The average homeowner tends to pay little attention to the various types of wood and their uses. However, once you know the various histories and applications behind the countless varieties of wood, your next DIY job will become a thousand times more interesting! To help you get started on this journey of timber, grain and gouge chisels, we present five of the most popular types of wood, along with an explanation of where they come from and their best applications.
With over 600 extant species of this staple wood type, oak has found its way into almost ever fact of modern living, from public buildings to general joinery work. With varieties popping up in all over the world (with the two most diverse sources being Mexico and China), oak’s high density, strength and hardness is so universally known that it is adopted as a symbol of strength by many of the world’s nations. We previously covered this wood’s uses in our blog ‘The Advantages of Oak Timber in Woodworking’, but as a quick summary, this hardwood’s grain markings, natural resistance and environmental friendliness makes it ideal not just for interior and exterior shopfitting and furniture, but also in distilling wine, brandy or Scotch whisky, and in smoking meat and cheese.
Recommended Oak Timber: Planed All Round American White
Among all the types of wood, pine trees are the most commercially vital for their timber and wood pulp. Fast-growing and durable, this softwood is one of the lightest options for interior woodwork, with a wide range of application indoors and out such as joinery, stairs, furniture and roofing. The tree itself predominantly grows in the North Hemisphere (indeed, some of the species introduced down south have become invasive…), and can typically reach ages of 100 to 1000 years. Because they are so widespread, it’s hard to determine where they originate from, however the common stone pine is believed to have originated in China.
Recommended Pine Timber: Planed All Round Southern Yellow
To even group beech into a single family of wood seems like a woefully ignorant act, given how diverse the tree’s various species and subspecies are. The Fagaceae, for example, is considered the most basal group of beech trees, with the trees in Eurasia having evolved much later on in history. European beech (particularly that from Germany and France) is the most commonly cultivated; it is highly workable, well suited to interior and joinery and can be stained and polished to a good standard. You can even order it as a cut to sized piece of veneered MDF for use in cabinets, panel mouldings and fire surrounds.
Recommended Beech Timber: Planed All Round White
Another widespread source of wood, ash (also known as eucalyptus regnans, and not to be confused with rowan) is one of the tallest types of tree in the world, including the tallest of them all at 80.5 metres high in Dunedin, New Zealand. The wood itself is easy to work, thanks to its long straight grain, elastic and ‘stringy’ properties and clear unknotted sections. Aside from its wide use by interior designers, shop fitters and as stained furniture, Ash can also be turned into wood wool through a process of steam reconditioning.
Recommended Ash Timber: Planed All Round American
This single tropical hardwood species has numerous qualities that make it unique among other types of wood. It has a leather-like smell when freshly milled, and its durability and water resistance have made it a solid choice for boat building, carvings and wood turning. Native to East Asian countries like India, Indonesia and Northern Thailand, teak consumption poses a number of environmental dangers, but thankfully it has benefitted from several committed sustainability projects as well. Incredibly durable whilst moderate in weight, teak is definitely worth seeking out if you want a more distinguishable type of wood.
Recommended Teak Timber: Planed All Round