8 Types of Wood for Beginner Woodworking (Hard and Softwood)

Last Updated on January 6, 2024 by Web Operator

Did you know that there are effectively beginner-friendly types of wood for people starting off their woodworking hobby? I know many people may think that wood is wood and that there’s no difference, but that’s not entirely correct.

Instead, certain woods will prove easier to work with, which you really need when trying to come to terms with wood and power tools. The last thing you need is for the material you are working with to add to the already formidable challenge you face.

So, I know my first line here, where I state there are beginner-friendly woods, has probably thrown up a question in your mind as to which woods I mean. Well, don’t stress because I’m going to take you through eight different types of wood and explain why they are beginner-friendly and why I think you should start off with at least one of them.

By the end, you will know all about the material you should be buying to help you make real progress with your projects.

How Do I Know This Stuff?

But first, how do I know this stuff? Well, it comes down to experience on my part and also spending time checking out what other experienced woodworkers have to say about the situation.

I’ve been working with wood for over 20 years, and I do admit to having had my fair share of successes and failures, and it’s those failures that really managed to teach me so much.

That is why I know this stuff. I’ve experienced exceptionally easy-to-work materials, along with material that just feels like it’s designed to make your life as difficult as possible. 

But I don’t want any individual just getting into woodworking to run into the same problems and difficulties as I did, so that’s why I’ve decided to pull together this list of the best wood for beginners. 

But First, a Tip

Just before diving into describing the different woods, I have a tip.

If you are indeed new to woodworking, then I would always recommend opting for wood that is very cheap to buy. It just makes sense that it will not cost you the earth while you get to grips with specific tools or techniques. 

Buying inexpensive wood is undoubtedly the best way to go simply because it doesn’t burn as big a hole in your pocket if you do end up making a mess of things.

I would also suggest doing this when you simply want to practice. Look at getting offcuts or scrap pieces of wood you can mess around with in order to lighten the cost to you.

The Difference Between Hardwood and Softwood

Also, let me explain the difference between hardwood and softwood, as they are terms you may see popping up from time to time.

People new to woodworking may have the impression that these terms mean one type of wood is physically softer than the other. That’s deceptive, as the honest answer is that it depends on the type of tree the wood comes from.

Softwood refers to wood that comes from trees that have either cones or needles. That means the likes of pine, fir, and cedar are all softwood when you think of those actual trees.

Hardwood, on the other hand, refers to wood from trees with seeds that do not produce cones or needles. That means maple, oak, walnut, and mahogany are hardwoods.

Best Wood For Beginner Woodworking

Let’s get on with checking out the different woods.

Pine

freshly milled pine boards

Pine is the first wood I would recommend working with as a beginner. Not only is it easy to get some, but it also won’t cost you a lot of money. 

Pine is very easy to work with, and it’s also highly durable. It has the potential to be used in a wide range of applications, so versatility is not an issue either.

One thing you will find is that pine can vary slightly in color depending on the exact type. That’s why some pine appears to be more white in color, while others tend to veer more toward being yellow in color.

What I love about pine is that it is very easy to manipulate the wood. Yes, it is slightly softer than other woods, but it also means you can carve and cut more easily. That also means you don’t need your tools to be as powerful to still get through even thicker pieces of pine, which does fit in well with the types of tools beginners tend to have.

But be aware that pine is better used for something indoors. If you intend to work on a project that will be exposed to the weather, you can still use it. However, be aware that it requires a lot of protection to ensure the weather does not simply go through the wood in a short time frame.

Fir

fir boards

Another good choice is fir, and primarily Douglas fir. Once again, it’s inexpensive to purchase, but fir is undoubtedly stronger than pine, which may make a difference for you and your projects.

Typically, this wood will have a more red/brown tint to it, which does help with the identification aspect. However, I need to tell you that it can be a bit harder to stain fir, so if that’s what you have planned for your project, expect a tough battle ahead.

Part of the strength of fir comes from the wood grain being tighter together than you see in other types of wood. I see fir as being a good choice for individuals seeking to carry out some form of a construction project thanks to its strength.

Soft Maple

soft maple

I know I mentioned that maple was a hardwood, so I get that it’s a bit confusing that I’m discussing soft maple, but let me explain. 

While all maple is indeed a hardwood, there are both hard and soft varieties within that species. For a beginner, I would suggest going for the soft maple version for several reasons.

First, soft maple is very easy to cut. It won’t require the most powerful of power tools out there for you to get results, and your cuts should also be relatively smooth at the same time. 

Then there’s the fact you can sand and plane the wood without running into problems. I think soft maple is one of the best woods for your ability to manipulate it and get it to do what you want. With just a little bit of patience, you should find you can shape soft maple and do so with some absolute precision.

Finally, it’s also not difficult to stain, and it does give you the sort of end result you were hoping for. It won’t take layers and layers of stain before it all works either, so you should be able to finish your project in less time than you anticipated.

Spruce

spruce lumber

Spruce is another excellent choice when it comes to the best wood for beginner woodworking, and one thing I love is that it tends to have a very straight grain. That actually changes how it looks from a visual perspective, but that’s not the only reason it’s such an excellent wood to work with.

Spruce is also very light in color, but it is something you should only really use for an indoor project. If you plan to incorporate it into an outdoor project, then be aware that spruce requires a lot of treatment before it can resist the weather. This is because spruce will swell up quite quickly, so you can see how the weather conditions could negatively impact that way.

