Choosing Types of Wood

The type of wood you choose determines the beauty and strength of the finished piece. Many types of wood are available from Oxford Wood Recycling and each has its own characteristics and properties. Here we try to explain wood, how it is cut, what to expect from different species and how to choose the best wood for your project.

The type of wood you choose determines the beauty and strength of the finished piece. Many types of wood are available, from Oxford Wood Recycling, and each has its own properties. Here we’ve tried to explain the wood product making and buying process and what you can expect from some common types of species.

The way that the original log has been cut at the saw mill determines the strength and use of the final product. The main 3 types of milling processes are Plain , Quarter and Rift sawn.

Hardwoods are usually Plain or Quarter sawn and construction softwoods are generally Rift sawn. In a modern computer driven saw mill a softwood log will be processed in many different ways to maximise the yield from the log.

Plain sawn is for the large wide slabs that can be used for tables and furniture and flooring. Quarter sawn is the daddy of milling techniques and is expensive therefore usually used for furniture.

Quarter Sawn hardwood timber is the most stable and has attractive patterning. the growth rings are generally at 60 to 90 degrees to the face of the board.

Rift sawn softwood is used in construction for decks, framing, posts, flooring, fencing, beams , landscaping and barn timbers. The linear grain pattern is achieved by milling perpendicular to the logs growth rings on angles between 45 and 75 deg.

Construction softwood is mainly sourced from cold countries such as Canada, Nordics, Baltics and Russia, to keep the growth rings tight for strength and stability. Several other species of tree such as spruce and hemlock are also used but rarer. It this wood is intended for first fix use i.e. domestic woodwork that will not be seen when the project is complete such as timber frames and stud work. Scaffold boards and the majority of pallets are also made from whitewood. It may have some splits & stains and some warp.

The big DIY sheds sell a lot of whitewood that has been planed all round (PAR) so it is uniform and graded therefore being easy to transport, minimal splinters and gentle to the eye when buying.

Timber is still widely bought in imperial sizes, while being sold in metric. For example 4×2 means 4 inches by 2 inches. Retailers will supply 48mmx90mm, which is near enough identical. Metric sizes are also sold that don’t correspond to the popular imperial sizes but close enough!

In DIY sheds timber is sold in various lengths, common are 1.8m, 2.4m & 3m (apx 6′, 8′ & 10′). At OWR we stock a wider range of lengths including very short pieces. Please come and see us as we can cut to length and match your cutting list more accurately than a high st retailer.

Grading is an assessment of the structural strength of the timber. Key features assessed in grading are splits and knots, especially large knots at the edge of the wood. Graded wood is stamped with the grading details. For new floor joists and roofing requires use of graded timber To comply with building control. For most diy shed, decking planters etc there is no need to use graded timber.

Types of Wood


Softwoods aren’t weaker than hardwoods. Softwoods come from coniferous trees such as cedar, fir, and pine and tend to be somewhat yellow or reddish. Because most coniferous trees grow fast and straight, softwoods are generally less expensive than hardwoods.

It’s also relatively easy to find sustainable grown softwoods (woods grown on tree farms to ensure an endless supply of wood); this means you’re not contributing to the deforestation of the world and will always have a supply of wood for your projects. At OWR because the wood has been reclaimed it is definitely not contributing to deforestation.


Commercial pines are grown in plantations for timber that is denser, more resinous, and therefore more durable than spruce.

Pine is very easy to work with and, because most varieties are relatively soft, it lends itself to carving. Pine is commonly used in furniture because it’s easy to shape and stain. Pine generally takes stain very well (as long as you seal the wood first). Pine wood is widely used in high-value carpentry items such as window frames, paneling, floors and roofing, and the resin of some species is an important source of turpentine.


The most common type of cedar is the western red variety. Western red cedar, as its name implies, has a reddish colour to it. This type of wood is relatively soft (1 on a scale of 1 to 4), has a straight grain and one of the most aromatic woods (hence, a cedar chest. drawer and wardrobe nuggets and coat hangers make clothes smell nice and deters insects such as moths ). Western Red cedar is mostly used for outdoor projects such as furniture, decks, and building exteriors because it can handle moist environments without rotting.


