The Many Different Types of Wood for Furniture

Who knew there were so many different types of wood for furniture? Catch up on the latest wood fads for furniture making.

By Tina Jepson


What type of wood is used for furniture? It’s a question we hear a lot here at House Tipster, but it comes with a loaded answer.


Naturally, there are dozens of different types of wood, and their uses vary greatly. There are hardwood and softwoods, highly grained woods and more neutral, plain ones. The type of wood used in furniture making depends on many factors, such as the use of the furniture, weight capacity, how/if the wood is visible, etc.


Are you looking to get into furniture or home décor-making? Do you want to purchase some wood furniture? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, it’s time to learn more about wood.


Hardwood vs. Softwood

First Things First


Let ’s break down wood density. You may have heard the terms “hardwood” or “softwood” a time or two, but what do they mean? And, more importantly, which is better for furniture?


Bear with me as we harken back to third grade for a moment.


Hardwoods actually come from deciduous trees (the ones with leaves that fall off every autumn) while softwoods are from evergreen trees (those that keep their needles all year long). While this may not seem like a big deal, it’s. That’s because deciduous trees take quite a bit longer to grow than their evergreen friends. This slow growth results in a stronger, harder, denser wood.


You May be Thinking


“Well, of course, I want hardwood for my furniture! After all, it’s stronger and likely more durable.” That’s true, but there are some cases when softwoods are better for furniture. We’ll touch on those in a bit.


Some types of hardwood include maple, cherry, oak, elm, and beech woods. Common types of softwood include pine, cedar, and spruce.


The Best Wood Types for Furniture Making

What are the best wood types for furniture making? Here’s a breakdown:



  • Maple




People like maple because it has a very fine, straight grain. Most maple is very soft and easy to work with. Some furniture makers prefer maple over other hardwoods.


  • Birch




Lightly grained and strong, this hardwood varies in color from red to yellow, but the result is always beautiful.


  • Elm




Although it has a great grain, elm is fairly hard to manage. Most furniture made with elm is produced by an expert woodworker.


  • Oak




A popular choice for the past three decades, oak never seems to go out of style. White oak is preferred by woodworkers over red oak because it’s more readily available. Oak can be used on furniture meant for the indoors and outdoors. It’s also great as a wall-cover, such as wainscoting.


  • Cherry




Remember the saying, “It gets better with age.” Well, that pretty much sums up cherry wood. It’s on the softer side of the hardwood scale, but that means it carves extremely well. Cherry is ideal for cabinets and tables.



  • Fir




It’s available virtually everywhere, but it’s not necessarily the prettiest wood out there. If you plan to work with fir wood, plan on staining, painting, or covering it with upholstery.


  • Pine




In some regions of the U.S., pine is everywhere. It’s easy to mold and shape and has distinct knotting and grains.


  • Cedar




Cedar has a distinct smell and grain. It’s on the sturdier side of the scale compared to other softwoods. It’s especially useful when creating outdoor furniture like chairs, tables, and child’s playsets.


  • Spruce




Spruce is plentiful, especially in the northern areas and it handles similarly to pine. The only difference is that it contains higher levels of sap and pitch, which can be a pain during the process of manufacturing the furniture.


Where to Buy Wood for Furniture-Making and Next Steps

Now that you have a better idea of what woods to choose for your furniture, it’s time to get particular. Remember, density is important, but so are looks.


First, narrow down a list of two or three kinds of wood you’re interested in working with, and then go to your local hardware or woodworking store. If you don’t know where to buy wood for furniture making, try a local Google search.


As you’re browsing at the store, take a look at their coloring and grain of your favorite woods. Touch, lift and try to imagine the wood as a table, a chair, or whatever else you plan to buy or make.


Then, take pictures of different types of wood you’re interested in working with to ensure they’ll match with your current décor and design aesthetic.


What type of wood is best for furniture, you ask? It all boils down to personal choice!


Images used with permission, courtesy of

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