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Traditionally wood is of 2 types- Softwood and Hardwood. Softwood is obtained from coniferous trees like fir, redwood, spruce, cedar, birch, etc. Softwood trees generally grow faster and longer. Hardwood on the other side is scarce. Hardwood is obtained from trees like oak, maple, cherry, mahogany, etc. Oak is widely used in this regard.


Point of difference Hardwood Softwood
Origin Comes from deciduous trees which drop their leaves every year Comes from coniferous trees, which grow faster and straight.
Types Mahogany, Teak, Walnut, Oak, Ash, Birch, Elm, Aspen, Maple, etc. Pine , Cedar , Fir , Larch , Douglas –fir , Spruce,etc.
Usage Used for making furniture and construction of house but less frequently than softwood Used for making furniture, construction of houses, buildings, novelties, etc.
Cost Expensive when compared to softwood. Cheaper than Hardwood
Colour Dark coloured Light Coloured
Weight Heavy Varies in different softwood
Fire resistant More Less
Conversion to finished product Difficult conversion due to hardness; hence time-consuming. Easy conversion.

Hardwood comes from broadleaved trees such as oak, ash and beech. Most of these trees are deciduous; they lose their leaves in the winter. There are about a hundred times as many hardwood species as softwood. Hardwood is generally far more resistant to decay than softwood when used in exterior work.

Ash is normally found in eastern America, Western Europe, North Africa and southwest Asia. Ash is known for its strength but at the same time it is elastic in nature. Due to its elastic nature it is commonly used to make walking sticks, baseball bats, tools, etc. Ash is most preferred wood as it easy to maintain i.e. easy to use with nails, screws and glue. Ash is used mainly for construction, flooring, ceiling, etc. Ash is approximately 10% harder than Oak.

  • COLOUR: Warm brown heartwood with narrow light brown sapwood.
  • PATTERN: Straight moderately open grain.
  • CHARECTERISTICS: Heavy, hard, strong, stiff and high shock resistance with excellent blending qualities and above average workability.
  • USES: Interiors, furniture, handles of tools and implements, sporting and athletic goods.

Birch is an excellent shock resistant wood. It is very fine grained and used widely for making furniture. Birch has excellent machining properties. Birch is lighter than other woods and light yellowish in colour. Yellow birch is an important source of lumber. It is used for furniture, cabinetry, charcoal, pulp, interior finish, veneer, tool handles, boxes, woodenware, and interior doors.

  • COLOR: Cream or light brown tinged with red, with thin, nearly white sapwood.
  • PATTERN: Rotary and sliced, plain and often curly or wavy.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: Heavy, very strong, hard closed-grained, even texture.
  • USES: Furniture, interiors, interior and exterior doors, store fixtures, accessories.

Beech is another versatile wood. Its colour ranges from light cream to tan brown. Due to its hard texture and resistance to impacts, it is used for floorings, etc. Beech is also used as fuel wood as it had great burning qualities. Beech has about the same hardness as oak. It is also widely usedin furniture framing and construction. It has good nailing and gluing properties as well.

Oak is the most widely used hardwood and has density of about 0.75 g/cm3. . It has great strength and hardness. Due to its high tannin content, it is resistant to fungal and insect attack. Oak is widely used for construction, furniture, barrels, floorings, caskets, etc. Oak is available in variety of colours ranging from white, red to light brown in colour. Oak is also excellent firewood.

  • COLOUR: From light brown with a greyish tinge in the heartwood to shades of ochre in the sapwood.
  • PATTERN: More pronounced and longer rays than red oak, and more frequently rift-sawn for the comb-grain, pin striped figure than red oak.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: suitable for water-tight containers (barrel staves) and where water resistance is required. Tannic acid in the wood protects it from fungi and insects. Closer grained than red oak.
  • USES: Nearly all common uses of hardwoods, and especially popular where strength and durability are required. Also for water-tight or water-resistant purposes.

MAPLE: Maple is classified into two groups – Hard maples and Soft maples.
Hard Maples are sugar maple and black maple. Hard Maple is light reddish brown in colour. It has a uniform texture. It is stiff, hard, strong and heavy. Hard Maple is used mostly for lumber and veneer. Maple is used for flooring, furniture, cabinets, cutting boards and blocks, pianos, billiard cues, handles, novelties, bowling alleys, dance and gymnasium floors, etc.

Soft maples are red maples, silver maple, big leaf maple and silver maple. The wood is somewhat light brownish in colour. The soft maple resembles the hard maple but is not as heavy, hard and strong as them. Soft maple is used for railroad crossties, boxes, pallets, crates, furniture, veneer, wooden ware, and novelties. Soft maple is an important source of saw timber and pulpwood but is often overlooked as a wood resource.

