-Mostly deciduous trees (typically lose leaves seasonally)
-Examples – mahogany, teak, walnut, oak, elm, alder, poplar, birch, maple
-Generally harder, more dense
-Often but not always used for furniture, flooring, mantels and other finish-grade work
-Tends to be more expensive

  • Maple – often used for gym floor and counter tops, common around Seattle, very hard, doesn’t dent easily, lasts long in projects, density is the biggest draw, very blonde
  • Red oak –dense, inexpensive, often found around Seattle, has a lot of flecks, reddish hue, heavy, porous, soaks up finishes well
    -White oak –more expensive, very strong, has more homogenous grain than red oak, even heavier than red oak, less porous, lighter hue
  • Cherry – reddish hue, darkens under finish, mostly used for furniture and trim, very hard, very strong
  • Poplar – greenish hue, heartwood sometimes looks purplish, takes paint well, doesn’t stain well, grows really fast, has very few knots, light, not too durable, not very stable because the trees grow so fast that the wood tends to move after changes in ambient moisture
  • Red Alder – native Northwest tree that grows like a weed, a tree for the masses, more sustainable in that regard, paint-grade wood, apt to rotting, more for interior doors, cabinets, furniture
  • Black walnut – dark brown color, medium hard density, easy to work with, homogeneous grain


  • Mahogany – ranges from very blond to dark reddish brown, quality ranges from very inexpensive/low density (Luan or Philippine) to darker reddish brown (Cuban and Honduran), shimmers with finish, denser varieties are very rot resistant, very few knots, primarily grows in South America, India, Cuba, some species are endangered, usually Cuban and Honduran mahogany are used for instrument building
  • Teak – very resistant to rot, great for boats, kind of oily greasy, pulls silica up in its roots, golden brown, hard and strong, often expensive, somewhat hard to find
  • Ipe – Brazilian wood, extremely rot resistant, extremely dense, extremely heavy, also takes up silica, hard for bugs to eat, could leave it outside untreated and would last 10-15 years, can last way longer with a little treatment too, dark red or dark brown, doesn’t usually need oil, difficult to work with with hand tools


-Mostly conifer trees (have needles)
-Examples – pine, spruce, cedar, fir, hemlock, redwood
-Less dense, but durable
-Often used for dimensional lumber
-Tends to be less expensive
-In Seattle, we often use softwoods, especially Douglas fir, for many interior and exterior applications

  • Douglas fir – most common around Seattle, orange-pink, medium density, great for building because it’s soft, grows tall and straight, nice straight grains, less apt to rotting, although not considered rot resistant.
  • Hemlock – poor man’s fir, more blonde, softer, dents more easily so not great for furniture, often used for dimensional lumber, apt to rot
  • Ponderosa pine – Very low density, has many purposes, usually non-structural, commonly seen as shelf boards, has dark reddish pink heartwood and yellow sapwood
  • Cedar – Color ranges from light to dark brown, Western red cedar is most common, highly resistant to rot, used for projects that come across water often such as saunas and decks, not strong so not great as a structural wood, lots of tannins, often used for planter boxes, nice smell, if well maintained could last forever, even if exposed to the elements, other less common cedars are Alaskan yellow, and Port Orford


  • Plywood – multiple layers of veneer glued together, durable, good for construction, doesn’t warp, cheaper, not for outdoor projects, unless it’s pressure treated
  • Particle board – Most commonly used material for the construction of cabinet boxes, comprised of wood chips and sawdust glued together to form a flat board, cheap, often made from waste wood, highly susceptible to moisture, weak
  • Medium Density Fiber (MDF) – fine wood particles bound together by waxes and glues, versatile, takes paint well, can release toxins when cut, cheap, strong, susceptible to moisture