Woodwork is not just a great hobby, but also a perfect way to make things just the way you like them. There are millions of furniture manufacturers, but you still might not be able to find that perfect piece; or if you do, it might not be something your wallet can stretch to. But for your DIY pieces to work, be beautiful and serve you for years to come, you first need to carefully select the materials, as each piece of furniture has different requirements and each type of wood has different characteristics.
A table can come in many variations – an end table, a dining table, a coffee table and so on. Each of these table types have different requirements in terms of the wood that should be used. A dining table, for example, needs to be constructed of something solid and thick because it will have a large surface and only 4 leg supports in each corner. A coffee table, on the other hand, is not so demanding. It is lower in height, has a smaller surface and can have as many supports as you like.
So if you have decided to construct a table yourself, which are the most common types of wood and what are their characteristics?
First of all, you need to be aware of the real difference between hardwood and softwood. It is not actually pertaining to the wood’s strength, so it does not affect your furniture in those terms. The term describes the origin of the wood – softwoods are made from conifers and hardwoods come from flowering trees.
Cedar is very easy to find and not very expensive. It is a very soft wood, though, so you shouldn’t use it for a large unsupported surface. On the other hand, it is quite resistant to the elements so you can use it for the small table in the garden.
If you have decided to paint the table after you have constructed it, fir is your best bet. It is stable and strong but at the same time easy to work with. It is also unbelievably cheap and you will find it almost everywhere you look. The trouble is that it doesn’t look very good so it really shouldn’t be left to stand on its own.
Pine is very, very easy to work with and in most cases also very easy to find. It is stable and beautiful so it’s definitely a favourite of furniture-makers. You can literally use it in any project you like including the dreaded dining table.
Cherry is not so easy to find, but it is very beautiful so putting in that little extra effort searching for it, is worth it. It is very easy to work with and you can use it in any part of any table. The trouble is that even though it’s sustainably grown, due to the large demand, it is becoming a tad expensive.
Maple is the strongest and most stable type of wood you could ever find. Sometimes it is so hard that you might find working with it a bit difficult, but if you have a really large table in mind, this is the wood to use. And the great thing about it is the price – it is not even expensive.
Oak is an all-around great wood for all kinds of furniture. It’s strong, it’s stable, it’s easy to work with, it’s moisture resistant and on top of it all, it’s beautiful. If you so desire, you can use it for all the tables at home and even the ones in the garden.
Whilst on the topic of outdoor tables though, teak comes highly recommended by the professionals. It is the most weather-resistant wood type and it is also very beautiful. Two other great qualities are its strength and the fact that you can make it into whatever you want. What’s the downside? It is one of the most expensive and hard to find woods today.
Walnut is definitely cheaper and very, very beautiful. It’s relatively strong but not so much that you can’t work with it, so it’s a good table-making option. You might have to conduct a thorough search to find it, though…
Many woodwork projects are conducted on a budget. The best way to shave a significant amount off your table is to use less expensive woods for the legs – providing it meets your requirements in terms of durability.
Two types of wood are most commonly used for just the legs – beech and poplar. Both are quite unattractive, but stable, easy to work with, and most importantly – very cheap.
A table is a great way to enter the world of woodwork. In terms of construction, it is one of the least demanding pieces of furniture so you should be able to make it quickly and with very few mistakes. Just choose your wood carefully and your perfect table should be there for you for a long, long time.