Woodworking: use hardwood or softwood?

Here we are with another woodworking question for the master woodworker. As always, I am more than happy to answer questions that will help others become a better woodworker, and today’s questions is a great one!

Question: What is the difference between hardwood and softwood?

Answer: When most woodworking enthusiasts hear the term “hardwood” or “softwood” they assume that it implies what it says (i.e. hardwood must be hard, and softwood must be soft). However, these are not the correct meanings.

The terms hardwood and softwood is a biological reference  that describes the way  the leaves grow on a tree. When deciding which species of wood to use when building a piece of furniture, the overwhelming decision rest on aesthetics (only with very few exceptions).

I.E. “Do I want the look of cherry or do I want the look of oak”? A reader by the name of Steve has asked in the comments,”Is it important to use hardwood for more durability?” Again, with only few exceptions (I.E. when making a frame. couch or chair) would the density, or strength, of the wood would be a consideration. Instead, for most other woodworking projects, the strength of the piece will rely on the engineering (how well it’s designed and how it goes together) and not on the strength of the wood.

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Wood Smyths








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