7 Best Types of Wood for Beginner Woodworking

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There are several types of wood that are great for beginner woodworking projects. When I first got started in woodworking over 25 years ago, I wasted a lot of money on expensive pieces of wood much of which ended up being failed projects or ended up on the scrap wood pile.

So, when writing this article, the criteria we used were the average price, availability, and workability – how easy the type of wood is or how forgiving it is for a beginner. While it’s rewarding to make a dark walnut desk or cherry cabinets, these are not the best for a novice and you may regret starting with those. You can save yourself some frustration and expense by starting out with cheaper species of wood, at least for your first few woodworking projects.

Pine is a softwood that is cheap, available and very workable. It’s a good choice for basic furniture, shelving and indoor projects. Poplar is another softwood that is easy to work with, it has a nice straight grain and pale color that works well for painted furniture. Birch is another good affordable choice and entry-level hardwood.  Other hardwoods to start with are Maple and Red Oak, you can use either of these for quality furniture with a nice grain pattern and hardness that will prevent dents and scratches. 

Keep in mind, the availability and cost will depend on your local region. We live in the northeastern part of the US and most of the wood species listed below are readily available from local sawmills, lumber distributors, and big box stores like Lowes and HomeDepot. You may need to adjust your list with the best woods in your local area.

There are plenty of other types of wood for novice woodworkers that we cover below to help you get started in your initial woodworking projects, including both softwood and hardwood varieties.

Best Wood for Beginner Woodworkers

Now that you have a few useful tips in hand to get started, all you need to do is go out and buy some lumber for your first project. So, let’s take a look at the wood that is the best choice for a novice woodworker:

Soft Maple

Maple Wood
Maple Wood (Image: HRYMX)

Soft maple is a beautiful, clean wood, and you will find it easy to cut and machine. The best part of this wood is that despite its name, it has the hardness of walnut, and you can make good furniture out of it. It is easy to sand, and you can also carve or shape it into different sizes. Soft maple stains easily, so you can apply a finish to give your first project a sleek look.


Poplar wood
Poplar wood (Image: Associated Fabrication)

Here is another affordable wood that is easy to work with and found in many parts of the US and Canada. Poplar is softer than maple, and it is lighter as well. We also call this wood American tulipwood. Poplar is the 10th most-produced hardwood in the US. This wood is readily available and reasonably priced. It comes in a variety of colors; therefore, you will have a lot to choose from with this wood.


Beech wood
Beech wood (Image: Ross Catrow)

Beech is a slightly harder wood and has a beautiful grain. It is a dense wood, but easy to work with. Beech comes from Europe, but it is quite reasonably priced. This wood finishes quite nicely, and the furniture that you make from it can resemble some of the ready-to-assemble furniture that we get on the market. However, beech doesn’t take stain very quickly, so you would do well to leave it as it is after sanding it down properly.

Knotty Alder

Alder wood
Alder wood (Image: Liga Eglite)

If you prefer woods with more character than the ones that we have already highlighted, you might like to go in for knotty alder. Knotted alder is like poplar, loaded with tight knots, and it is easy to shape either by hand or machine. You can make rustic-style doors, furniture, and cabinets with knotty alder.

White Oak

White Oak wood
White Oak wood (Image: Alsatian)

White oak is probably the most distinct out of all the five types of wood mentioned here. It has a distinct grain pattern and an open texture. It is the hardest and heaviest of all the types of wood that we have discussed so far. White oak has a nice warm, tan color on finishing. Its mid-range price suits the most serious woodworkers’ budgets, and it is an excellent wood to start with.


Pinewood (Image: decar66)

You can make some pretty nice stuff with pinewood. It is a softwood that is easy to cut and shape. The pleasing texture and color of pinewood will give you some pleasing results. Pine is a cheap wood, so as a beginner, you won’t be losing much if you waste a bit wood in your initial attempts.

Red Oak

Close-up of a red oak plank

Red Oak is a widely available type of wood that is relatively affordable compared to other hardwoods. It is strong and durable, making it a good choice for furniture with a distinctive grain pattern that is often used for mission-style and other traditional furniture.

Tips for Novice Woodworkers

Woodworker sanding a table
Woodworker sanding a table (Image: Mark Fischer)

Avoid Being Too Ambitious

When you first start out, it’s better to choose projects which seem the most feasible. If you undertake projects which are likely to be a bit complicated, you stand to become overwhelmed. It could lead to disappointing results, and hence you would get discouraged.

Learn the Basics of Wood

There is a lot to learn about wood, and some of the most experienced woodworkers will admit that they are still learning. No one was born knowing everything. Hence, you have to start somewhere. Start learning a bit about wood day by day. You will find this knowledge useful from the very beginning.

Equip Yourself Well

There is a saying that a bad workman blames his tools. Although it provides a lame excuse for shoddy quality, proper tools help you to do good work. When you buy your tools, make sure that you procure good-quality tools, if not the best.

Always Be Open to Learn New Things

You can never have enough knowledge. Your experience may be limited when you start out as a novice woodworker, but you can soon learn a lot in a short while by listening to others. Learning should be a continuous process – keep reading from blogs and forums and watch online videos to increase your knowledge base. It is a good idea to decide to learn at least one new thing each day.

Decide What Projects You Want to Start With

Before you jump into a project, do a little research to find out the complexity involved. If you do a bit of online research, you will be able to identify a few projects ideal for a novice woodworker like yourself. Make a list of a few of the most likely projects, and start with the one that seems most feasible.


When you are starting as a new woodworker, the entire concept can be a bit overwhelming. Even though you are very eager to start your first project, you may not be sure about how to go about it. By following these simple tips that we have provided here, you should be able to get started properly. The next step would be to get some proper woodworking tools.

We highlight a variety of woodworking tools in some of our other posts, which you could read.

Once you have your setup ready, you need to identify some good wood to get your first project underway. The new woodworker can become overwhelmed by the numerous types of wood that are available in the market. However, as you gradually develop your woodworking skills, you will see that over the years, you will become more familiar with the materials and types of tools that you need to use. With a bit of dedication and hard work, you can make your mark in the woodworking world.

Featured Image by VirtualWolf