Choosing the right wood for a joinery project may seem like a difficult task, but it is actually not as difficult as it looks. Woodworking can be easy and a lot of fun. Inside, the most basic element is wood, and here you have all the information you need to make the right choice of wood.

Basic facts about wood

There are thousands of species of trees. Of these species, only a small percentage is used for the construction and manufacture of furniture or other wood products. From this group, it is better to choose those that are easier to work with and that are more attractive to you.

There are basically two types of wood to choose from: hard and soft woods. In addition, there are certain characteristics common to all types of wood. The following are some common terms and definitions that you should know:

Hardwoods. Hardwoods are deciduous trees that lose their leaves in autumn. Among an abundant variety, only 200 are abundant and flexible enough to work in carpentry. Like our skin, woods have microscopic pores on the surface. The size of these pores determines the grain and texture. Because of this, hardwoods are classified according to the opening of their pores, such as: soft grain (smaller pores), such as cherry and maple, and with veins of vascular lines (larger pores) such as oak, ash or oak. poplar.

Soft woods. The soft woods come from conifers, commonly known as evergreens. Only 25% of all soft woods are used in carpentry. All soft woods have a fine grain (small pores) that is not very visible in the finished product. The most popular soft woods are cedar, spruce, pine and spruce.

Density. Heavy woods like oak are identified by their weight and their narrow grain pattern. They resist wear, marks and scratches better than soft woods.

Texture. This is the property of the wood that determines the conditions and the surface and stability. It plays an important role in deciding the finish of the wood.

Defects. Wood defects are natural and appreciated by many carpenters for the unique characteristics they give to their work.

Color. The color contributes to the personality of the wood. For example, red cedar offers a different look and character than white pine.

Veined. Grain is the best-known characteristic of wood. The grain has to do with the fiber of the wood cells. You must decide which type of grain is most suitable for you based on the project you are going to undertake. There are 6 different types that you can get more information about here.

Degrees. The qualities of the wood are determined by the number, location and size of the defects in the boards, not by their hardness. The lighter the wood, the higher the grade.

Stability. It is the ability of wood not to shrink or expand before or after being worked.

Durability. Durable woods are more resistant to excess moisture and exposure to the soil, which represents a significant possibility of deterioration. Remember that no wood will deteriorate if it is kept dry.

Hard wood grades

The class designation depends on the number of defects in a given length and width of a hardwood plank. As with softwood, a lower grade may be perfectly acceptable depending on usage and location.

In each country or group of these there are agencies that classify the wood according to its grade. In the case of the United States, the National Hardwood Lumber Association provides us with the following classification:



Minimum table size

% of material usable on one side

First and second


6 “x 8”




4 “x 6”


Common # 1

# 1 With

3 ″ x 4 ′


Common # 2

# 2 With

3 ″ x 4 ′


Softwood degrees

Soft woods fall into two categories: dimensional sawn wood, classified based on strength and aesthetic boards, which are normally used for joinery projects.

The degree in softwood is monitored by several different agencies, so you are more likely to find some differences in terminology. The notes listed here range from the highest to the lowest.

level Which means
C selected Almost perfect. Widely used for internal cabinets and finishes
D selected Good looking, similar to the selected C. May have knots the size of a coin.
1 common The best material for high quality knotty pine. The nodes have a tight design, which means they don’t fall out and are usually small.
2 common Tight knots, but larger than grade 1 common wood. It is generally used on panels and shelves. Very suitable for carpentry projects in general.
3 common Larger knots than usual 2. It is also used for panels and shelves, but it is especially suitable for fences, boxes and packing crates.

Common Wood Defects

wood defects

When selecting wood, you should also pay attention to any defects it may have. This is important not only from an aesthetic point of view, but it will also affect the strength of our joinery project.

  • Arch: sags on the surface of the board, from one end to the other.
  • Hollow: hollow on the table surface.
  • Twist the warps along the edge line, also known as the crown.
  • Knot: a tight knot is usually not an issue. A loose or dead knot, surrounded by a dark ring, may fall or have fallen and left a gap.
  • Crack: crack along the piece of wood, common at the ends.
  • Kink: several irregularities in a table.
  • Notch: crack along the annual growth rings, but not across the thickness of the wood.
  • Weakness: separation of the grain between the growth rings, usually extending along the surface of the board and sometimes underneath.
  • Decline – Wood or bark not trimmed along the edge or corner of the piece is missing.