6 Best Woods For a Dining Table (Easy to Build)

Last Updated on January 6, 2024 by Web Operator

Designing and building your own dining table can be a worthwhile project, even for an individual with limited woodworking experience. I know it may sound like a large project to undertake, but it’s easier than you think. And yet certain woods do work out better for a dining table with species such as oak, walnut, cherry, ash, maple and elm standing out for me.

But I’m not going to dive into the steps you may need to take in order to build your own dining table. Instead, I’m going to focus on a critical component that you really cannot overlook, and that’s the wood you should use when making your dining table. 

Now, not every wood species will prove to be suitable. Some just do not really work with this type of project, and I don’t want you to go down the wrong road and start using something that’s not really the material you should be using. But don’t worry, as I have your back.

I’m going to take you through my choice of the six best kinds of wood that you should use for a dining table. But I won’t just tell you my list and why you should buy them. Instead, I’ll take you through the reasons why it’s such a good choice when making your own dining table in your workshop.

By the end, I think you will feel better placed to go ahead and not only select the wood you want in order to get your desired end result but to then actually start making the pieces in your workshop.

I see this decision as a big deal. After all, the wood you choose has a direct impact on how the dining table will turn out. Honestly, you may think wood may not make a huge difference, but it’s surprising how the color or even character can change quite dramatically. 

So, let’s go through the different kinds of wood in no order of preference.

wooden dining table

1. Oak

I’m going to guess that most people will have included oak in their own list of possible types of wood you should use for a dining table. After all, it’s known for being robust and hard-wearing, but let’s not also forget the natural beauty of oak.

Really, with oak, what you get is the classic dining table. You can use the table over and over again, covering years, and it just continues to look as good as it did when it was first crafted or manufactured.

But oak is also a beautiful wood to look at, and even to carve. The dimensions of a dining table do allow the grain of oak to really come to the fore, and it does tend to result in a gorgeous table for you to look at.

Honestly, it’s difficult for you to look past oak when it comes to a sense of timeless beauty. You just need to look at dining tables that are over 200 years old and made of oak. They still look stunning and have so much character to them that it’s something you cannot create yourself.

But oak is also an easy wood to work with. I know it’s hard and robust, but with the correct tools, you should have no problem producing a gorgeous and highly functional table. However, I do accept it can end up being pretty heavy, but at least you know this table is going to probably survive for decades simply because it is so robust. 

Pros

  • Oak is surprisingly easy to work with
  • It’s robust, so can put up with a lot of punishment
  • The character of oak develops with age, so it keeps on looking better
  • It is the classic wood for a dining table

Cons

  • It may be too expensive for some budgets

2. Walnut

using walnut for a dining table

Another type of wood that makes for a wonderful dining table is walnut. This wood is also hard and dense, and it does then mean it’s the perfect wood for an item of furniture that will hopefully be used on a regular basis. 

But as with oak, I also love the grain pattern you tend to get with walnut. The depth of color, especially when you polish and finish off the dining table, is outstanding, and it just gives the table so much character that you simply cannot repeat it in any other way.

This is because walnut has a close-knit grain which not only looks good but also contributes to the overall strength of the wood. But let’s not also forget that this wood is very easy to work with even though it’s viewed as being a strong kind of wood. 

Now, I know that buying walnut can prove to be more expensive than most of the hardwoods out there, but here’s an important point. This table will continue to look better and better as it ages, so I feel it’s well worth the extra expense at the outset. 

But I should tell you that walnut will not be the best option if you are looking for something darker in hue for your dining table. You can stain it to get there, but that’s an added step that you may not wish to actually take. 

Yet, I love walnut because I know it can take punishment without starting to look terrible at the same time. Also, it’s heavy but not over the top heavy either, and that’s going to make it easier to work with it. 

But ultimately, I think it’s the appearance of this wood that makes it stand out and is the primary reason why I would go ahead and use it when making a dining table.

