There are a variety of different woods available to you, so when you’re working on a do it yourself project; you should research the type of wood you’re going to be using. Many common woods have been over-harvested and are near extinction. This list will give you the classification, the uses, as well as eco-friendly alternatives and commonly reclaimed woods.
Woods Nearing Extinction
African Walnut (hardwood) – while other species of walnut aren’t on the list, the African Walnut is. It is commonly used in furniture and paneling.
Mahogany (hardwood)– both major sources are at risk for extinction (West Africa, and ‘Brazilian’ mahogany from South/Central America.) It is used in furniture, cabinets and flooring.
Rosewood (hardwood) – fragment with a dark, red-brown color; this wood is difficult to work with and mostly used for large scale musical instruments (grand piano, etc.) Several species of Rosewood are either threatened or near extinction.
Teak (hardwood) – is commonly thought of as a ‘symbol of wealth’ but it is nearing extinction at the source. Overuse of this wood in ‘high class’ outdoor and indoor furniture as well as indoor and outdoor flooring has put this species of wood on the threatened list. Teak has an extremely long shelf life (100 years or more) so if teak is desired, use reclaimed teak.
Common, but ‘Eco-Friendly’ Woods
These woods are easily replenished or easy to find as reclaimed lumber.
Bamboo (“hardwood”) – technically a grass, bamboo reaches maturity in less than 5 years. It is stronger than wood and absorbs little to no water.
Elm (varies by species) – used mostly in furniture, flooring and wood siding. Can be reclaimed and reused.
Douglas Fir (hardwood) – mostly used as plywood for structural pieces. Can be reclaimed and reused.
Oak (hardwood) – extremely versatile wood used in nearly everything. Can be reclaimed and reused.
Maple (hardwood) – mostly used for cabinets, flooring and musical instruments. Can be reclaimed and reused.
Pine (softwood) – very easy to carve so it is great for creating ornate designs on furniture, cabinetry. It can be reclaimed and reused.
Spruce (softwood) – used mostly for general construction. Can be reclaimed and reused.
Other Common Woods
Ash (hardwood) – light in color, mostly used for furniture and paneling.
Balsa (hardwood) – great for making miniature scale models. Softest of the hardwoods.
Beech (hardwood) – used for furniture, flooring and musical instruments.
Birch (hardwood) – fairly uncommon in use but generally an ‘all purpose’ lumber or plywood.
Cedar (softwood) – great for cabinets and boats.
Cherry (hardwood) – very popular wood used for furniture, cabinets, musical instruments and flooring. Cherry is very sturdy and resistant to shrinking and warping.
Hickory (hardwood)– mostly used for sporting goods (tennis rackets) as well as handles for various tools (hammers) and drum sticks.
Wikipedia; “List of Woods”
Essortment; “Different Types of Wood”
Friends of Earth; “Different Types of Wood Timber by A to Z”