  • COLOUR: Cream to light reddish-brown heartwood, thin white sapwood tinged slightly with reddish-brown.
  • PATTERN: Usually straight-grained, , scattered over entire tree or in irregular stripes and patches.
  • CHARACTERISTICS:The soft maples are roughly 25 per cent softer than the hard maples. Heavy, fairly strong, close-grained, stiff, uniform texture. Good resistance to impact, however Hard Maple is stronger and more resistant.
  • USES: It is used for railroad construction, boxes, crates, furniture, veneer, wooden ware and novelties. In many countries it is used for construction of bowling alleys and used in making many musical instruments.


Famous for its sapwood which is turned into Maple syrup. The sapwood is cream-coloured, with a tendency to reddish brown, and the heartwood varies from light to dark brown with red highlights. It usually has fine figuring with straight, but sometimes slightly wavy, grain. Hard Maple is 10-15% harder than Oak and undergoes a medium degree of colour change, from a creamy white to golden over time.

  • COLOUR: Cream to light reddish-brown heartwood, thin white sapwood tinged slightly with reddish-brown.
  • PATTERN: Usually straight-grained, scattered over entire tree or in irregular stripes and patches.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: Heavy, hard, strong, close-grained, tough, stiff, uniform texture. Excellent resistance to impact. Can change colour over a period of time.
  • USES: Furniture, interiors, fixtures, flooring, woodenware, cutting surfaces, and other industrial uses, school furniture, decorative inlays and overlays.

Cherry is a very versatile wood, with its colour ranging from creamy white to reddish brown colour. Cherry is softer than oak. It is a medium density wood with uniform texture. Black Cherry is a commercially important tree. It is used for panelling, interior trim, veneers, and handles, crafts, toys, and scientific instruments. This wood has good machining properties and it is quite durable. As the wood ages, its colour changes from light cream colour to reddish brown.

  • COLOUR: Light reddish-brown.
  • PATTERN: Straight-grained and satiny
  • CHARACTERISTICS: Light, strong, hard and fine-grained.
  • USES: Fine Furniture, veneer, toys, handicrafts and scientific instruments.

Walnut wood ranges from white in colour to light brown to dark, chocolate brown, often with a purplish cast and darker streaks. The wood is heavy, hard, and stiff and has high shock resistance. The wood changes its colour over a period of time. Walnut is 20% softer than oak. Walnut is used for many purposes – indoors and outdoors. It is mostly used for making furniture, cabinets, desks, tables, bedroom furniture, etc. It is also used in making several shotguns and rifles. This wood is highly durable and has excellent machining properties.

  • COLOUR: Light grey-brown to dark purplish-brown.
  • PATTERN: Plain to highly figured in pattern. Most of the woods have purplish cast and dark steaks.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: Moderately heavy, very strong for its weight, exceptionally stable.
  • USES: Furniture, architectural woodwork, gunstocks, novelties.

Rosewood’s colour ranges from dark brown to deep purple with black streaks. The wood changes its colour to dark brown over a period of time. Rosewood is very hard and durable. It is ideal for making furniture, cabinets, instruments, floorings, etc. Rosewood is often used in the martial art weaponry, particularly as the shaft of spears and in the gun staves.

  • COLOUR: Dark brown to deep purple colour with black streaks
  • PATTERN: Plain to highly figured in pattern. Most of the woods have purplish cast and dark steaks.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: Extremely dense and strong. It is stronger than teak and very durable.
  • USES: Furniture, musical instruments, weaponry, industrial purposes. It is also used in making perfumes and oils.

The sapwood’s colour ranges from light pinkish colour to reddish brown with dark streaks. Over a period of time it changes its colour to dark reddish brown colour. The wood is pretty hard and durable. This wood is among the most popular of all species of wood. The wood is mainly used in making furniture, handrails, sports equipment and flooring due to its exceptional hardness. Jatoba is rated as being very durable wood and is rot resistance, and is also resistant to termites and most other insects.

  • COLOUR: from light pinkish colour to reddish brown with dark streaks
  • PATTERN: Medium course texture with long grains. They are mostly wavy and interlocked
  • CHARACTERISTICS:Strong and durable. It is also resistant to rot and insects. It has good machining properties.
  • USES: Furniture, sport equipment, flooring, musical instruments and other industrial purposes.


