Wood selections

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Forum topic by BB1 posted 03-08-2016 12:26 PM 918 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1120 posts in 815 days

03-08-2016 12:26 PM

Looking at the projects, I am in awe of the wide variety of wood used. What are your favorite types of wood to use for your projects (and why)? I have found my greatest pleasure in small projects is using wood that has special meaning. For example some walnut given to me by a friend that was from a tree on his century farm. Also really like myrtlewood that we bought when vacationing in Oregon (thankful for my understanding husband who let me load 5 boards under the bed in our RV for the drive back to Missouri). Anyway, appreciate any comments. I’m on spring break this week but still looking to learn!

9 replies so far

View knotscott's profile


7980 posts in 3342 days

#1 posted 03-08-2016 12:34 PM

My favorite is usually whatever new wood I’m working with for the first time, but overall, I’d have to say that red elm is one that has really kept my attention. I marvel over the grain every time I see it. It’s not the easiest stuff to work with, but has some spectacular grain patterns.

Wood that has been given to me is always fun to return to the giver in the form of a nice keepsake piece, or use for some other family heirloom. Using combinations of wood can be fun too. I really like the contrast of padauk and maple.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View MalcolmLaurel's profile


298 posts in 1590 days

#2 posted 03-08-2016 02:05 PM

I like mountain laurel for the twisty shape of the branches. I also like reclaimed American chestnut; the color can be gorgeous under a few coats of shellac, and I have a lot of scraps left over from my cabin renovation.

-- Malcolm Laurel -

View ste6168's profile


255 posts in 1138 days

#3 posted 03-09-2016 08:28 PM

Man, that Red Elm is some beautiful stuff! At this time, Sapele is my favorite wood. I just really like how once finished it gives off the holographic look.

View MadMark's profile


979 posts in 1420 days

#4 posted 03-09-2016 09:21 PM

My favorite wood is jatoba aka Brazillian Cherry. Its very hard & dense but machines wonderfully with carbide tools. It has an orangish hue when fresh cut that will rapidly darken to a burgundy / mahogany. The grain is deep and shimmers & changes color as you walk by it.

Due to its hardness jatoba can be shaped ornately with little chance of blowout or ‘softness’ in the profile. It is a bit stringy so you want to use a backer board when cutting rail ends.

It’s a sustainable tree in S. America that commonly grows clear runs of 50’ or more.

It is often used for decking and flooring and locally here (Tampa, Florida) for about $8/bf vs $6/bf for oak.

Three new cabinets waiting on hardware:

Jatoba drawer fronts are sequenced from 1 board:


-- Madmark -

View runswithscissors's profile


2725 posts in 1992 days

#5 posted 03-09-2016 11:15 PM

About 2 1/2 or 3 years ago I took down a beech in my yard, used a chainsaw mill to make slabs about 5’ long (that’s all the trunk would yield), stickered and air dried, then jointed, re sawed, and planed. Out of these slabs I made a coffee table, all the solid parts for a big toy chest for my grandson, and a pair of bookcases. I had to buy beech (not an easy wood to find in the PNW) for the uprights on the bookcases, as mine wasn’t long enough. The shelves attach via pegged or wedged tenons in through mortises, which means it can easily be taken apart for moving if necessary.

I found the beech to be of medium hardness, quite heavy and dense, and easy to joint and plane. In fact, the planed boards required very little sanding. It machines well with carbide tools, and seems to be quite stable after machining.

The color is a sort of honey tan, and the grain is usually not very exciting, except where the grain gets wonky. The bookcase parts are not all the same color, as the pieces I had to buy had been treated (with steam, maybe?) which made them look more like cherry. So you might call the wood colors as sort of a pinto rather than a palamino. But I can live with it.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

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2725 posts in 1992 days

#6 posted 03-09-2016 11:19 PM

Sorry, double post.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View BB1's profile


1120 posts in 815 days

#7 posted 03-10-2016 03:20 AM

Great projects. Thanks for posting. I love the stories behind the projects – and that starts with the wood selection. I was given a piece of fiddleback myrtlewood and was able to incorporate it into a special project for a friend. The depth of the wood was so beautiful. Another fun piece was curly maple I couldn’t pass by at the local hardwood source. Really interesting to see how the grain popped.

Another question…when selecting wood, what is easiest to cut/joint vs. more difficult or challinging. For example, I grabbed some purple heart only to discover how hard it is to cut with the tools I have. In contrast poplar is really forgiving.

View JBrow's profile


1348 posts in 887 days

#8 posted 03-10-2016 04:27 AM


I start with how I want the finished project to look. I do not use stains, so I select a wood that has a pleasing appearance under clear coat finishes. But the wood selection is mostly left to the wife, who is my client. I recently convinced her that the breakfast bar top in the kitchen should be wood. I knew she wanted to avoid a wood that dented easily. She said it had to look nice and compliment walnut cabinetry.

I looked through the “Wood Database” for woods that had a high Janka hardness value and showed her each wood from the “Wood Database” photos. We then went to the lumber yard and looked at different species. Any wood she liked I dampened it with water (with permission from the lumber dealer) so she could judge its final appearance.

The “Wood Database” is online and lists a very large number of woods and their properties. Among the many properties listed beside hardness (how hard to cut) is its workability. It is a great resource when it comes to selecting wood for projects.

Mostly though, I use the wood I happen to have. When I run out, the wife will be back to work telling me what wood to use.

View BB1's profile


1120 posts in 815 days

#9 posted 03-10-2016 05:16 AM

JBrow thank you for that link…will have to check that out! I am like you in that I like a clear finish. Have stained a few of my projects when trying to match other items and found it a bit stressful (how would it turn out, would it blotch).

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