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TIps & Tricks: Best Woods for Which Projects

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Forum topic by MsDebbieP posted 08-21-2011 02:32 PM 2899 views 2 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 3626 days


08-21-2011 02:32 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wood choice

Perhaps this has happened to you: you want to make a certain project, whether it is a piece of furniture or a carving or a sign for outdoors (for example); you build the project only to find out that all of your work is flawed/challenged/wasted/... due to the “wrong” type of wood used, whether it was because of your limited skills or the natural qualities of the wood or some other unforeseen factor.

 

So the question is: (based on your experience and research)

Are there “best woods” for “specific projects”?
(think: “first time” builds or “new woodworkers”. Let’s help make those first projects a success.)

1. Outdoor

2. Toys

3. Moist or humid environments

4. Difficult to machine

5. Difficult to stain

6. Not yellow glue friendly

7. Carvers’ favorites

 

”Other “Tips & Tricks””:http://lumberjocks.com/MsDebbieP/blog/24914

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)


17 replies so far

View miles125's profile

miles125

2180 posts in 3471 days


#1 posted 08-21-2011 03:11 PM

I once told an inquisitive 19 year old helper we couldn’t use Poplar on a project because it wouldn’t hold up outdoors. His comment was “What’s up with a tree that grows outdoors not being good for outdoors?”. I shut up at that point and conceded defeat. :)

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

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richgreer

4541 posts in 2540 days


#2 posted 08-21-2011 03:20 PM

I don’t think there is any easy answer to your question.

With experience you develop favorite woods for certain applications, but is your favorite wood the best wood? How do you define best wood?

Example – I like ipé for outdoor furniture. Is it the best? That’s a judgment call. It’s very weather resistant but it is also very hard and heavy and it dulls saw blades and drill bits quickly. It is also a little expensive, but not as expensive as teak.

I suggest that if you name a specific project on this board you will get many opinions about what wood different LJs would use for that project. Some LJs may claim that their choice is the best, but what they are really saying is this is the wood I like best for this project.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 3626 days


#3 posted 08-21-2011 03:39 PM

7. Carving: basswood is a great wood for carving – it’s easy to work with. I tried “pine” in my first efforts and that was horrible.
(hopefully someone can explain the “why” behind basswood vs pine)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2316 days


#4 posted 08-21-2011 04:10 PM

I agree with Rich about opinions, gee whiz, imagine LJs having them!

Debbie, if you had a chart with headings like this, would it be helpful?

Outdoor

Toys

Moist or humid environments

Difficult to machine

Difficult to stain

Not yellow glue friendly

Carvers’ favorites

What categories would you add?

Kindly,

Lee

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

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MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 3626 days


#5 posted 08-21-2011 04:18 PM

(question has been edited. Thanks for suggestions)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Keith Fenton's profile

Keith Fenton

325 posts in 2385 days


#6 posted 08-21-2011 05:02 PM

Here’s an article I wrote on popular North American hardwoods with regards to scroll saw projects. Some of the info is useful for other types of work as well.

http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com/articles/north-american-hardwoods

-- Scroll saw patterns @ http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com

View rance's profile

rance

4245 posts in 2626 days


#7 posted 08-21-2011 05:09 PM

Miles, apparently he was ‘bark’ing up the wrong tree.

Debbie, the winter vs. summer rings in some woods like basswood are very similar in density AND color. This makes them easier to carve. Pine, OTOH, has widely differing densities between the rings, and as a result, is difficult because the knife gets caught on the more dense rings.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View EPJartisan's profile

EPJartisan

1116 posts in 2590 days


#8 posted 08-21-2011 06:37 PM

I got lost on the “toys” for all the rest it is Ipe for me.. good in outdoor applications, holds up in humidity, machines like crap, doesn’t stain well, doesn’t take yellow glue well, and I love to carve it though it dulls tools very fast… Alas it weights a ton and would be very bad for kids toys. Oh well. :)

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2316 days


#9 posted 08-21-2011 07:31 PM

So the question is: (based on your experience and research)

Are there “best woods” for “specific projects”?
(think: “first time” builds or “new woodworkers”. Let’s help make those first projects a success.)
Here we go. copy, add, paste:

