Understanding Commonly Used Woods for Various Purposes

This article will discuss some of the leading types of wood used in various industries. Understanding these wood types would help before choosing one for your project or home use.Over centuries, people of all civilizations have used wood for various purposes. And it’s not surprising if you consider that there are forests everywhere that have served as enormous resources.

This large variety has also led to people making several products depending on the wood’s texture, durability, and strength.

Types of Wood

There are three main types of woods that you should know before you get into choosing. These are:


  • Softwoods
  • Hardwoods
  • Engineered wood


The trees that produce this kind of wood are conifers. These plants feature needle-like-shaped leaves and cones. Coniferous trees such as pine, spruce, fir, cedar, and redwood, are widespread. They find applications in construction, furniture manufacturing, and woodworking.

Softwood is so called because it is lighter than hardwood, less durable, and less dense. It is a resinous wood type and burns at a high rate. They are less expensive than their hardwood counterparts and are chiefly used in making paper, paper goods, and furniture. They are rot- and insect-resistant.


This wood type neither produces needles nor cones. Better known as deciduous trees, they produce seeds and leaves. Maple, mahogany, oak, cherry, and walnut are examples of common hardwoods.

Though not all hardwood types are more robust than softwoods, they are distinct for their natural grain patterns.

Engineered Wood

Engineered wood is wood that’s manufactured rather than those that grow naturally. They are endowed with certain characteristics.

You might know it as composite wood, which is generally made by combining wooden boards, fibers and strands, and other sawmill waste. Plywood, fiberboard, and medium-density fiberboard are examples.

Now that these three main wood types are before you, you can easily explore all the various wood varieties and choose a suitable one.

How to Select the Right Wood for Your Needs

Just so that you get the best quality wood for your needs and your money, ensure that you check wood types based on the following criteria:

  • Texture

Examine the texture of the wood to check for its actual surface condition and stability. This will also determine how the wood looks in its finished state.

  • Density

You can check the density of any wood based on its weight and strength. Dense wood is usually ideal for construction and furniture. Less dense woods are best used for woodworking projects, aircraft, and paper.

  • Color

The color of the wood enhances its personality. A good example is red cedar which is distinctive in appearance due to its color.

Commonly Used Woods and Their Characteristics

Wood plays a crucial role in our lives, no matter where we live. We choose a particular type of wood based on its climate and weather resistance. To help you choose the right kind of wood, we help you with a list of commonly used woods:


  • Pine

A softwood type, pine is known for its tall trees and its sustainability, durability, ease of use, and cost-effectiveness. These qualities make it ideal for woodworkers.

It is best used for manufacturing paper goods and furniture and in construction. It is easy to use and inexpensive, making it popular among woodworkers.

  • Redwood

These trees stand out for their colossal size and red color. This is a softwood type that comes with a good grain pattern. It is tough and weather-resistant and does well for railroad ties, trestles, decks, walls, and garden hedges. Redwood makes good cabinetry, veneers, and tables.

  • Douglas Fir

Fir is a substantial softwood and ideal for painting on. Staining is easy because it cannot boast of a distinctive wood grain. It is used in the construction industry where its finish is not essential.

  • Cedar Wood

Cedar wood is known for its color, aroma, and wood grain. It also repels bugs, moths, and pests. For its repellant properties, it is used in storage chests and cupboards. It is used in construction, is weather-resistant, and is used to make decks, siding, patio furniture, fencing, etc.

  • European Yew

Orange-brown Yew, as its name suggests, is a tree that grows in Europe. Heartwood is flexible yet strong and resilient. It is reasonably hefty, soft, and pliable. Additionally, it resists insects. It has a homogeneous texture and a straight grain.

It is commonly used to make bows in archery, cabinets, carvings, and musical instruments. It finishes well but needs an oil or water-based polyurethane for a sealant.


  • Ebony

This wood is distinctive for its black color. A dense hardwood, it is perfect for woodworking projects, black piano keys, and guitar fretboards. It works well for wood carving, too, and gives a beautiful finish.

However, it cannot be painted, and using adhesive is a challenge. It should be sanded and buffed, and then waxed.

  • Beechwood

Beech is an impressive hardwood that is cream-colored and has a yellowish-red tone. It bears a regular grain pattern which is tight and straight, and occasionally gray flecks can also be seen.

It is often used to make chairs and curved pieces of furniture, such as pianos, and wood veneers. Though flexible, it could shrink or swell, depending on the humidity in the environment. It can be stained and glued easily.

  • Oak

The finest uses for this wood are for flooring, furniture, and barrels. It has an excellent grain pattern and is recognized for its strength and longevity. Furniture, flooring, and barrels are all frequently made from oak wood. This wood is beloved among woodworkers.

This wood swells and shrinks depending on the humidity levels, so this is an important consideration when used for flooring. It stains easily and takes on paint well too.

  • Mahogany

Known as an exotic hardwood and an excellent choice for furniture, mahogany begins with a pinkish tone that deepens with time. It is easy to work with, stains well, and is softer than other hardwoods. Acoustic and electric guitars and mandolins are made with mahogany.

  • Maple

This beautiful hardwood has a distinct natural wood grain. It is very dense and more rigid than ash or oak and has a rating of 1450 on the Janka hardness scale. Due to this, it is used to make heavy-duty items such as kitchen cabinets and dressers. Its advantages are that it is durable, affordable, has a typically straight grain, and uniform color. It resists decay and stains and polishes well.

  • Teak

Teak wood is an exotic hardwood is popular in Asia. Each tree takes 60 years to grow before it can mature and be harvested. This makes it difficult to source, hence very expensive.

Both interior and outdoor furniture is made of teak. Its slick coating shields it against gluing or stains. It smells really good.

  • Walnut

Walnut wood is distinctive for its dark brown color. It is strong, easy to work with, and is used in making hardwood flooring. This fine-grained wood stands a good polish and staining well and can be easily preserved.

Walnut carvings are as famous as their cabinets. It is also used in premium luxury cars and in gun manufacturing. Guitars and violins are also made of this wood.

Engineered wood

  • Plywood

Plywood is made by cross-laminating veneer sheets and sticking them with glue, under excessive heat and pressure. It is affordable and versatile and can be used for structural frames, exteriors, and interiors. It doesn’t warp, nor does it allow cracks to develop. It is moisture-free and pest-resistant.

  • Particle Board

When wood waste is extruded and pressed, particle board is created. It is more uniform than plywood. It can be used to design cabinets, shelves, false ceilings, etc.

  • Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)

When hardwood and softwood bits are shredded into wood fiber, Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF) is created. They are stuck together under high pressure and temperature to form panels.

This wood is denser than plywood and has a smooth finish. It is available in a range of thicknesses and qualities. It is used to make roofs, flooring, and walls.

  • High-Density Fiberboard (HDF)

When wood pulp and chips adhere together, they form High-density fiberboards (HDF). This durable material is denser than other wood species. So, it is an ideal choice for making furniture and flooring. It does not warp nor crack with time.

  • Laminated Veneer

This wood type is commercially made by adding several thin wood layers together and then sticking them with adhesive. It resembles plywood and is uniform and durable. Since it is composite wood, it does not shrink or warp.

  • Oriented Strand Board

This type of engineered wood is made by using glue to compress wood flakes. You can get this in sanded or non-sanded form. It can carry huge loads, so is ideal for flooring, and is also water-resistant. Installing it is easy and it is perfect for small home renovation projects.


There are several types of wood, each with its own distinctive properties that render them perfect for various purposes. These range from furniture, construction, and flooring to the manufacture of paper, sports equipment, and musical instruments, among others.

Author: John Clax

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