider purchasing these as a beginner. Hardwood is almost always left natural and it’s very rare to stain. The biggest downfall to hardwood is it can be a little pricey for woodworking. My wife loves Becote wood and I spent a pretty penny making our couch out of it. It has a beautiful pattern and because it’s so durable, it will last hundreds of years. If you’re a beginner and decide to use hardwood on your woodworking projects, I recommend buying oak from your local home depot or hardware store. If you want to buy exotic woods, you might have to look online, as hardware stores typically don’t have a wide selection.
• Many different designs
• Lasts hundreds of years
• Lots of sanding
• Difficult to work with
→ Most Common Projects: Tables, Beds, Dressers, Furniture.
Plywood is also a great choice for woodworking amateurs. Plywood has a lot of stability due to the manufacturing process it goes through. Basically, it is made up of many different wood sheets glued together. It’s very versatile because you can buy plywood that is made of hardwood or softwood sheets, so you can buy whatever type suits the woodworking project you’re tackling.
Plywood is great if you’re making outdoor woodworking projects. It can be a little confusing if you go to the store looking for plywood, because there are so many different types of thicknesses and qualities. However, I would recommend looking for ¾” plywood. Also, be sure to check every edge when buying plywood, as some layers can have holes and damage. Plywood is a great alternative to hardwood and softwood because it’s cheap but it can still have the strength and durability that hardwood has. If you’re planning on building something large and you want something that will last, plywood is a great option. A lot of people don’t like how the edges of plywood look, but I think the layers have a cool design element. However, there are several ways to get around the layered-look of the edges such as edge banding.
• Beginner friendly
• Lots of options to suit needs
• Unattractive edges
• Can be annoying to work with
→ Most Common Projects: Shelving, Cabinets, just about anything depending on the type of plywood you buy
Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)
Medium Density Fiberboard, aka MDF, is a great wood for beginners of woodworking to play around with. It’s actually a combination of hardwood and softwood, giving you the best of both worlds. It’s more dense than softwood and plywood, but not quite as dense as hardwood. Despite being fairly dense like hardwood, it’s easy to drill into, it cuts easy, and it’s super cheap. It’s also relatively durable but can be susceptible to warping over time depending on the size of your project. I recommend getting MDF for projects such as storage cabinets, decorative pieces, or smaller pieces of furniture. If you go to your local home depot, be sure to bring a friend because MDF is extremely heavy.
• Beginner friendly
• Long lasting
• Lack of moisture resistance
• Susceptible to warping
→ Most Common Projects: Cabinets, Furniture, Flooring, Interior.
As you can tell, there’s plenty of different types of wood out there to choose from. However, the most important thing is knowing a little bit of information about the few various categories. For a beginner woodworker, I would recommend buying some MDF or plywood to practice. These are cheaper, easier to work with, and will help you build a foundation before tackling projects with more expensive woods. Before you know it, you’ll be building awesome woodworking projects with exotic hardwoods. If you need information about finding inexpensive or cheap wood, be sure to check out our next woodworking article Get Free Lumber for Woodworking!