Best Woods for Certain Projects

Want to make a bread box out of a plank of ipe. Go ahead. The loaf will probably still be good to eat after the aliens arrive and chase us human off to Alpha Centauri. Ipe is really hardwood.

But since our current planet has such a huge variety of trees from which to choose, some match the project at hand perfectly. Take a moment as we expose the rundown:

Wood Guide for the One With the Tools

  • Jelutong.
    This softie is considered “green” but it almost became extinct during the Boer War. The lumber has these little latex pockets that can be ground out and stuffed with wood filler. It’s straight grained and very easy for carvers. You’ll probably want to slip on a mask when cutting Jelutong. It has a tendency to bring to the surface fibers when it’s tooled around with.
  • Cottonwood.
    For those who settled down in the Midwest, this wood is a fave. But because everyone likes the lumber, you may have a touch of trouble finding it. This softwood has a straight grain.
  • Butternut.
    Which is likewise known as white walnut and is another softie. The heartwood is heavy brown in color while the sapwood looks kinda beige. Once you apply a clear finish, you’ll marvel at its gorgeous grain pattern.
  • Quaken Aspen.
    If you’re a beginner, this low-scale hardwood is perfect for you. Carves like a charm and sands like a champ. Probably don’t want to incorporate this stuff into a furniture project. But its color – mostly light – it takes a stain well.
  • Basswood.
    This is another wood with an alias: Lime. The heartwood and sapwood are almost identical in color – white. Because it’s such a softwood it’s gentle on your tools. The downside to basswood is that it’s as bland as a cloud. Staining is not recommended. Paint it instead.
  • Sassafras.
    Not only will this tree’s roots make a fab tea or beverage, it’s got a straight grain pattern. Color: Light brown with dark streaks. Not only does it look great, it has that root beer aroma.
  • Tupelo.
    The kids also call it water gum. That’s because you’ll usually see it reaching for the sky in swamps and wetlands. And the grain pattern is to die for. A simple clear finish adds to the beauty of this soft wood.
  • Walnut.
    For those who are thinking about creating a gun stock, black walnut or American walnut is your best choice. To carve you’ll not only need a chisel. You’ll need a mallet.
  • Mahogany.
    This one is tricky in the “green” department. You want to avoid African varieties and make sure it has a seal by one of the reputable associations that guarantee you’re not getting an outlaw brand. Other than that, it’s not that heavy to lift. It’s weird. Mahogany is light but really tough.

As we say, you can carve with any type of wood. At first, you’ll be a craftsman (or woman). Not long after, you’ll be transformed into an artist.

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