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Woodworking Wood – How to Choose

There are many different and high quality species of wood available for your woodworking and construction projects at Rino's Woodworking Shop. In fact, we're able to get almost any type of wood through our network of suppliers, so just ask. For many though, it may be difficult to know how to make the best decision. With all the factors involved, including quality, grade, cost, grain, color, durability and availability you might get lost. If you're not sure about how to choose the right wood for your next project you should talk to the experts - your helpful and friendly staff at Rino's Woodworking Shop. We'll be able to guide you every step of the way.

As we've said, all wood is not created equal. Wood with good working properties such as basswood, or alder, may not have the strength or durability for your project. At the same time, other woods such as cherry, or oak that have nice finishing qualities may not be the color of choice for the project.

The following paragraphs will introduce you to the basics of choosing wood for your next woodworking project.

1) Decide what you're building first

This may seem like an obvious point but you must know what you are building before you select your wood. If your project requires durability and strength - like a dresser, table or molding - then you will need a suitable wood that is strong enough to take the load, such as maple or oak. On a sidenote, here is some information about oak molding for your further reading.

If your project involves intricate wood carvings then a softer wood like poplar or pine might be in order. If your project is to be placed outdoors, then you will need a wood that can last out in the elements. Choose a wood like teak, that does not take a finish well, but its natural oils will protect it outside. You might also choose Mahogany wood which is used for projects requiring exposure to the elements like outdoor furnishings, deck chairs and tables.

2) Hardwood or softwood

The wood you choose for your project will depend on how durable you need it to be as well. There are many woodworking projects that are rarely touched or used after the initial creation and then there are projects that are used constantly like kitchen tables and everyday furniture. Making the right choice will ensure that your creation will stand the test of time. Here is a list of popular woods that have been ranked from low durability to high durability: Alder, Birch, Ash, Poplar, Spruce, Teak, Oak, Spanish Cedar, Iroko, and Chestnut.

The first step in making this choice is the understanding that wood falls into two main categories. Hardwood and softwood.

Hardwood lumber is a type that comes from deciduous trees. Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall. The best thing about hardwoods is that they do not dent, chip, or scratch as easily as softwoods so they're ideal for projects that require durability like hardwood moldings around your house and furniture. I don't mean to complicate things here but there are actually about two hundred different hardwood types that are appropriate for woodworking. Home centers like Home Depot and Lowes normally only stock a few types - red oak and poplar - so let it be known that your options can be expanded here at Rino's Woodworking Shop. We stock many popular domestic species such as Red and White Oak, Mahogany, and remember, we can special order.

Now that we understand hardwoods, I'm guessing that you know what's coming. Softwoods come from what we call coniferous trees. These are the trees with needles like pine trees and evergreens. These woods tend to be much softer as the name implies and the grain is much less defined. When the wood is finished it's possible that you won't even see the actual grain of the wood. Softwoods are mostly used in the construction and home building industries but they can be used for other applications too like outdoor and indoor furniture. Just keep in mind that it's not a durable wood. In other words, don't build a kitchen table out of pine.

3) Choose the right grade

Not all wood is created equal. If you simply told a lumber yard to give you an oak plank, you could get almost anything. Rino's Woodworking is proud of the product we produce. We only use hardwood with a FAS rating which is the highest grade. This grading scale was established by the National Hardwood Lumber Association and it stands for "First and Seconds". It is ideal for the finest woodworking projects. In descending order of quality here are the grades for hardwoods: FAS, FAS 1-Face (F1F), Selects, No. 1 Common, No. 2A Common, No. 2B Common, Sound Wormy, No. 3A Common, and No. 3B Common.

When you're talking softwoods, there are really two main types: Construction and remanufacture. The construction grade wood is normally what you'll see if you go to your local lumber yard. There might be times when you require a non-construction grade wood and that's where you might consider the wood in the remanufacture category but the quality of the wood will be much lower and contain more knots, splits and large waste areas. Softwoods are graded from 1 (construction) to 5 (economy) but you'll most likely only see grades 1-3 in your local lumber yard. Rino's always strives for the highest quality softwoods whenever possible.

Cool Fact: Did you know that only about one quarter of all evergreen trees are suitable for woodworking?

4) Cost

Like most things in life, cost is a factor. Choosing your wood type will definitely involve weighing the costs of each type of wood. To keep it breif and general you need to know that generally hardwoods are simply more expensive than softwoods. Their durability and attractive grains are an important factor in their price but all woods have their purpose. Choosing a more affordable wood for your needs is always an option. Just make sure to understand all the differences between the wood types available to you and then make the best decision. Hardwoods get you a recognizable grain and a wood that won't easily scratch and dent. Softwoods scratch and dent easily and don't show grain but they're much more affordable.

Again, we're here to help. Call us anytime for answers to your questions. To get you started, visit our Hardwood 101 section on our website that contains detailed sections about  Poplar, White Maple, Spanish Cedar, Red Oak, Cherry, White Oak, and Mahogany or browse further through our woodworking blog to learn more about oak, hardwood molding, mahogany lumber and more.

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Offering top-grade hardwoods

We use only FAS grade hardwood, also known as 1 & 2 Upper, yielding long, wide, clear cuttings. Our woods are suitable for highly visible, top quality hardwood applications such as moldings and furniture. Learn more about the types of wood we offer.