Hardwood vs. Softwood

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Forum topic by JimmyJack posted 06-18-2010 08:58 PM 2017 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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28 posts in 3111 days

06-18-2010 08:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip

I have seen in a couple of comments made on projects where people are talking about using hardwood or softwood. As a beginner, I am not sure how to tell the difference between the two. Can someone please post an explaination of how to distinguish the two?

-- Jim -- Louisville, KY

15 replies so far

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3207 days

#1 posted 06-18-2010 09:03 PM

How about this?

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View JimmyJack's profile


28 posts in 3111 days

#2 posted 06-18-2010 09:08 PM

That should work…

-- Jim -- Louisville, KY

View Nomad62's profile


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#3 posted 06-18-2010 09:10 PM

That about sums thing up alright, but I’d disagree with #8.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

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28 posts in 3111 days

#4 posted 06-18-2010 09:20 PM

Anybody else want to argue over Poplar being hard or soft? lol

-- Jim -- Louisville, KY

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4330 days

#5 posted 06-18-2010 09:33 PM

The general meaning of these types of wood are:

Hardwoods are deciduous, have broad leaves that seasonally fall off.

Softwoods are coniferous, have needle leaves and are generally evergreens.

The designations have nothing to do with the relative hardness or softness of the woods.
Example, Southern Yellow Pine is a softwood but it is usually much harder than poplar, a hardwood.

-- 温故知新

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#6 posted 06-18-2010 09:56 PM

Hobomonk got it right , its a classification not a description

View JimmyJack's profile


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#7 posted 06-18-2010 10:11 PM

That helps too…thanks guys.

-- Jim -- Louisville, KY

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4330 days

#8 posted 06-19-2010 12:34 AM

A few examples:

Hardwoods include walnut, cherry, poplar, oak, maple.

Softwoods include spruce, fir, pine, cedar, redwood.

-- 温故知新

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3779 days

#9 posted 06-19-2010 12:46 AM

If I remember right balsa is categorized as a hardwood. showing hardwoods don’t have to be hard. Confusing isn’t it.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View JimmyJack's profile


28 posts in 3111 days

#10 posted 06-19-2010 06:16 AM

wow Jim…you can say that again.

-- Jim -- Louisville, KY

View WoodNuts's profile


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#11 posted 06-19-2010 06:34 AM

JJ, Check out this info…
Janka hardness test

-- ...there's a fix fer dat...

View Ken90712's profile


17594 posts in 3391 days

#12 posted 06-19-2010 10:24 AM

Good info for all.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View JJohnston's profile


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#13 posted 06-19-2010 04:39 PM

The chart in the link says hardwoods are found everywhere, while softwoods are found in the northern hemisphere. Are there no softwoods in the southern hemisphere?

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3271 days

#14 posted 06-26-2011 10:38 PM

The real kicker is that balsa is technically a hardwood.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3850 days

#15 posted 06-26-2011 10:59 PM

It is more challenging in some ways to do fine, detailed work
in softwoods. They tend to bruise easily, but some can be
hand planed to an exquisite surface.

A lot of beginners make crude things from soft pine: bunk beds
and coat-racks and things. Everything has to be a little beafier
in softwoods because they aren’t as strong as hardwoods in
narrow sections… so a coat hook made from pine has to be
pretty clunky compared to one made from oak, for example.

If you know what you’re doing and work carefully some really
nice work can be done in softwoods. You have to be very careful
to not drop your boards because they will dent. Softwoods
are favored for a lot of instrument building because in some
cuts they have a higher stiffness-to-weight ratio than hardwoods.

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