Pros

  • Walnut is one of the most beautiful woods around
  • It can cope with a lot of use without looking tired
  • It has a beautiful natural hue, so you may not need to stain the wood
  • It’s very easy to work with

Cons

  • Some may feel the color variation in just one board is too much to deal with

3. Elm

elm wood for dining table

Elm can be a fantastic choice for a dining table because it’s only moderately heavy, yet it’s still robust enough to put up with various knocks and scrapes. Add in the fact that it tends to look gorgeous when either left alone or only slightly polished up, and you have a wood that can result in a stunning dining table perfect for any home.

But I feel people often look past elm, and instead, they head off to choose oak, and I just think that’s a massive mistake. Actually, elm ends up being overlooked for almost everything when it’s a stunning wood to work with. 

Elm is a hardwood, but it’s amazingly soft, and that makes it an easy wood to work with. You should have no problems with turning it if that’s the type of leg you want to go with, and screwing an elm table together is also straightforward. 

But it doesn’t end there. 

Elm also works exceptionally well when it comes to staining. It absorbs the stain easily, and even if you only go for something with a slight tint, it will manage to bring the grain out to the fore.

You will also tend to find that elm wood is very resistant to stresses and strains that tend to occur when you use a dining table. This is thanks to the grain that comes with elm wood as it’s interlocking, giving it more strength than you would have thought possible.

But look more closely at the grain, and you will see a detailed picture of swirls included in the usual grain patterns you see with other woods. This gives elm even more of an aesthetic beauty, and you start to see how a dining table made from elm will be unique in its appearance.

Yet I have one word of warning. Don’t try to work elm with hand tools. The grain will make the job harder than it needs to be, and you will increase the chance of tearing at the wood, destroying the end result you hope to achieve.

Pros

  • It’s beautiful to look at
  • It’s more durable than you expect
  • The grain makes the wood stand out

Cons

  • You cannot use hand tools to work with elm. It’s just not going to work

4. Ash

ash wood for dining table

I would also recommend ash as being a fantastic wood for a dining table, even though I do admit it won’t be the first choice for most people. Of course, it’s a highly durable wood, and that’s one of the main characteristics you should be looking for when it comes to crafting a dining table.

Ash is not about to let you down when it comes to its longevity either. It doesn’t tarnish too much, and it will cope with those knocks and bangs without complaining. This is particularly useful when talking about a dining table. Let’s face it, all manner of things can be dropped on a dining table, and you don’t want it to then look past its best in no time at all. 

From a hardness rating perspective, ash sits at 1,320 on the Janka scale. That does mean it fits in perfectly with the sort of rating you would be looking for from a hardwood. It means you should have no problem working the wood as it’s not too hard that only specialist power tools would work.

When it comes to the color of ash, then you are looking at it being more on the light side of the scale with it having more of a light-brown tone. I feel this lighter color does mean it’s easier to get ash to blend in with interiors as it’s very easy to then darken it slightly if you wish to do so. Ash is known for being very accepting of stains, and it will absorb them easily.

From a grain perspective, then you should expect everything to look straight. The grain is relatively tight with long loops. It may have swirls at times, but this is rare and is due to the tree growing in different conditions than the norm.

Cutting and shaping ash is straightforward, and I do feel it’s one of the easiest woods to work with when it comes to a dining table. I think it works better for beginners compared to the likes of oak, so if that sounds like you, then ash would be an excellent option.

Pros

  • You can easily stain ash and it will look amazing
  • It’s a good wood for beginners to work with
  • The straight grain gives it a uniform appearance
  • It’s highly durable

Cons

  • It’s not the easiest of wood to get an ultra-smooth finish on

5. Cherry

cherry for a dining table

Cherry has long been held as one of the favorite woods when it comes to a dining table, and it’s because it often gives the table something of a traditional look and feel. I think a lot of that has to do with the grain, as it’s typically beautiful and far superior to most other woods out there.

Cherry has the ability to give off a real sense of warmth, and it’s also very easy to darken the wood via staining if that’s the look you are going for. I also feel cherry is easy to cut and shape as you see fit. There’s no requirement for special tools to do any of this, and it even turns well should you wish to create more cylindrical legs on your table.

I see cherry as being the perfect solution if you wish to become a bit more ornate regarding your table. It’s effortless to manipulate and create some interesting features, but it still has that durability you are looking for.

