Different Wood Types And Their Properties, Part One: Hardwoods

Recently we covered which woods work best on your CNC router table. Today, we are going to take a more in-depth look at types of hardwoods and their properties so you can best decide which wood you’ll be using for your next CNC router table project.

If you haven’t worked on a CNC router table before, but want to, consider buying a table from Wright CNC. We’ve created our own course to teach you the basics of the software we use and help you get your system set up, so contact us today to purchase your new machine!

Hardwoods

As we’ve mentioned, hardwood is great on a CNC router table if you’re working on small cuts and intricate designs. Hardwood comes from deciduous trees that grow more slowly, thus creating a denser, harder wood. Because they grow slowly, they’re a limited resource and can be more expensive than softer woods. Consider one of the following if you’re planning on a project that requires fine-cut detail or will face a lot of wear and tear.

Ash

Ashwood ranges from white to pale brown and has a straight grain. It’s a four out of five on the hardness scale, making it fairly easy to work with. It takes stain nicely. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find.

Birch

Birchwood can either be yellow or white. Yellow birch can be pale yellow to white with a reddish-brown heartwood (the wood closer to the center of the tree.) White birch is whiter and resembles maple. Staining birch may cause blotchy spots, so use this wood for projects you plan to paint instead. Both types of birch rank as a four out of five on the hardness scale. Birch is pretty inexpensive and easy to find.

Cherry

Cherrywood’s heartwood is reddish-brown, but the sapwood (the wood closest to the outside of the tree) is almost white. It stains well and can even be finished with just oil. Cherrywood is a two out of five on the hardness scale. It’s a very popular wood and easy to work with, but it’s more expensive and harder to find for this reason.

Mahogany

Mahogany is reddish-brown to deep-red. It has a straight grain and medium texture. On the hardness scale, mahogany ranks two out of five. It takes stain well after just one coat. Mahogany isn’t grown in sustainable forests though, so it will be expensive and difficult to find.

Maple

Maplewood is whiter wood and can be found hard or soft. Hard maple is a five out of five on the hardness scale and difficult to work with. Soft maple is easier, but both are still harder than many other kinds of wood. Their fine, straight grain make maple easier to work with. They also tend to be less expensive than other hardwoods.

Oak

Oak is available in either red or white. It ranks four out of five on the hardness scale and is easy to work with. The grain has a “ray flake” pattern. Oak is the most widely used wood for furniture. It’s water resistant, so it’s great for outdoor furniture too. Red oak is fairly easy to find, but you’ll have to visit a lumberyard to find white oak.

Poplar

Poplar is a lighter wood with green or brown streaks in the heartwood. It’s a one out of five on the hardness scale and easy to work with. It’s not a very attractive wood, so painting it is recommended. For this reason, it’s fairly inexpensive and easy to find.

Teak

Teak is golden-brown and an oily feel, making it highly weather-resistant. It ranks a three out of five on the hardness scale. It’s great for outdoor furniture. It’s becoming rare to find though, so it’s very expensive and difficult to find.

Walnut

Walnut is a rich brown wood. It’s a four out of five on the hardness scale. It’s easy to work with, but can be expensive and hard to find as larger boards. That said, it’s nice to use for accent work and inlays.


We hope this guide helps you choose the right wood for your next CNC router table project. If you’re looking to invest in a CNC router table, check out our different table sizes at Wright CNC so you can start carving beautiful wood projects yourself.

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