Woodworking is a never ending learning experience, many would argue it is impossible to ever truly master. The trick is to understand the basics about the types of wood available before you truly dive head first into a woodworking project. There are a vast number of wood types available, ranging from very inexpensive to very expensive. They all have their different properties and capabilities, and are all suited to different projects. Featured here are some of the more popular types of wood.
The softwoods are not actually "soft" per se. They typically feature a red or yellowish appearance, with fairly standard (if a little bit uninteresting) grain patterns. Softwoods are typically cheaper than hardwoods because cutting and shaping typically requires less production time. Softwoods are also seen as sustainable, as softwood trees like the cedar and fir grow relatively quickly. Some common softwoods are:
Fir has a fairly standard appearing grain pattern that isn't all that interesting. Fir is very inexpensive and is suitable for furniture making.
Cedar is typically used for outdoor projects, as it is very durable when exposed to the elements an is resistant to cracking and rotting. Cedar is fairly inexpensive and can be used for a wide variety of projects, with furniture being a favorite.
Pine is the carvers wood. It is soft and durable, and readily available nearly everywhere. It is also very sustainable. If you are interested in sustainability, pine is something you should seriously consider.
Redwood is a great wood to use for outdoor furniture. It is very durable and doesn't hold moisture very well. It is unlikely to rot, even in the most extreme environments.
Hardwood is prized among woodworkers due to the wide variety of looks and colors that the hardwoods offer. Hardwoods typically have much more interesting grain patterns compared to softwood, and can be left in their raw state and still look incredible. Because hardwoods are not seen as sustainable, they are more expensive. There is a constant demand but supplies of some hardwood trees are dwindling. Some exotic hardwoods price themselves out of nearly every woodworkers budget. Some common hardwoods are:
Birch is the poor mans hardwood. It is available in most areas, and is relatively sustainable at its current rate of usage. It is also fairly inexpensive considering that it is a hardwood.
Cherry ages well, and has a very long lifespan. Cherry is a somewhat non-sustainable hardwood, as the demand is high, with a lw supply. Cherry is fairly expensive, so you might want to steer clear of it until you have more experience with woodworking.
Mahogany is the ultimate furniture wood. It has beautiful grain patterns and a rich red-brown color. Mahogany is not sustainable, as forests are being forested faster than new supplies can be grown. Outlook for future sustainability looks grim. Because of dwindling supply, price is quite high.
Hard maple is difficult to work with, as it actually is a very hard wood. Maple, like birch, is fairly inexpensive due to a significant supply of Maple trees.
Oak is popular for use among furniture builders. It is suitable for outdoor projects as it does not hold moisture well, and will remain mostly dry. Oak is popular for its unique and attractive grain patterns.