Looking to dive into the fascinating world of woodturning? Well, one of the key things you need to know is what timber to use for woodturning. It’s a crucial decision that can greatly impact the outcome of your projects. But fear not, young woodturning enthusiast! In this guide, we’ll explore the best timber options for woodturning, helping you make informed choices and unleash your creativity.

When it comes to selecting the right timber for woodturning, there are several factors to consider. The type of wood you choose can influence the appearance, durability, and ease of turning. From the beautiful grains of oak to the delicate hues of maple, each timber brings its own unique qualities to the lathe. So, let’s embark on this timber exploration together and discover the perfect match for your woodturning endeavors.

But wait, there’s more! Along with discussing specific timber types, we’ll also delve into important considerations such as moisture content, drying techniques, and how to best prepare your timber for turning. By understanding these fundamentals, you’ll be well-equipped to embark on your woodturning journey and create stunning pieces that will amaze your friends and family. Let’s get started, shall we?

what timber to use for woodturning?

The Best Timber for Woodturning: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re interested in the art of woodturning, one of the most crucial decisions you’ll face is choosing the right timber for your projects. The type of timber you use can greatly impact the outcome of your turning projects, affecting the appearance, durability, and workability of your creations. In this guide, we’ll explore different timber options and provide insights into their characteristics, advantages, and best applications.

Types of Timber for Woodturning

When it comes to woodturning, not all timber is created equal. Each type of timber possesses distinct qualities that can significantly influence the final result of your work. Let’s delve into some of the most popular timber choices for woodturning:

1. Oak

Oak is a timeless choice for woodturning. It offers excellent stability, durability, and a beautiful grain pattern that adds elegance to any turned piece. Oak can be found in various species, each with its unique characteristics. Red oak, for instance, is known for its reddish-brown color and open grain, while white oak features a lighter hue and tighter grain.

One of the benefits of oak is its availability and affordability. It is widely accessible and reasonably priced, making it a popular choice for woodturners of all skill levels. Oak is versatile and suitable for a wide range of projects, including bowls, platters, and even larger furniture pieces.

Tips: When turning oak, use sharp tools and take care to minimize tear-out due to its open grain structure. Sanding oak to a smooth finish reveals its natural beauty and highlights the unique grain patterns.

2. Maple

Maple is another popular choice for woodturners due to its light color, fine texture, and excellent workability. The tight grain of maple lends itself well to clean cuts and intricate detailing. This timber is highly versatile and can be shaped into bowls, pens, spindle work, and even segmented turning projects.

See also  What Is A Woodturning Lathe?

Maple turns beautifully and finishes well, accepting stains and varnishes with ease. Its light color provides an excellent canvas for showcasing intricate turnings, and its overall hardness ensures long-lasting durability. Sugar maple and soft maple are two common varieties used in woodturning, with slight differences in color and grain pattern.

Tips: Maple can be prone to tear-out, especially on cross-grain cuts. To minimize tear-out, use a sharp tool and take light cuts. Sanding maple to a smooth finish will bring out its natural beauty.

3. Walnut

Walnut is a popular choice for woodturning due to its rich, dark color and distinctive grain patterns. It offers excellent workability, enabling woodturners to create intricate designs and smooth finishes. The combination of its natural beauty and workability makes walnut highly sought after for both functional and decorative woodturning projects.

Black walnut is the most prevalent species used in woodturning, known for its deep brown color and swirling grain. English walnut, with its lighter hue and straighter grain, is also a popular choice. Walnut is commonly utilized in projects such as bowls, platters, and small decorative items.

Tips: Walnut can produce a fine, dark dust when turned or sanded, so it’s essential to wear a dust mask and work in a well-ventilated area. Additionally, sharp tools and light cuts are necessary to avoid tear-out and achieve smooth finishes.

4. Cherry

Cherry is prized by woodturners for its warm color, fine texture, and smooth finishes. It possesses a straight grain that is ideal for showcasing simple or intricate patterns. Cherry wood often exhibits natural color variations, adding visual interest to turned pieces.

Cherry is a moderately hard timber that turns easily and finishes well. Its reddish-brown hue deepens and develops a rich patina over time, making it an excellent choice for heirloom-quality woodturnings. Common projects using cherry wood include bowls, platters, vases, and other decorative items.

Tips: Cherry wood can darken over time, particularly when exposed to sunlight. To maintain its original color, consider using a UV-resistant finish or keeping your turned pieces out of direct sunlight. When turning cherry, take care to minimize tear-out by using sharp tools and gentle cuts.

5. Exotic Hardwoods: Ebony and Rosewood

If you’re seeking more unique and luxurious options, ebony and rosewood are worth considering. These exotic hardwoods are highly prized for their stunning aesthetics and fine workability.

