Anything Out There Better than Cherry? Help me out guys

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Blog entry by Chelios posted 05-05-2010 04:29 AM 1720 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I want to do a recount of all the woods I have worked with and let you know which one is my favorite so far in terms of how easy it is to work it, how straight does it stay, how good it looks finished and how good it smells even. I would like to know your favorite and why. thanks

Maple- Hard to work with hand tools but I like that it is so strong in my pieces. They turn out really sturdy. I use this the most because it is so inexpensive

South american mahogany- Really dense and easy to work with but I could only get small pieces of it. Made an electric guitar out of it..Will post it later.

Padauk- Used it once so far and like the finish of it. It drills so easy and hand tools worked well on it but it checks easy

Blood wood – So dense- I liked that it has that heavy feel to it and how it looks. It chips easily though and it was hard to use handtools on it. And it is so expensive I didn’t want to run it on the power tools to square up the stock.

Walnut- Like the smell it makes when I rip it- Don’t like that it has a lot of knots and the hand tools don’t work great on the parts with changing grain. It seems to me that the same board alternates grain and densities and it makes it a bit unpredictable.

Oak- don’t like the smell it has. It builds so straight it is great for cabinets and framework but I don’t like the pores so open.

Pine- Great favorite of mine. It reminds me of my pa- He would only work with pine. I like it how it smells and that it is cheap. I don’t like working it with hand tools because soft wood is so delicate and all the mistakes show up.

Birch- Same a maple but I didn’t like the grain as much.

Ebony- Can’t beat it. I only wish one could have acces to bigger boards. The color is amazing. It works great with handtools.

Cedar- I love how it smells and that it is light. If I get the stuff that doesn’t have as many knots I really like the texture of the pieces I make.

Poplar- It is really oily and hard. I didn’t like working with it because it twists so easy and it is so hard to cut into. I like the way it stains.

Wenge- Beautiful color but it is so brittle and splinters like hell. I cut myself up handling wenge.

Cherry- My favorite because it is strong enough. Planes with the right amount of pushback. Doesn’t splinter, finishes very nicely and it is not terribly expensive compared to the exotics.

9 comments so far

View Chelios's profile


568 posts in 3866 days

#1 posted 05-05-2010 04:38 AM

Just to clarify…that was red oak and hard maple-

View a1Jim's profile


118079 posts in 4377 days

#2 posted 05-05-2010 07:10 AM

There are thousands of woods it’s hard to say what’s the best.


View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4622 days

#3 posted 05-05-2010 12:52 PM

I have to agree with you about cherry. It is my personal favorite but it can be fa challenge to work with and it definately needs surface protection. But as far as appearance goes it is by far my favorite.

But Jim is right. There are so many different woods out there and most of us have only a limited access to work with.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View scopemonkey's profile


191 posts in 4964 days

#4 posted 05-05-2010 04:01 PM

Poplar oily and hard? That’s not been my experience, in fact just the opposite. I like it as a secondary wood or for painted projects, but not as a primary wood. I agree with Skarp about zebrawood, unless you like the smell of cat piss in your shop. On the other end of the “smell” spectrum is my favorite: yellowheart. It looks great (but you must like the color), works and finishes easy, and has a nice spicey smell.

-- GSY from N. Idaho

View archie18's profile


210 posts in 4290 days

#5 posted 05-08-2010 04:25 AM

I prefer walnut. My experience has been just the opposite of yours. Walnut I have planes smoother and cuts smoother than the cherry I have used. The cherry tends to splinter and presents more problems with grain patterns. Both finish beautifully though. I must mention though that most of the wood I have used has been old wood that was in large boards, i.e. 2×12, 3×14, 1×10.

-- Robert in middle TN

View Chelios's profile


568 posts in 3866 days

#6 posted 05-08-2010 04:35 AM

scopemonkey…My experience with poplar was that it was hard to chisel into. It seemed that my chisels got dull real quick and it seemed to me that there was no dust while I chiseled. More like crumbs which made me think it was a bit oily. It finishes real nice though and takes a great stain.

I have an eye out for that zebra wood. Funny thing…the smell of the woods is one of the things that makes it most enjoyable to work with wood. I will think twice about zebra wood.

View Chelios's profile


568 posts in 3866 days

#7 posted 05-08-2010 04:38 AM


Maybe that is why …all the walnut I have access to is real expensive but low quality little boards from the big box store. Maybe I need to get hold of some nicer lumber thats all.

thanks for the tip

View Chelios's profile


568 posts in 3866 days

#8 posted 05-08-2010 04:39 AM


As you can see I have only been fortunate enough to work with very few species…Do you have any one that is most memorable to you?

View Chelios's profile


568 posts in 3866 days

#9 posted 05-08-2010 04:42 AM


That is an interesting take on exotic woods. One really has to wonder and I like that you take the safer stance when it comes to that. That and the fact they are so expensive it really makes me think too. I have never seen cypress but next time I go to the lumber yard I will look it up. I am always looking for a good hand tool friendly species. Thanks for the tip!

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