Often referred to as Douglas Fir, this wood has a straight, interesting and pronounced grain, and has a reddish brown tint to it. Fir is most often used for building; as it’s inexpensive and can be used for some furniture-making as well. It doesn’t take stain very well, so it’s best to use it only when in the raw or you intend to paint the finished product. Douglas fir is moderately strong and hard for a softwood, rating 4 on a scale of 1 to 4.


Most woodworkers and wood turners love to work with hardwoods. The variety of colours, textures, and grain patterns makes for some beautiful and interesting looking furniture. The downside to hardwoods is their price. Some of the more exotic species can be too expensive to use for anything more than an accent such as in highly patterned marquetry.


There are over 200 species of oak in commercial cultivation. English Oak is know to the best quality and has been used for 1000’s of years. Oak is strong (hardness of about 4 on a scale of 1 to 5) and easier to work with when green. It is also resistant to moisture and is very durable. The wood is very resistant to insect and fungal attack because of its high tannin content. The grain has a beautiful “ray flake” pattern to it.

Oak planking was common on Viking long ships in the 9th and 10th centuries. The wood was hewn from green logs, by axe and wedge, to produce planks. Boards of oak have been prized since the Middle Ages for use in interior paneling of prestigious buildings such as the debating chamber of the House of commons in London. Oak was used in Europe for the construction of ships, especially naval vessels and docks. Today oak wood is still commonly used for furniture making and flooring, timber frame buildings, and for veneer production.


Ash is a hardwood and is hard, dense, tough and very strong but elastic, extensively used for tool handles and baseball bats and other uses demanding high strength and resilience. Ash has great finishing qualities. It also has good machining qualities, and is quite easy to use with nails, screws and glue. There is little demand for the wood and therefore less expensive as other hardwoods.

It is also often used as material for electric guitar bodies. Some Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters are made of ash. It is also used for making drum shells. Early cars had frames which were intended to flex as part of the suspension system in order to simplify construction. Morgan cars still have frames made from ash.


Is a utility timber that is tough but dimensionally unstable. It weighs about 720 kg per cubic metre and is widely used for furniture framing and carcass construction, flooring and engineering purposes, in plywood and in household items like plates, but rarely as a decorative wood. It’s an excellent firewood, easily split and burning for many hours with bright but calm flames. Beech is also used to smoke hams, various sausages, and some cheeses.


Is valued for its interlocking grain, and consequent resistance to splitting, with significant uses in wagon wheel hubs, chair seats and coffins. Often long, straight, trunks were favoured as a source of timber for keels in ship construction. Elm was also prized by bowyers in the Middle Ages. Elm was also used to make longbows if yew was unavailable.


One of the great furniture woods, mahogany (also called Honduran mahogany) has a reddish-brown to deep-red tint, a straight grain, medium texture, and a hardness of around 2 on a scale of 1 to 5. It takes stain very well and looks great with just a coat (or 10) of oil.

The only drawback is that mahogany isn’t being grown in sustainable forests. That’s why Oxford Wood Recycling is a great place to find this type wood and similar like Iroko from West Africa.


It is sometimes known as “Burmese teak”. Teak wood has a leather-like smell when it is freshly milled. It is particularly valued for its durability and water resistance, and is used for boat building, exterior construction, veneer, furniture, carving, turnings, and other wood projects. Teak’s natural oils make the timber termite and pest resistant. Teak is durable even when not treated with oil or varnish. Timber cut from old teak trees was once believed to be more durable and harder than plantation grown teak. Studies have shown that plantation teak performs on par with old-growth teak in erosion rate, dimensional stability, warping, and surface checking, but is more susceptible to colour change from UV exposure. It rates a 3 on a scale of 1 to 5 for hardness.


With a hardness of about 4 on a 1 to 5 scale, walnut is a rich brown wood that’s easy to work with. Unfortunately, walnut is somewhat expensive, and finding large boards for big projects is getting difficult. In spite of this, walnut is still a great wood to work with and lends itself nicely for use as accents and inlays to dress up a project with wonderful grain patterns especially burr walnut.

We hope this has given you more of an insight into the process, buying and uses of timber. At Oxford Wood Recycling, we have great ranges of construction wood of various imperial and metric sizes, common pallet wood and to beautiful slabs of oak, ash and beech for a modern rustic look. We also stock old antique oak doors, elm beams, pine flooring, It is harder to get stocks of teak, mahogany and walnut but on a rare occasion they do come to us but sell quickly.

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