Janka scale, wood hardness

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Forum topic by dakremer posted 01-03-2010 05:42 AM 2661 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2672 posts in 3089 days

01-03-2010 05:42 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip

So I work at Menards, and work with a lot of lumber.. people ask me questions all the time, and would like to give them some answers (and would also like to know for my own knowledge)!!! – I’m new to woodworking, and have a few questions if anyone would care to respond to some, or all…. I looked up the Janka scale online, and seems like every chart I find is different!! so here are my questions….

1. Out of the common lumbers you can buy at hardware stores (Menards, Lowes, Home Depot, etc, etc), how would you list them on a scale of softest to hardest???? (like…pine, cedar, oak, mahogany, birch, maple, walnut, aspen, cherry, etc, etc).

2. Which of these are porous woods?

3. Which of these woods needs to be sealed before staining so you don’t get blotchiness?

Haha, I’m sure there are TONS more questions – but these are what have been on my mind. The reason I ask is because I’m new to woodworking, and just made a humidor for my brother for a present (it was my first project ever). I made it out of “select” pine and some aspen – I wanted a glassy/glossy look to it (really modern) so used a spray lacquer with some wax as a final coat – needless to say, it didn’t turn out glassy…or glossy… I guess practice makes perfect – so cannot be too disappointed in my FIRST project…..Thanks for your help in advance!!

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

4 replies so far

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3872 days

#1 posted 01-03-2010 06:14 AM

You really should check out THIS book:

From soft to hard (off the top of my head… someone can correct me if I’m wrong)

  • Pine (softwood, closed pores, very blotchy if not treated first)
  • Cedar (softwood, closed pores, can be blotchy if not sealed)
  • Mahogany (hardwood, open pores, finishes evenly, fairly easy to work with for hardwood)
  • Cherry (hardwood, closed pores, can be very blotchy sometimes, easy to work)
  • Walnut (hardwood, open pores, finishes evenly, works nicely but moderately hard)
  • Oak (hardwood, large open pores, finishes evenly but with contrast between earlywood/latewood, pretty hard stuff)
  • Birch (hardwood, closed pores, finishes nicely, very hard)
  • Maple (hardwood, closed pores, finishes nicely, “hard maple” is extremely hard, “soft maple” is easier to work)

I’ve never worked with aspen, our local stores and lumberyards don’t carry it.

-- Happy woodworking!

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#2 posted 01-03-2010 06:15 AM

Here’s a post that covered the subject really well

and another great wood site that has thousands of wood photos and tons of info

As far as blochiness check out charles Neils web site or ask him questions about finishing.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3393 days

#3 posted 01-03-2010 03:56 PM

Here’s one reason the Janka charts seem to be different. I copied this from the wikipedia page on the subject.

[quote]The hardness of wood usually varies with the direction of the wood grain. If testing is done on the surface of a plank, perpendicular to the grain, the test is said to be of “side hardness.” Testing the cut surface of a stump would be called a test of “end hardness.”

The results are stated in various ways, which can lead to confusion, especially when the name of the actual units employed is often not attached. In the United States, the measurement is in pounds-force (lbf). In Sweden it is in kilograms-force (kgf), and in Australia, either in newtons (N) or kilonewtons (kN). Sometimes the results are treated as units, e.g., “660 Janka”.

To convert the United States pound-force (lbf) units to newtons N multiply pound-force by 0.453 592 37 then multiply by 9.80665 (1 standard g in units of m/s2). Janka hardness N = (lbf x 0.453 592 37) x 9.80665 OR multiply by 4.44822161526. To get lbf from N, multiply N by 0.224808943099736.


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3720 days

#4 posted 01-03-2010 09:13 PM

I have also noticed the discrepancy of the Janka Scale ratings posted online and suspect that the original sources have been copied and pilfered without much accuracy. I have also found that woods of different sub-species grown in various areas and even different parts of the same tree can have different densities, such as the crotch or other figured area of wood, so it’s not that easy to determine the hardness of each wood, although the Janka Scale can give a good idea of how hard the wood(s) you are working with can be.

You need to cross referrence between the written and the hands-on resources to determine what is the best wood to work with. The application and design are also to be considered, not to mention talking to a craftsman who has first hand knowledge can’t hurt either. Your local lumberyard or sawyer who actually knows his stock (not a paid-per-hour employee who doesn’t have a history with lumber) would be a good source of knowledge.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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