A Quick Start Guide To Know About Types of Wood

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When it comes to architectural woodworking, picking the best type of wood for your project is crucial. The choice of wood can significantly influence the aesthetics, durability, and overall quality of the finished work. In this blog, we’ll discuss the many factors to consider when determining which type of wood is ideal for your project.

When choosing the best types of wood for your architectural woodworking projects, it’s crucial to consider the aesthetic appeal and industry standards. Organizations like the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI) set the bar for quality and craftsmanship in this field.

Types of Wood Species – Hardwood and Softwood

Wood has been used as a significant material for buildings and furniture for many centuries due to its vast availability and ease of workability. It is an excellent insulator and also a renewable material. While thousands of wood species exist, only about 100 are used commercially as building materials.

Before we go into the specifics of choosing the best woods for your project, let’s first understand the fundamental categories of wood: hardwood and softwood. Hardwood comes from deciduous trees like oak, cherry, and walnut, while softwood is derived from evergreen or coniferous trees such as pine and cedar. However, it’s important to note that the terms “hardwood” and “softwood” don’t necessarily refer to the hardness or softness of the wood itself but rather the type of tree it originates from.

Hardwood typically boasts a finer grain and is favored for interior applications like trim, paneling, furniture, and flooring. Some examples of hardwoods include birch, cherry, oak, maple, walnut, and hickory. Each hardwood species offers unique characteristics that can enhance the beauty and functionality of your architectural woodwork.

On the other hand, softwoods are commonly used for outdoor applications due to their natural resistance to the elements. Softwood options include pine, western red cedar, various redwood varieties, and cypress. These woods are perfect for decking, siding, and outdoor furniture projects.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Woods

When deciding on the type of wood for your architectural woodworking project, consider the following factors:

  1. Aesthetic Appeal: Many prefer different wood species for their wide range of colors, grains, and textures, allowing them to achieve their desired visual impact. Additionally, a study on wood color and coverage in office spaces found that people exhibit better aesthetic evaluations of light and medium wood-colored environments, which could interest designers seeking to create appealing architectural woodworking projects.
  2. Durability: Assess the wood’s ability to withstand environmental factors. For outdoor projects, prioritize wood that is naturally resistant to decay and insects.
  3. Ease of Workability: Some woods are easier to cut, shape, and finish than others. 
  4. Cost: The price of wood can vary significantly based on supply and demand. Be sure to consider your budget when making your choice.
  5. Dimensional Stability: If your project will be exposed to varying humidity levels, opt for woods that exhibit good dimensional stability to minimize warping or twisting.
  6. Environmental Impact: Sustainable forestry practices are crucial. Look for wood that carries certifications, as consumer perceptions show that wood products are widely considered environmentally friendly and recyclable, contributing to mental well-being. However, concerns arise regarding their safe disposal. Understanding these perceptions is essential for responsible wood sourcing in architectural woodworking projects.

For the highest caliber architectural woodwork, it’s advisable to consult industry leaders like AWI. They can recommend the best woods known for their durability and stunning finishes.


Best Woods for Architectural Woodworking

Some of the best woods commonly used in architectural woodworking, along with their advantages and disadvantages, include:

  • Oak: Oak is renowned for its remarkable strength and prominent grain pattern, making it a classic choice for traditional woodworking projects. It accepts stains and finishes nicely, allowing you to achieve various aesthetics. 
  • Cherry: Cherry wood is known for its warm, reddish-brown hue that darkens beautifully with age, developing a rich patina. It’s relatively easy to work with and boasts excellent dimensional stability. One drawback is that it can be susceptible to scratches and dents, so careful handling is essential.
  • Maple: Highly durable and often used in contemporary designs, maple offers a light, uniform appearance. It’s excellent for projects where a smooth, even finish is desired. However, maple can be challenging to stain evenly due to its tight grain and may require careful sanding and additional finishing steps to achieve a flawless result.
  • Walnut: Walnut stands out with its dark, chocolate-brown color and striking grain pattern. Through additional processing, such as steaming, the uniform intensity of the color can be achieved. It adds a touch of sophistication to any project and readily accepts stains and finishes. While walnut is a bit more expensive, its aesthetic appeal is worth the investment. Remember that it’s relatively softer compared to some other hardwoods, so that it may dent more easily.
  • Cedar: Naturally resistant to decay and insects, cedar is an excellent choice for outdoor applications like decking and siding. It emits a pleasant aroma and is lightweight, making it easy to work with. However, cedar’s softness can lead to more significant wear and tear over time, especially in high-traffic areas.
  • Pine: An affordable and versatile softwood, pine is perfect for interior woodworking projects, particularly if you plan to paint or stain it. It’s readily available and easy to work with, making it an excellent choice for beginners. However, pine may not be as durable as hardwoods and is more prone to dents and scratches.
  • Redwood: Redwood’s reddish tint and straight grain make it an attractive indoor and outdoor use option. It’s naturally resistant to decay and insects, making it an ideal choice for exterior applications. However, redwood can be relatively expensive, and its supply may be limited in certain regions.
  • Hickory: Known for its exceptional strength and unique appearance, hickory is an excellent choice for rustic or farmhouse-style woodworking. It’s highly durable and resistant to wear, making it suitable for high-traffic areas. On the downside, hickory can be challenging due to its hardness, requiring sharp tools and careful handling.

When it comes to architectural woodworking, making a well-informed choice among some of the best woods can help you align with your project’s specific needs and design vision. It’s important to note that while our descriptions emphasize factors like hardness and workability, it’s worth considering that for the majority of architectural woodwork projects (about 98% of the time), the primary focus is on veneered products. In such cases, the concerns related to the hardness (durability) and workability of the wood become less significant compared to solid lumber. However, other factors, such as color, grain, texture, and compatibility with stains and finishes, remain crucial in achieving the desired outcome for your architectural woodworking project.

Wood Finishes

When it comes to finishes, AWI offers a wealth of knowledge on protective treatments and finishes to ensure your architectural woodwork stands the test of time. This includes insights into applying varnishes, shellac, and other coatings.

As you venture into architectural woodworking, remember that resources from organizations like AWI can guide you toward the best practices and wood choices for each project. Contact us now!