Selecting the Best Wood for Your Next Woodworking Project

Like many woodworkers I’ve spent considerable time and effort setting up my shop and equipping it with the right tools to produce a wide variety of home décor items. I just haven’t been able to dedicate as much effort to understanding everything I should know about selecting the best lumber for each project.

Only recently have I come to the realization that paying more attention to the material aspect of the projects could enhance the construction and appearance of my finished woodworking products!

Wood Lumber Selection

Material Selection

Material selection often begins with cost consideration, but beyond that, woodworkers should also consider the suitability of the wood (hardwood or softwood) for the planned indoor or outdoor product usage. Other factors such as workability (cutting, machining, sanding, etc.) and ease of wood finishing are other important considerations.

Of equal (or maybe even greater) importance in determining the beauty of your finished piece, is the careful selection of quality lumber with compatible grain patterns. I have to admit that I’ve completed some nice home furnishing pieces that would have looked nicer if I had paid more attention to whether the lumber was plain sawn, quarter sawn, or rift sawn.

Woodgrain Pattern

Mixing type of sawn boards on edge-glued solid panels, such as table tops, makes it hard to achieve a solid look and can result in failed glue joints and seams because of the different expansion and contraction tendencies of the boards. Mixing plain sawn and quarter sawn boards on rail and stile constructed furniture can also negatively affect the finished appearance of the piece.

Research, Research, Research

My best advice? Take the time to go online or go to your local library and research all of the many good sources available to better understand the characteristics of woods. You’re sure to learn more about grain patterns and lumber selection, which will help refine your choices for best results.

Here are some recommended books and websites:


(1) Woodworker’s Guide To Wood (Rick Peters)

(2) World Woods In Color (William A. Lincoln)

(3) Understanding Wood (R. Bruce Hoadley)

Woodworking books


(1) Lumber Charcteristics (

(2) Types of Woods (

(3) Visual Characteristics (

Written By: John Cooper

John spent the better part of the 28 years he was employed by Klockit, designing hundreds of clock and furniture kits and plans and has continued with product design since his retirement in 2008. John’s love of clocks, his passion for creating furniture for his own home as well as for family, and his great appreciation for the beautiful finished pieces Klockit customers make from our kits and plans inspire him to continue to create still more new clock and furniture designs.

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