How To Choose the Best Wood for a Table Project (6 Great Tips)

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    Are you looking for the best wood to create a hardwood dining table that you and your family will love for generations? When you start a woodworking project, you want to make sure that you’re choosing the ideal materials from the very beginning. Choosing the wrong wood species can leave you struggling to complete your project — or, worse yet, see your hard work fall apart over time because the option you chose was not compatible.

    So, which wood type is right for your woodworking project? The best option likely depends on a variety of factors and characteristics. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing the right wood species for your table.

    What is Hardwood?

    The best Hardwood typically comes from deciduous trees or trees that lose their leaves in fall and winter. These trees typically grow slower than trees like pine, which maintain their leaves all year. As a result, they are harder, more solid, and denser, which makes them the best wood for furniture projects that need long-term durability (like a kitchen table or dining room table).

    Examples of hardwoods include:

    • Beech
    • Hickory
    • Maple
    • Oak (including red oak and white oak)
    • Teak
    • Walnut
    • Cherry wood
    • Poplar
    • Ash
    • Elm


    Softwoods, by comparison, include pine, Douglas fir, hemlock, red cedar, and spruce, among other options.

    You can sometimes clearly identify a species based on its color and the grain pattern, but that often requires years of experience and knowledge. If in doubt, consult a professional to get a better idea of the option you’re considering and how it will impact your project.

    Live Edge Versus Plank Board Projects

    Before you start, you’ll need to decide whether you’re in the market for a live edge or dimensional/plank board product. The difference lies in how the product will look when it’s completed.

    Live Edge

    With live edge, you will incorporate the natural edge of the tree trunk into the design. Craftsmen often leave naturally occurring holes and cracks to keep the slab’s natural charm. Live edge projects are lovely, but may have a higher cost than a traditional plank board project. These slabs are often used for items like a coffee table, dining room tables, shelves, and other woodworking projects, big and small.

    Usually, a live edge piece is either one piece of very large wood, or two pieces “book matched” together. Book matching is when you take two cuts of wood from the same tree, and cut one edge straight, gluing the two pieces to make it wide enough to use for your purpose. It most closely resembles a single piece of wood, since the grains copy each other on either side, since it’s the same tree.

    Black Walnut Cookie slab at warehouse

    Plank Board

    Plank board projects use dimensional lumber (2×4’s, 1×6’s, etc…), which are easyier to mass-produce. It helps you control the look of your table, since if there is a board that doesn’t look so great, you can choose another one to get your ideal look. Farmhouse style tables are made with this method, as well as many picnic tables, and other dining room tables.

    6 Tips for Choosing the Best Hardwood for Your Table

    Ready to choose the hardwood for your table? Use the following tips for additional help.

    Tip #1: Pay attention to durability.

    Walnut is an excellent wood if you’re looking for a project that will hold together long-term and hold up to heavy family use. Ash is a hard-wearing wood known to stand up to heavy use, which makes it a great choice for a family dining room table that you want to pass down for generations. Oak is one of the hardest domestic woods available and often gets used for large, durable projects that need to stand the test of time. Softwoods like pine, on the other hand, might not have the durability you need.

    Tip #2: Consider the stain you want to use.

    Natural wood offers some beautiful colors all on its own, but you will probably want to stain your project to finish it. We recommend that you don’t. That stain could either cover the grain of the wood or bring it out, so it’s important to decide how much of that grain you’d like to see. A darker stain can mute the shades in brown maple, for example, while a lighter one will bring them out and help add a unique element to your table. But if you can keep yourself from staining the wood, please refrain.

    Tip #3: Take a look at the grain pattern of the wood.

    On the same note about grain, each wood type has its own unique patterns. Hardwood species like oak may offer more knots and pits than cherry, for example. Carefully evaluate the grain pattern of the wood and consider how you want the finished project to look.

    Tip #4: Consider what you want to spend.

    Much of the furniture sold across the United States is made from particleboard, a thin sheet of wood over a pulp center. This process makes for cheaper, lighter furniture that is not designed to last forever. Expect the cost of solid wood furniture to be much more expensive than particleboard. Many people are surprised to learn that their solid wood table does not fit within their initial projected budget, but the added cost is often well worth the investment.

    Tip #5: Consider other woods throughout your home.

    Many people want to be sure their furniture matches. You don’t necessarily want pine chairs around a black walnut table, for example. Take a look at the color and type of wood you have already chosen to use throughout your home and base your table’s wood on the colors already in your space.

    Tip #6: Talk to a woodworking professional.

    If you aren’t sure about all the wood types available or are concerned you might not make the ideal choice for your home, give us a call, and discuss your needs. Ask yourself questions like:

    • What or how much of the grain do you want to see?
    • Do you plan to use it for personal use in your home?
    • Will it be inside, or outside?
    • Will it be in direct sunlight, or in a sun-free room?
    • How big is your room?


    Wood furniture is an investment, especially if you’re planning to construct your own table. We can provide you with clear, quality advice about the right wood for your next project.

    Are you ready to start working on your table? Do you know the color of the wood or stain you’re considering, or how to make the most of your next furniture project? Contact Makers Woodshop today to speak with an expert about any questions you might have regarding the right wood for your table project.

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