Favorite wood to work with?

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Forum topic by Remedyman posted 06-10-2012 05:05 AM 1905 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Remedyman's profile


47 posts in 2196 days

06-10-2012 05:05 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question advice knowledge

Ok everyone, I have stated before, I am new to this hobby. I got to work with some walnut today for the first time and I rather enjoyed it.

My question is, what is your favorite wood to work with and why? Do you have different favorites based on criteria? Help me learn what and why.


-- As long as our customers are happy, we have done a good job. Even if we are our own customer.

22 replies so far

View PineChopper's profile


187 posts in 2195 days

#1 posted 06-10-2012 05:15 AM

My favorite is pine.
For the biggest part, it is cheap and available any where.
It’s easy to work with and my scroll saw can go through a 1 x whatever with no problems.
No problem to stain and make it look like walnut or ….

View Greg's profile


330 posts in 2872 days

#2 posted 06-10-2012 06:00 AM

I love the smell of red oak, however, it is old school now, as far as using it in furniture. It is certainly nice when you need a hard wood, like for a mallet, or for flooring.

I also really love to work Genuine Mahogany. It mills as good as any wood-One of the reasons it was so popular in the 1700-1800s for furniture. It a bit on the soft side as far as hardwoods go so be careful of denting this wood. It porduces a beautiful sheen when finished with oil, lacquer, or many other clear finishes.

Walnut is nice for the same reasons as mahogany, though it is typically a bit more open grained. This can make it tougher to get the same amazing finish as you can get on Mahogany. (Disclaimer-Mahog. is considered an open grained wood too, and my rule of thumb is just that.) I do like the smell of Walnut, ythough some may disagree.

I just had the pleasure of working with some curly Koa, and man, that was amazing! I love how it works using hand tools! An oil finish on Koa is unlike any other wood!

Cherry is nice to work with but tends to burn easily and is a bit harder to finish with stain as it gets blotchy. A good wood conditioner helps this a lot. I do love the look of cherry on almost anything-It’s classy, period.

I do hate the smell of Cocobolo! It is oily, super hard, and tough to cut and sand. However, in the right project, it is amazing and worth the effort.

Maple is consistently nice to work with with both hand and power tools. Be careful of burning like in cherry. Smell is not very good, but not very bad either.

My 2 cents.

-- You don't have a custom made heirloom fly fishing Net?

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 3751 days

#3 posted 06-10-2012 10:18 AM

Growing up in Maine, I always had easy access to pine and birch. I knew alot of folk who had small sawmills and they were always happy to hand some free wood to a young teen. We would often trade veggies out of the garden for some wood as well. I love the smell of fresh cut pine.

View Oldtool's profile


2622 posts in 2189 days

#4 posted 06-10-2012 11:13 AM

My favorite is cherry. It is nice to work, creates a pleasant aroma when milled, and to me has the best looking grain. (Don’t like the grain on oak). Blotchy, yes, but I never stain it, just use a clear coat finish like a wipe on varnish – oil, and the color is great, and darkens with age. I have dyed cherry, with Behlen’s Solar-Lux, Cherry, to age the piece, and it doesn’t blotch.
Having said that, it really is the project that determines the wood, and other factors such as availability of the species you use. Here in PA, cherry is readily available at all saw mills. If working on a “country hutch”, then pine. Always when the finished work is to be painted – pine, cheap, easy to work, and plenty to go around.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2922 days

#5 posted 06-10-2012 12:06 PM

I like Poplar. Been using it for years.

-- Life is good.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3427 days

#6 posted 06-10-2012 12:38 PM

I’d guess that poplar and pine are my favorites to work with. Walnut and rift sawn (straight grain) red oak and quarter sawn white oak are right up there, too.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View wlojr's profile


68 posts in 2215 days

#7 posted 06-10-2012 01:44 PM

I Like Walnut, and Maple. also like using Cedar fence slats, they look so good planed.

View Planeman40's profile


1176 posts in 2760 days

#8 posted 06-10-2012 01:50 PM

I vote for Beech!

I love its silky smooth feel. Its hard but not rock hard, it holds detail well, it machines well too. The only drawback is its expansion and contraction from moisture is a little more than other woods. Because of its silky feel in your hands it is often used for tool handles.

Aspen is another one I like for highly detailed work like model making and carving. Aspen, though a hardwood, is relatively soft, has no grain and holds detail exceptionally well. Its only negative is because it is so “plastic like” with no grain, it doesn’t take stain well.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View RogerM's profile


792 posts in 2398 days

#9 posted 06-10-2012 04:22 PM

My favorites are: walnut, maple, cherry, osage orange, cyprus, and pecan

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View Remedyman's profile


47 posts in 2196 days

#10 posted 06-11-2012 05:28 AM

It is interesting that there is such a wide diversity. But that is what makes this experience great in my eyes.

Wlojr, I never thought about using Cedar fence slats. That seems like a good low cost way to get some cedar.

Thanks everyone for you wisdom.

-- As long as our customers are happy, we have done a good job. Even if we are our own customer.

View murch's profile


1380 posts in 2623 days

#11 posted 06-11-2012 08:00 AM

The free stuff. From log piles and discards. :-)

-- A family man has photos in his wallet where his money used to be.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2985 days

#12 posted 06-11-2012 01:01 PM

Mulberry! It is really hard and dense but has large growth rings. That makes for a fantastic visual dance and makes it easy to make super-smooth and clean.

I’m also a huge fan of bloodwood. Also super dense and I never get over the colour of the chips. :)

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Oldtool's profile


2622 posts in 2189 days

#13 posted 06-11-2012 01:10 PM

Wlojr – don’t your neighbors complain when you take their fence apart?

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2950 days

#14 posted 06-11-2012 01:21 PM

One of my favorites is cherry because of its rich color, nice grain, and it’s pretty cheap here in GA. Why anyone would want to stain it is beyond me.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View AJLastra's profile


87 posts in 2227 days

#15 posted 06-11-2012 01:51 PM

I love working with figured woods because they present a great challenge. tiger maple’s grain can give you fits because the grain runs every which way and the only really effective way to smooth it is with a card scraper. Cherry, with lots of black acid staining is fun to work and mention acid staining because you can make gouges and cuts and checks in it look like they belong there with epoxy and black pigment. Quartersawn white oak for ANYTHING Mission , Green and Green, or Arts and Crafts. Using anything else is sacrilige. I agree about not staining cherry. At most I chemically stain it with lye to make it look old but thats about it. I think Eastern white pine is extremely underrated. So is ash. If you wanrt a really unique look and if you can find this for a good price, try flamed birch. It has spectacular figure. I love walnut but I’m allergic to it. The dust gives me problems just like asthma so really good dust collection for me when working it is a must. I use “white walnut” often, that is, butternut. Made some kitchen cabinets out of it for one job and they look great. I agree with a previous poster about letting the project dictate the wood species. If you make period specific pieces, you almost have to use specific wood for authenticity.

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