Which wood/timber...

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Padster

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So you know the saying 'you only know what know' well I did a quick search but could not find a thread dedicated to choice of wood or timber for a particular task or build.

I'm a hobbyist so will generally use what ever I can get my hands on but reading recent threads I see other members describing they are using this timber or that wood most of which I have heard of but some I had not, then I got to the point of what made them make that choice... and realised I didn't really know.
Hence my search, then not finding something thought I'd create this post - with the hope to gain the knowledge of fellow members and maybe help newbies or other folk who may be in the same boat as myself.....

Regards

Padster

PS. If there's already a thread I missed or this isn't appropriate apologies in advance....at least it's not a sharpening thread ;)
 

billw

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My plans are to use just sycamore, American black walnut and American cherry as my “core woods” as they provide a nice mix of colour and are all easy to get hold of.

I think most projects would look good in a combo of those. I might add a further one or two rarer timbers as decorative features.
 

Ttrees

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For folks starting off and using what they can get their hands on...
I might suggest iroko as an alternative to anything else,
a good choice for projects that's extremely rot resistant and beetle proof.
Another consideration if working in a less than ideal workshop.
Its a good timber to make things from, I like the look of it, might be a bit dark for some folk, but at least for boxes would be nice.
If you happen to salvage timber then this is primarily what you will find.
Old exterior doors and windows are common.
Iroko and meranti making 95% of what I come across.

Rag'n'bone Brown has recently made a video on the subject.


In my experience you will find a lot more iroko than the softer red meranti.
And it will be solid rather than laminated rails, stiles and panels.

If your not clear on exactly what you want to make yet, then I suggest sticking to the saying...
Keep your timber as long, for as long as possible.

In addition to that saying, I will suggest width is also important for consistency
in easier selection, what I mean is don't go overboard with varnish or paint
removal with the hand plane to get every bit off, as you would be better off surface everything as late as you can, instead of stacking nice clean timber away in heaps.

Use a handsaw and cut the tenons off the rails, rather than lopping off the mortises, so you keep the full length of the door stiles.
Once you have the outside rails cut..
You might need a tennon saw to cut out the middle rails sometimes, but
try and wiggle out everything if you can first.

Tom
 

Ttrees

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Keith seemed to find some on whatever market website he visited.
Never found a sapele door yet I don't think.
(In Hibernia) the land of winter 🥶
 

Cabinetman

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For me it’s a mixture of practicality, colour and matching what else is in the room, oak is as good as anything for floors and furniture, and it can be stained to match, and brown oak makes a nice contrast for panels. Drawer sides I like really quite thin and made from sycamore or maple, these being very pale woods (against usually a slightly darker wood for the main carcass of the piece ) show up nicely on the drawer dovetails.
I sometimes like to use mahogany as a contrasting wood against Maple or ash, as in this bed end
DF738470-BEB4-4BAF-AA37-27E24F499645.jpeg
. Ian
 

Cabinetman

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That mahogany in the photo came from a Victorian bank counter front, about 20 years ago the guy was dismantling a branch of Barclays, he did one a week and was delighted when I asked if I could have some of the timber as he was taking it away and burning it all and it was breaking his heart. The bank counter top which came out in almost 8 x 4 sheets was made up from I think Iroko about an inch and a quarter thick, I still have a panelled cupboard door, well, more like a room door but only 4 feet high, solid Victorian mahogany and I can hardly pick it up. Just need to find a use for it really, The mahogany from the counter fronts compared to the poor imiitations that we are allowed to have nowadays is wonderful stuff, it’s really dense and reminds me quite a lot of rosewood, but more orangey Ian
 

Cheshirechappie

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All sorts of factors influence timber selection, but big ones for most of us are availability and cost. The pro cabinetmakers may seek out special boards of rare and exotic timbers (provided they can pass the cost on to their customers), but most of us can't really justify that. We just look at what decent timber can be found at acceptable cost.

Years ago, the local joiner and cabinetmaker did exactly the same - bought what the nearest sawmill was selling. Quite a bit of local oak, maybe elm, ash, some sycamore for dairy work, imported pine (deals) - yeah, we've been importing Baltic pine for centuries! It was only the top-end cabinetmakers buying up the imported mahogany, rosewoods, ebony and what-have-you. In some ways - sheet goods aside, not much changes!

There are a few timbers more appropriate for some jobs than others. Close-grained woods work best for food contact stuff like breadboards (sycamore and maple rather than oak and ash), for example. Some timbers come from small trees, so if you need large sections and long lengths you wouldn't be using, say, fruitwoods. Some timbers have particular properties that suit some jobs; ash is springy, so a traditional choice for tool handles; pearwood is exceptionally stable, so draughtsman's set squares were traditionally made from it. Elm used to be cheap and available in wide boards, so undertakers liked it for coffin-making. Pine is relatively cheap, hence it's use in house building and joinery. And so on.

For us? Rummage around, see what you can find. It's possible to track down really nice woods like English walnut, but you'll have to pay a hefty price and probably travel for it. See what the nearest merchants have available, go further if the project warrants it. A bit of trial and error might even be worth the long-term learning - for example, I dicsovered that I rather preferred the colour of European cherry when I bought some by accident looking for American Cherry (I know - don't ask!).