You will often find spruce as an option for either utility work or for indoor framing. I think it’s an excellent choice for either of those, but as an aside, it’s also widely used for making musical instruments should you be planning on going down that road.

White Oak

white oak

Oak is a genuinely excellent wood to work with, and it’s no surprise that so much oak is used in crafting furniture and a whole host of other projects. Oak is clearly very hardy, but it does come in both red and white colors. I recommend white oak for a beginner, as it is slightly easier to work with.

You should know a couple of things about white oak that may influence how you use it in your projects.

First, it’s excellent at not warping. Actually, it takes a lot for it to warp, so that is one reason why people love to use it when making furniture. 

Also, it does resist weather quite well. Sure, you may still want to add some level of protection to the wood, but generally speaking, it is pretty weather resistant.

Beechwood

beechwood boards

There is a problem with beechwood in that not enough people actually use it. I find this disappointing as it’s a decent type of wood to work with.

Beechwood is very pliable, so you should have no problem manipulating it into whatever size or shape you need. I also find that it’s very easy to use in general, even though I admit it’s not the first type of wood people think about. However, that is partly due to it being more predominant in countries other than the United States.

But one other thing you should know about beechwood is that it’s highly durable and has a fantastic grain. People often use it to craft wooden utensils, bowls, or dishes. This is partly due to the ease with which you can manipulate the wood but also the fact it doesn’t do anything to the taste or flavor of the food.

Honestly, if you plan on carving out some objects using a lathe and want something that looks amazing, then try to get your hand on some beechwood. It will be worth it when you see the finished product.

Poplar Wood

poplar wood boards

What I love about poplar wood is that it is very light and easy to get your hands on. You will often find poplar wood used on pallets, indicating just how strong it is as a material. 

It’s pretty easy to spot, thanks to its appearance. Here, you will find it to have something of a cream color with some gray tinges to it, but I do feel that it’s a fantastic wood to use when working on your cuts. 

As it’s lightweight and easy to use, you also don’t feel it’s pushing your power tools to their limit to get anywhere with your project. Also, it’s quick and easy to sand poplar wood down, and then if you plan on staining it, there won’t be much of a problem there either.

However, remember that this wood has a lot of strength, so it can be used with many projects without too many problems.

Also Read: Pine or Poplar: Breaking Down the Best Wood for Your Projects

Cherry

cherry wood

I’ve included cherry in my list because it is still straightforward to work with, even though it’s more expensive than the other woods I’ve mentioned above. Also, when finished, it’s a beautiful wood, which could be something you really look for with your project.

I feel that cherry is very easy to finish and an excellent choice for staining. It takes the staining product on board exceptionally well, and the end result is almost always stunning.

Cherry can be an excellent choice for slightly more architectural frameworks as well as furniture and cabinets. It’s durable, hard-wearing, and will last for years without being tarnished.

However, I admit it’s not always the easiest of options to get your hands on. Your local store may not have any in stock, so a trip to a timber yard, or a more specialist supplier, may be required to get some cherry wood.

Yet if you can manage to land some, I think you will find it all worth it for the results you can achieve.

Tips on Selecting Wood

stacked wooden boards

Those are the eight different kinds of wood I would recommend for a beginner, but I know some people will be sitting there wondering how they choose the suitable wood for their project. So, here are some essential tips.

Practice on Wood with the Lowest Cost

First, you wouldn’t want to go ahead and buy some cherry to practice on. Instead, some rough pine is the best choice when trying to come to terms with a new tool. You want something that you can mess around with and where it won’t prove too costly if you make a mistake.

With the likes of pine or even poplar wood, you don’t have to worry too much about the cost, as those woods are easy to pick up pretty much anywhere.

Is Your Project Indoors or Outdoors?

Another critical point is the location of your project. Will it be kept indoors or outdoors? If it’s outdoors, you need to think more carefully about the type of wood you will use and how you will protect it.

Any wood will deteriorate when left outside for an extended period. However, some wood is better than others when it comes to this. 

I would also extend this point to include having an understanding of what you want to do with the wood. Is it rough for framing, so the like of fir would work, or do you need a nice finish with some cool grain to add to the effect?

Is it Furniture?

If you intend to produce some piece of furniture, then you need to be quite specific with the type of wood you will use. I’ve mentioned several options above, and I would certainly stick with those options.

Certain wood is used for furniture thanks to its strength but also the ease with which it can be manipulated and finished. Also, the grain and how it looks will tend to play a role, 

So, don’t think any wood will work with furniture. It just won’t.

Do You Need to Stain?

My final tip is how you plan on finishing the wood. One of the main things is whether or not you want to stain the wood. Some wood, such as cherry, does stain exceptionally well, providing you with a far more pleasant final appearance.

But not all wood stains as well. Fir is a prime example, which is why I prefer to use fir when it’s effectively hidden away. 

But I think the key to all this is to not be afraid of grabbing some wood and just start working with your tools and see the results you can achieve. 

Overall Conclusion

So that’s my list of the eight best wood for beginner woodworking, and all that’s left for you to do is to think about the right wood for the project you have in mind. 

Having the right material at hand does make a significant difference. Undoubtedly, it will make life easier, and you will see quicker progress as well. Do yourself a favor and think about the material in advance to ensure your project runs smoothly.

Hopefully, the information I have provided above will make that process a little bit easier.

Also Read: Pine or Poplar: Breaking Down the Best Wood for Your Projects

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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