Ash Excellent Good Excellent Good Fair Very good
Birch Excellent Fair Fair Good Excellent Very good
Beech Excellent Fair Fair Good Excellent Very good
Oak Excellent Good Excellent Good Very good Very good
Maple Very good Fair Good Good Very good Very good
Cherry Excellent fair fair Very good Excellent Excellent
Walnut Excellent Fair Good Good Excellent Excellent
Rosewood Excellent Good Good Good Good Excellent
Excellent Good Good Very good Very good Excellent

Softwood comes mainly from evergreen, coniferous trees which keep their foliage all the year. These are trees like pine and fir trees that are typical of cooler parts of the world.In general, softwood is easy to work and has a huge range of uses. It is not only the prime material for the structural building but is also found in furniture and other products such as doors and windows. Softwood is also harvested for use in the production of paper.

About 80% of the total world’s production of timber comes from softwood. Softwoods are not necessarily soft in nature. The thickness and hardness vary in different types of softwoods. Below are some of the commonly known softwoods.


Cedar has a reddish texture and known for its aromatic smell. Cedar has two types namely white cedar and red cedar. It is often used to make closets as it repels insects. This wood is also used for novelties, cabinets, dock planks, etc. as they resist decaying and are mostly uniform in their texture.

  • COLOUR: Heartwood is a light reddish brown and sapwood is pale yellow-brown to white.
  • PATTERN: Straight grain with uniform texture.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: Hard and durable. It is resistant to impact and decay. It also has excellent machining properties.
  • USES: Furniture, cabinets, novelties,building boats, etc.


Fir is mostly used as plywood or pulp. This wood is mostly used for indoor use such as cabinets or closets, etc. The wood is very soft and has a reddish brown color.

  • COLOUR: Heartwood is usually white to reddish brown and pale brown sapwood
  • PATTERN: Medium course texture. Its grains are uniform and straight.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: Dense, hard, stiff, durable, strong. But less resistant to insects.
  • USES: Furniture, papers, plywood, construction of lumber and other industrial purposes.


Hemlock is a soft and rough wood with open grains. It is commonly used for the construction of lumber. The wood varies from light honey color to rich golden tan color. This wood has excellent gluing properties which makes it best for laminating, edge veneering, etc.

  • COLOUR: Heartwood is usually white to reddish brown and light brown sapwood
  • PATTERN: Flat and straight grains with uneven texture.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: Non-durable and poor resistance to insect attacks. However, it has good machining properties.
  • USES: Furniture, papers, cabinets, millwork, veneering, etc.


Pine is long-lived, almost 100 to 1000 years or more. They are oldest living organisms. In tropical regions, they are fastest growing softwood. Pines are commercially used as Christmas trees. Pine is used widely for construction purposes as it resists shrinking and swelling. They are excellent wood for making furniture, novelties, doors, window frames, wood flooring, etc. Their texture is mostly honey colored or straw colored.

  • COLOUR: Heartwood is reddish brown and yellowish white sapwood.
  • PATTERN: Medium course texture. Its grains are uniform and straight.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: It has a mild smell. It is durable; light weighted and has average machining properties.
  • USES: Furniture, novelties, doors and window making, flooring, making paper and other decorative purposes.


Like the name suggests, this wood is Red in color. Redwood is insect repellent and used for a variety of purposes like furniture, home décor, kitchen cabinets, etc. It is easily machined, easy to saw and nail and has superior gluing properties. Due to its resistance to moisture, it is a preferred wood for outdoor projects.

  • COLOUR: Heartwood is light pinkish brown to a deep reddish brown in colour. Sapwood is a pale white/yellow.
  • PATTERN: Medium course texture. Its grains straight. However it may be wavy and irregular at times.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: Light weighted, moderately strong and resistant to decay. It also has good machining properties.
  • USES: Furniture, home décor, cabinets, garden furniture, farms, green houses and other construction purposes.


Spruce is normally found in the northern temperate regions of the earth. Spruce is commonly used to make musical instruments like guitar, violins, mandolins, etc. Due to its low resistance to insects and moisture, it is best considered for indoor use only. Spruce is also used for making the paper as its fibers are thinly walled and collapse to thin bands when it is dried. Spruce is normally used as pulpwood.

  • COLOUR: Heartwood is reddish brown, sapwood is yellowish white.
  • PATTERN: Medium course texture with straight grains.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: Light weighted, poor durability and low decay resistance. However it has good machining properties.
  • USES: Best for indoor use. Used in paper making, musical instruments, making plywood, furniture and construction, etc.


Cedar Good Good Good Good Fair light
Fir Fair Fair Fair Good Fair light
Hemlock Good Good Good Good average Medium
Pine Very good Very good Very good Very good Very good medium
Redwood Very good Very good Very good Very good good hard
Spurce Fair Fair Fair good fair light
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