Above all, though, there aren't really any fixed 'right' answers.
 

Padster

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All thanks for all the comments so far and I’m sure lots of us will find this helpful.
Keep ‘em coming!

Thanks again

Padster
 

profchris

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I'd say the first question is whether the wood is suitable for the job. For some things almost any species might do. But I make ukuleles and guitars, and an ebony soundboard wouldn't do the job at all well, plus it would be ludicrously expensive. Spruce works well and is far cheaper, but for the fretboard it's the other way round.

Then aesthetics - what would look good? Do dark sides and a light top work for a chest, or the other way round? Would it look best in cherry or maple? And so on.

Finally price. Under finish, maple stained black might look just as good as ebony.
 

Cabinetman

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I'd say the first question is whether the wood is suitable for the job. For some things almost any species might do. But I make ukuleles and guitars, and an ebony soundboard wouldn't do the job at all well, plus it would be ludicrously expensive. Spruce works well and is far cheaper, but for the fretboard it's the other way round.

Then aesthetics - what would look good? Do dark sides and a light top work for a chest, or the other way round? Would it look best in cherry or maple? And so on.

Finally price. Under finish, maple stained black might look just as good as ebony.
What Profchris said, far more eloquently than me, and the last bit! I’m really keen on staining things black at the moment, never thought of doing it with maple, or Mabel! Nothing wrong with a bit of experimentation. None of us arrived here with preformed ideas. Ian
 

Trainee neophyte

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I try to do the best I can with what I've got. I don't have access to any wood that isn't pine, unless I find it myself. This makes for creative scrounging, and random attempts at diy sawmills. I still have all my fingers, and I am accumulating planks of all sorts of wood, that is nearly ready to use. I just need some skills now, and I'm away.

If you can cut it yourself, there are any number of random exotic timbers growing in the UK for you to play with. Sometimes the owner may even give you permission to take some ;-)
 

andy hamilton

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For folks starting off and using what they can get their hands on...
I might suggest iroko as an alternative to anything else,
a good choice for projects that's extremely rot resistant and beetle proof.
Another consideration if working in a less than ideal workshop.
Its a good timber to make things from, I like the look of it, might be a bit dark for some folk, but at least for boxes would be nice.
If you happen to salvage timber then this is primarily what you will find.
Old exterior doors and windows are common.
Iroko and meranti making 95% of what I come across.

Rag'n'bone Brown has recently made a video on the subject.


In my experience you will find a lot more iroko than the softer red meranti.
And it will be solid rather than laminated rails, stiles and panels.

If your not clear on exactly what you want to make yet, then I suggest sticking to the saying...
Keep your timber as long, for as long as possible.

In addition to that saying, I will suggest width is also important for consistency
in easier selection, what I mean is don't go overboard with varnish or paint
removal with the hand plane to get every bit off, as you would be better off surface everything as late as you can, instead of stacking nice clean timber away in heaps.

Use a handsaw and cut the tenons off the rails, rather than lopping off the mortises, so you keep the full length of the door stiles.
Once you have the outside rails cut..
You might need a tennon saw to cut out the middle rails sometimes, but
try and wiggle out everything if you can first.

Tom
 

andy hamilton

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Iroko is probably a good choice if you need a rot-resistant timber, but I've always avoided it because iroko dust is a known health hazard. No dust is good for you, so whatever timber you use, it's a good idea to google it before you buy. Face masks, filtering workshop air and dust extraction won't provide 100% protection
 

okeydokey

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An odd source of random wood was found at my local timber merchants - I was looking for some skirting board and came across a stack of 3"x2"x 2 foot wood used for spacers in stacks of timber. Yes I could have a dozen or so free, the yardman pointed out pick the heavy ones as they are close grained slower grown and in some cases a hardwood of unknown ancestry. Some were pretty heavy others were very light, all were from indoor storage and dry have been useful when Ive needed the occasional block of wood.
 

Dr Al

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So you know the saying 'you only know what know' well I did a quick search but could not find a thread dedicated to choice of wood or timber for a particular task or build.

I'm a hobbyist so will generally use what ever I can get my hands on but reading recent threads I see other members describing they are using this timber or that wood most of which I have heard of but some I had not, then I got to the point of what made them make that choice... and realised I didn't really know.
Hence my search, then not finding something thought I'd create this post - with the hope to gain the knowledge of fellow members and maybe help newbies or other folk who may be in the same boat as myself.....

Regards

Padster

PS. If there's already a thread I missed or this isn't appropriate apologies in advance....at least it's not a sharpening thread ;)

On the off-chance you haven't seen it, this post in the excellent thread by @custard does a fantastic comparison of some furniture woods.
 

Padster

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On the off-chance you haven't seen it, this post in the excellent thread by @custard does a fantastic comparison of some furniture woods.
@Dr Al posts like that from @custard are great - and I like to think a lot of the posts on this thread could be equally useful we have members with such fantastic knowledge here - I personally really appreciate all the help and advice - I think if we could find a better way of using Articles? it would make it easier to find stuff like this (@MikeK is this something being looked at?)

Padster
 
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