But I admit that cherry is not going to be the first type of wood that comes into your mind, and I do think that’s a bit of a shame. As I said, if you want a dining table that comes across as warmer and also searching for something on the darker side, then cherry could prove to be the perfect solution.

So, do yourself a favor and look at the rest of the decor in the room and imagine how the richer, and darker, cherry wood is going to work in that room. That will allow you to ascertain if it’s the perfect wood for this project in your home. 

Pros

  • You can carve cherry to get more intricate designs
  • The color adds a richness to your dining room
  • It’s very easy to work with
  • It produces something quite classical in design 

Cons

  • It can be a bit dark, so take that into account before starting

6. Maple

maple wood for dining table

The final wood I’d like to mention is maple, and while it’s more commonly used for other types of furniture, I certainly think it can work well for a dining table. This is mainly because of how gorgeous maple wood can look when it has been worked correctly.

I see this as a great choice because it’s not going to dent or chip too easily, so durability is not an issue. Also, it’s hard without coming across as too hard, so actually creating your dining table will prove to be straightforward.

But maple does come with more of a light grain, but what I love about maple is the ease with which you can sand it down and ultimately get an ultra-smooth finish. I feel it’s one of the best woods from that perspective, so if you are aiming for that smooth look, then this is the best option around.

I know maple can prove to be more expensive than other options out there, but the longevity of it as a material is in no doubt. The only thing to be aware of is using too much speed when cutting it, as maple can burn, leaving you with a less than perfect look.

Pros

  • It’s easy to sand down and to get that smooth finish
  • It has longevity on its side
  • It won’t dent too easily, when compared to other options
  • It’s not too hard that it’s then difficult to work with

Cons

  • It can be quite expensive compared to other kinds of wood
  • You cannot cut it too fast, or the wood will burn

How to Choose the Best Wood for Your Dining Table

The six types of wood listed above are all going to prove to be fantastic when it comes to making a dining table. However, you do have the problem of trying to work out which kind of wood you should use.

So, to try to help, I have a few ideas I think you should perhaps contemplate to see if they make a difference. But do note that you need to look carefully at your dining room and the entire decor before making your decision. 

The Appearance

The first thing to consider is how you want the table to look. The wood you choose will play a major role in this as it leads to you having to think about the grain and even the natural color of the wood.

Even from the six different kinds of wood I’ve mentioned above, you will have a wide range of colors to effectively choose from. Whether it’s a light grain, such as maple, to a heavier walnut, you can then change the entire look via stain to get the visual appearance you were hoping for.

Ease of Working

I would always suggest using power tools when dealing with wood for a dining table. It just speeds up the process, but you do still need to take several things into consideration. 

Take elm as an example. I find that elm works well when it comes to turning the wood, and that may influence your decision to use it. Then you have maple. It burns when you use too much speed with this, tainting the end result, so you also need to take that into consideration before you think about using it.

But each option I’ve listed above all tends to fall in the same area when it comes to hardness. That should mean you do not run into too many issues regarding the cutting, and you certainly do not have to go out and hire some special tool just to get the material cut down to size.

Durability

The six options I’ve listed above are all highly durable, and I would suggest you avoid choosing any softwood option for your dining table. While it may look good, most softwoods will struggle to cope with dents and bangs, and the only outcome is your table looking not as good as it should be.

It’s important that you only use a type of wood that can put up with knocks, or you end up with a table full of chips and that’s not going to be suitable for most interiors. Again, that’s why hardwood is the better option.

Overall, most people will work with wood they prefer or wood they know is often attributed to a dining table. That’s generally the case with the six types of wood I’ve listed above, and it’s very easy to find examples of dining tables crafted from each of these woods online. This is because they do meet all of the attributes you should be looking for when it comes to a dining table.

Also Read: 6 Best Woods for Live Edge Tables (For Cool Projects)

Overall Conclusion

So those are my suggestions of the best woods for a dining table, and I feel confident in each one delivering a stunning end result no matter which option you choose. Ultimately, I find creating your own dining table to be a fantastic project to undertake, and it’s not even going to prove to be too difficult for most people. 

But there’s more to all of this than you think. That’s why I suggest checking out these additional articles to make life easier for you.

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.