Selecting Wood and Storing Wood

With so many species of timber, it might seem tough to know where to start when making a selection.

Your choice will depend on a number of factors, not least the cost and availability.

It is well worthwhile tracking down one or more suppliers who is sensitive to the needs of woodworkers. Get to know them and strike up a good relationship with them. It will pay dividends. Acquiring great wood at a reasonable price is crucial for anyone woodworking.


choosing woodMany stockists are set up to cater to the construction trade. They do not take kindly to requests for small quantities of less common types of timber.

On the other hand, these companies sometimes offer surprising bargains. Perhaps they have been left with short lengths of board. These are frequently called shorts or short ends. They are less useful for trade purposes so you might steal a snip.

Don’t completely disregard boards with structural defects either. Areas of sapwood or wild and knotty grain can be used to effective decorative effect if judiciously selected.


wood worked

Some timbers have a sound reputation for being easily worked. They have a low cutting resistance and blunting effect on tools. They are often bland in appearance but are perfect for making solid frameworks where accurate jointing and stability are at a premium.

Straight and even grain provides superb glued joints and resistance to splitting when either screwed or nailed.

The great news is that this timbers can almost always be snared at a reasonable cost.

Here are some examples of wood species with great working properties:

  • Agba
  • Alder
  • Basswood
  • Obeche
  • Pine (most species)
  • Western red cedar


Not all species of timber will take a good finish, it’s as simple as that.


If the grain is particularly coarse, the surface can pick up which entails a lengthy process of filling the grain and rubbing down in order to achieve a satisfactory result.

Some species, such as teak, have a natural oily content. This inhibits the bonding of the finish.

Over the years, certain woods have become highly prized for their lustrous qualities and their innate ability to take a high polish with panache.

These type of woods are naturally more expensive and also more difficult to source and obtain.

Here are some woods particularly noted for their finishing qualities:

  • Afrormosia
  • Ash
  • Cherry
  • Hemlock
  • Jarrah
  • Mahogany
  • Rosewood
  • Walnut


durability in wood

Timber should be selected for durability if it’s liable to come into contact with any moisture. This does not just apply if the lumber will be stored outside but also in any areas of high humidity or condensation such as kitchens or bathrooms.

Sapwood is perishable and prone to staining in most timbers but even the heartwood of some species is vulnerable.

Many tropical hardwoods and softwoods, such as yew and cedar, are highly resistant to rot because of their oily nature.

Less Durable Wood Species:

  • Alder
  • Birch
  • Lime
  • Ash
  • Poplar
  • Spruce

Highly Durable Wood Species:

  • Teak
  • Iroko
  • Afrormosia
  • Jarrah
  • Chestnut
  • Oak
  • Cedar




The density of wood is expressed as kilograms per cubic meter or pound per cubic foot.

This is not only a measure of its relative weight but is also linked to its durability and strength. Where these factors are important, you choice of species should reflect this.

Bear in mind that most figures you will be quoted are based on averages at a fixed moisture content. The density of a single piece of wood can vary depending on its origin and growth conditions.

Common Wood Species In Order of Density From Least Dense To Most Dense:


  1. Western red cedar
  2. Spruce
  3. Hemlock
  4. Scots pine
  5. Douglas fir
  6. Larch
  7. Parana pine
  8. Pitch pine
  9. Yew

Temperate Hardwoods

  1. Basswood
  2. Poplar
  3. Alder
  4. Sycamore/Ash
  5. Elm/Chestnut
  6. Walnut/Cherry
  7. Beech/Birch
  8. Oak/Rock maple
  9. Jarrah

Tropical Hardwoods

  1. Obeche
  2. Agba
  3. Meranti/Idigbo
  4. Mahogany/Abura
  5. Iroko/Muninga
  6. Utile/Sapele
  7. Teak
  8. Afrormosia
  9. Ebony


storing wood

Many woodworkers will hoard timber.

They often set aside a piece of prime quality until the right job comes along or because it’s “too good to use”. There is nothing wrong with this in principle as long as you have adequate space. If it’s stored in the correct manner and conditions it will come to no harm at all. In fact, it might even improve with age.

The thing is, though, it’s important not to let this hoarding instinct get out of control. You should really keep track of your stock and manage it sensibly. Record the origin and date of purchase of each batch. Don’t mix up timber from separate batches in the same piece of work.

If you don’t have enough space to keep all your stock in the workshop, it will survive perfectly well outside until you need to call on it. Note though: when you want to work it through, bring it back inside some time before to allow it to acclimatize to interior conditions.

Store long lengths of timber under cover and ensure good ventilation. Warm, damp conditions encourage decay and an attack of fungus in a wood store is to be avoided at all costs. The spores that spread fungi are everywhere and all they need are the right conditions in order to take hold.

If you want to construct a storage stack, pop some bearers at the bottom of the pile of timber. Use sticks to separate the layers of wood. Ensure there is sufficient overlap, pop a plywood cover sheet over the top of the wood and weight it down with a couple of long lengths.




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