Your favourite wood for working by hand?

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Forum topic by AESamuel posted 03-10-2015 10:58 AM 1217 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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78 posts in 1219 days

03-10-2015 10:58 AM


I’ve been making a few projects with hand tools and I’ve mainly been using sapele as there are tons of offcuts at my local hardwood dealer but I was wondering what other woods I should be looking into. I bought some planed oak that was in the offcuts as well but its very very difficult to plane to thickness, it seems very dry to me but I’ve not used oak so it could be just what it’s like!

What’s your favourite wood to use when you’re using hand tools? Hard or soft woods, and comparing ease of use/results.

6 replies so far

View lateralus819's profile


2241 posts in 1886 days

#1 posted 03-10-2015 12:09 PM

Cherry works really nicely. So doesn’t African mahogany/Genuine. Curly maple can be okay at times if you can tame it lol.

View bobro's profile


320 posts in 1307 days

#2 posted 03-10-2015 12:30 PM

There’s some perfect wood out there, I’d like to think, but really it’s a matter of give and take.

Cherry is very pleasant to work, but it’s really quite weak and doesn’t work in small dimensions for intricate joinery, for example. Beech planes beautifully but has some property of resilience, maybe somehow related to the fact that it’s the best steam bending wood, that makes chopping out a mortise a lot more work than it should be for wood that really isn’t “that” hard.

Merbau is wonderful to work by hand, very rewarding, but it has some kind of goop in it (silicates I think) that will keep you resharpening continually. Paulownia is laughably easy to work but is a bitch to get a clean surface on end grain, and also contains silicates, so you’re working the second lightest wood in the world and it’s dulling your tools, wtf?!. The true rosewoods are a dream to cut joinery in, can’t say first hand how they plane by hand, though.

And so on. The closest to perfect all around that I’ve worked with so far (no power tools) are European walnut and pear.

It’s a great question.

-- Lao Ma: You are so full of anger and hatred. Xena: Everybody's gotta be full of something.

View JAAune's profile


1798 posts in 2314 days

#3 posted 03-11-2015 01:55 AM

Air-dried walnut is my favorite.

-- See my work at and

View Mykos's profile


103 posts in 1791 days

#4 posted 03-11-2015 04:53 AM

Straight grained maple (not figured) is pretty nice to work with hand tools. Figured maple looks fantastic, but is less fun to plane.

View waho6o9's profile


8189 posts in 2574 days

#5 posted 03-11-2015 05:16 AM

Poplar and Yellow Heart

View Woodknack's profile


11619 posts in 2377 days

#6 posted 03-11-2015 06:55 AM

Mahogany, easily; soft-ish, straight grained, beautiful. Biggest downside is it’s soft-ish.

-- Rick M,

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