Woodworking is an incredibly rewarding hobby, but it can take a lot of practice for beginners. How do you make your woodworking hobby as enjoyable as possible? It starts with choosing the right material! You’re probably thinking, “Wood is just wood,” right? How different could wood types be? As you’ll see, the differences between hardwood and softwood are vast. Check out our guide on whether hardwood or softwood is better for woodworking.
What’s the Difference?
The difference between hardwood and softwood is the tree species, not the density of the wood or its malleability. You might assume softwood is easier to work with than hardwood or that hardwood is more durable.
Hardwoods are angiosperms of any given species. These trees shed their leaves once a year during autumn and winter. Hardwood trees in this category have seeds protected by nuts, fruits, or seed coverings.
Softwoods are “gymnosperms,” meaning nuts or fruits don’t protect seeds. Instead, they lay bare on the ground. These trees are usually conifers or evergreens and generally grow faster than hardwoods.
Factors To Consider
Wood expands and contracts, so consider this behavior in your projects. Hardwoods don’t do this as often, so they’ll retain their shape better than softwoods. Hardwood is often used in doors, cabinets, and drawers. Softwood tends to expand in humid weather.
Work carefully when fastening hardwoods to another material. For instance, you should never use nails on hardwood. Instead, pre-drill holes and carefully insert screws. Precise tools will work best, including heavy-duty air staple guns. Softwood is full of knots and has wide grain patterns, and hardwood grain has fewer knots and much tighter grain.
Which Is Better for Woodworking?
You can determine the hardness of wood through the Janka hardness test. This measures how much force you must apply to lodge a steel ball halfway into the wood. The necessity of this test depends on your project. Many tree species are hardwood, so you’ll often find them at your local retailer. Your woodworking project will determine your choice. If you’re doing construction, and costs and speed are primary factors, choose softwood. However, if you want to beautify your home or complete a small project, we recommend using hardwood to get your best cedars and black walnut finishes.
It should be clear whether hardwood or softwood is better for woodworking. The choice between hardwood and softwood depends on your current project. You’ll need hardwood for rigid structures; use softwood for smaller projects or when cutting costs. You'll succeed every time if you choose based on your needs!