1. Outdoor: Cedar

2. Toys: Maple

3. Moist or humid environments: Teak

4. Difficult to machine: Rock Maple (planing and jointing)

5. Difficult to stain: Alder, Pine

6. Not yellow glue friendly: Teak, Osage orange

7. Carvers’ favorites: Basswood

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

9446 posts in 3517 days


#10 posted 08-21-2011 08:27 PM

I think Lee’s choices hit it pretty well…

Lee, thank you!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: http://www.WoodworkStuff.net ... My Small Gallery: http://www.ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?ppuser=1389&cat=500"

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Rustic

3220 posts in 3061 days


#11 posted 08-21-2011 08:42 PM

Basswood is preferred for carving because it is considered a hardwood, even though it is soft. It also hold detail pretty good. Pine is too soft and sappy. Butternut is very good for carving as well.

-- www.carvingandturningsbyrick.com, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View therookie's profile

therookie

887 posts in 2293 days


#12 posted 08-22-2011 03:51 AM

1. Outdoor- Cedar or pine or redwood

2. Toys- Maple or oak for durability

3. Moist or humid environments- Good question

4. Difficult to machine- Teak

5. Difficult to stain- Ash tends to splotch

6. Not yellow glue friendly- Teak again

7. Carvers’ favorites- Basswood and pine

Just my thoughts

-- http://aewoodworks.webs.com

View Roz's profile

Roz

1693 posts in 3252 days


#13 posted 08-22-2011 08:37 PM

My experience would lead me to answer as follows

1. Outdoor: Western Red Cedar, White Oak

2. Toys – Pine, Maple

3. Moist or Humid enviroments – Pressure Treated Pine

4. Difficult to machine – (I am a novice) Ash

5. Difficult to Stain – See Answer 6.

6. Not yellow Glue friendly – Mock Orange or Osage Orange

7. Carvers favorite – Black Tupelo (If you can find it.)

-- Terry Roswell, L.A. (Lower Alabama) "Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans."

View BobTheFish's profile

BobTheFish

361 posts in 2017 days


#14 posted 08-22-2011 09:43 PM

The best way to go about it is to look for woods with specific properties. Some woods actually hold up fairly well to certain projects that one might not consider them usable for.

For outdoor use, for example, cedar is a go to wood, but it’s pretty soft. Teak is another decent wood, but a bit stronger. Ipe is getting a lot of press these days for the ultimate outdoor wood.

What it is that makes these woods fairly good for this task, however, is that they all have a fairly resinous, oily wood, which insects dislike and at the same time have rot resistance due to properties of the grain.

In this regard, there’s plenty of exotics and tropical woods with fairly respectable properties that can suit one’s purpose.

#3 and #1 require much of the same properties, so I’d suggest the same woods.

Difficult to stain/glue? Those again are the woods with a highly oily/resinous properties again…

Toys, I’ve typically seen in maple. (and around here, rock maple specifically). Here the properties you’re looking for are low toxicity, pretty foodsafe, nonreactive woods. You want something with a fairly tight, splinter free, grain, and yet something fairly durable. Oak splinters rather nasty, pine is too soft, and I wouldn’t toy with too many of the tropicals, (too expensive for one, but god only knows what might react with what, or if a splinter or gnawing on the wood for an hour or two causes an allergic reaction, and if they warn woodworkers about its reactivity, I don’t really want a kid playing with the wood exposed… and it WILL break through the finish and be exposed..)

For machining, I believe everyone has their favorites and dislikes when it comes to what you work with. Maple, as mentioned, often has horror stories with it about planing and jointing, but oak SUCKS when it comes to fine detail turning. Generally lumping it together as machining isn’t helpful.

Carvers favorites… Well, I think someone already hit upon what makes basswood ideal, though other woods with those properties will also work..

I really wish there was something like a periodic table of woods for the woodworker. it would make selecting woods based on properties MUCH easier.

View Grumpy's profile

Grumpy

21564 posts in 3316 days


#15 posted 08-22-2011 11:39 PM

Aussie woods
1. Outdoor: Tallowood, Spotted Gum, Kwila

2. Toys: Radiata pine, Balsa, plywood

3. Moist or humid environments: Teak, Tallowood, Spotted Gum, Kwila

4. Difficult to machine: Iron Bark, Red gum, Gidgee

5. Difficult to stain: Take your pick

6. Not yellow glue friendly: Teak, Osage orange, Kwila, Gidgee

7. Carvers’ favorites: ???

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

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