Skip to main content

Workhorse wood

  • Author:
  • Updated:

When it absolutely, positively has to be strong, good-looking and straightforward to work with, what wood do you choose? For me, the choice is easy.

Ive opined here before on my favorite utility wood poplar. I use it for all my jigs and shop furniture, for secondary structural components such as drawer boxes, and just about anything else where I need something thats fast and easy, but can still take some abuse. But when it comes to high strength, easy of workability, straightforward joinery, versatile finishing and an appearance thats pleasing almost right off the tree, red oak is at the top of my list.

Red oak is incredibly strong in just about any application, it takes stain better and with fewer problems than most other hardwood species, and in a decorating sense it goes well with almost anything. Availability is universal every wood supplier, from the specialty yards to the local Big Box stores, have it in abundance. Its such a genial wood that wherever you find it, its generally good quality; even with the typical junk the Big Box stores stock it usually doesnt take much sifting through the pile to find some good pieces.

I love the look of cherry and use it a lot. Walnut is also a joy to use. On the lathe theres nothing Id rather turn than maple burl, and spalted maple is my top choice for decorative panels. If someone requests any other species for something Im making for them, Im always more than happy to comply. And the aroma produced when working with Western red cedar is the next best thing to being in a donut shop. But when it comes to furniture, cabinets and a host of other pieces where the choice is mine, I rarely go with anything but oak.

So, whats your favorite wood for the perfect combination of strength, working characteristics and innate beauty?

Till next time,



Related Articles

Wood I, or wooden I

I’ve never stated before that there’s not a species of wood I won’t work with. Well, I take it back.

AJBLOG-1030 image[73]

A wood to revisit

The last thing I expected in a gourmet shop specializing in artisanal olive oil was a full crop of woodworking items.