When you’re contemplating your next project, it’s important you pick the right wood.
Janka Scale (Durability)
We’re not going to get into a long scientific explanation as to why woods are considered “soft” or “hard”. We’re just going to look at wood according to how durable it is. Below is the Janka scale. The Janka Scale is the industry standard for rating how durable a wood species is. The higher the number, the more durable. The # indicates how many pounds it takes to mar the wood. This is a list of some common woods that are native to North America.
I know it’s common to see a lot of wood projects these days made from pine and plywood. I understand that Pine is inexpensive. And, you can find it just about anywhere. The problem with pine is it’s just not very durable.
Besides durability, you should also consider the woods natural characteristics. There are higher and lower grades within all wood species. (Higher grade meaning better quality).
* Knots - Some wood is more apt to have knots. I love a nice knotted hickory. It makes for a beautiful wood floor. But, knots can also be a sign of weakness in the wood, so you have to be careful.
* Grain – Some woods have a strong grain pattern. For example – Oak. It’s grain is easy to spot. It just depends what look you are going for, whether you want a very visible grain. If you plan to join pieces together to make a cabinet door, you may want to opt for a more subtle grain.
* Density - The denser the wood, the longer it is going to take to plane, or sand, or cut. So, although it may be more durable, it’s also more difficult to work with.
* Color – Wood has its own natural color. Some tend to be more yellow or red than others. This will affect the outcome of your staining. You can’t build something half from walnut and half out of hickory and expect it to match perfectly.
All wood will dent or mar at some point. It’s a matter of deciding how durable you need it to be.
Woods We Use Most Often
As you’ll notice if you scroll through our project section, we do have our favorite woods. Now, if money weren’t an option, and if allergies didn’t play a factor – sure, we’d probably build everything out of Walnut. But, since life is life we’ve discovered woods that work well for us.
Alder – it’s easy to find. It’s got a nice red hue which gives a warm feel to just about finish. It’s easy to work with. It’s more durable than a pine, but not an exotic hardwood. Plus, It’s not too expensive.
Hickory – When we need a hardwood, we have found hickory works well.
Poplar – If I am doing a simple, small wood project I usually opt for poplar. It’s easy to find (at big box places), it’s easy to work with, and relatively inexpensive. The reason I like it over pine is it doesn’t have knots.