Ebony, known for its deep black color and incredible density, creates striking contrast when combined with other timbers. It poses some challenges due to its hardness, but with the right tools, it can be turned into exceptional pieces. Rosewood, on the other hand, showcases beautiful reddish-brown hues and intricate grain patterns, making it a favorite choice for intricate and ornamental turnings.

These exotic hardwoods are more expensive and less readily available than domestic timbers. However, they offer the opportunity to create highly unique and visually captivating woodturnings.

6. Softwoods: Pine and Cedar

While hardwoods are commonly preferred in woodturning, softwoods like pine and cedar can also be used for specific projects. Softwoods offer their advantages, such as affordability and ease of turning.

Pine, with its light color and visible knots, can add rustic charm to turned projects like bowls, pens, and sculptures. Cedar, known for its delightful aroma and rich reddish-brown color, is often used for decorative items like vases, candle holders, and ornaments.

See also  Does Wood Glue Work On Bamboo?

These softwoods may be less durable compared to hardwoods and require additional care to prevent dents or scratches. However, their affordability and unique characteristics make them appealing options for certain woodturning applications.

Choosing the Right Timber: Factors to Consider

Before deciding on a timber for your woodturning projects, it’s essential to consider a few factors that can influence your choice:

1. Project Type

The type of project you’re planning to undertake is a significant consideration when selecting timber. Bowls, platters, pens, or decorative items all have different requirements in terms of size, stability, and visual appeal. Consider the intended purpose and dimensions of your project to determine the most suitable timber.

2. Grain Pattern

The grain pattern of a timber can greatly impact the overall appearance of your turned piece. Some turners prefer straight grains for simplicity, while others opt for more intricate patterns like burls or figure. Consider the desired aesthetics for your project and choose a timber with a grain pattern that aligns with your vision.

3. Workability

Each timber has its unique workability characteristics. Some timbers turn easily and produce a smooth finish with minimal tear-out, while others require more meticulous techniques. Consider your skill level and comfort with different timbers to ensure a successful and enjoyable woodturning experience.

4. Availability and Cost

The availability and cost of timber can vary depending on your location and the specific species. Exotic hardwoods, for instance, may be more challenging to obtain and come at a higher price compared to domestic timbers. Consider your budget and accessibility when selecting timber for your projects.

5. Desired Finish

Consider the desired finish for your turned piece. Some timbers, like cherry, develop rich patinas over time, while others, like ebony, maintain their original color. Certain finishes may enhance or alter the appearance of the timber, so it’s crucial to consider how the timber will age or react to different finishes.


Choosing the right timber for woodturning is a vital step in creating stunning and successful turned pieces. Each type of timber brings its unique characteristics, allowing woodturners to explore various aesthetics and applications. Whether you opt for the timeless beauty of oak, the intricate grain patterns of walnut, or the warmth of cherry, consider the factors that matter most to you: project type, grain pattern, workability, availability, cost, and desired finish. By understanding the strengths and limitations of each timber, you can unleash your creativity and embark on woodturning projects that amaze and delight.

Key Takeaways: What Timber to Use for Woodturning?

  • Choose hardwoods such as walnut, maple, or birch for durability.
  • Consider softwoods like pine or cedar for easier turning.
  • Use exotic woods like ebony or cocobolo for unique projects.
  • Avoid wood with knots or defects to prevent chipping while turning.
  • Experiment with different timber types to discover your personal preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Woodturning is a fascinating craft that requires the right selection of timber for optimal results. Here are some commonly asked questions about what timber to use for woodturning and their insightful answers.

1. Which types of timber are best for woodturning projects?

There are several types of timber that work well for woodturning projects. Some popular choices include maple, oak, cherry, walnut, and ash. These types of timber are known for their durability, ease of turning, and beautiful grain patterns. Each timber has its own unique qualities, so it’s a matter of personal preference and the specific project you have in mind.

It’s essential to consider the characteristics of each timber before making a choice. For example, maple is known for its light color and fine texture, while oak is famous for its strength and distinctive grain patterns. Experimenting with different types of timber will help you discover which ones suit your style and projects best.

See also  How Can Woodworking Machines Be Converted To The Metric System?

2. Are there any types of timber I should avoid for woodturning?

While there isn’t a definitive list of timbers to avoid, some are less popular choices for woodturning projects. Softwoods like pine are generally avoided as they tend to be more prone to damage during the turning process. Similarly, timbers that are too brittle or prone to splitting may not yield the best results.

It’s also important to consider the availability and cost of the timber you choose. Some rare or exotic timbers may be harder to find or more expensive. It’s worth doing research and consulting with experienced woodturners to determine which timbers to avoid based on your specific needs and budget.

3. What should I consider when selecting timber for specific woodturning projects?

Selecting timber for woodturning projects depends on various factors such as the intended use of the finished product, the size and shape of the project, and personal aesthetic preferences. For example, if you’re turning a bowl that will be used for food, you’ll want to choose a timber that is food-safe and doesn’t have any toxic properties.

Consider the hardness or softness of the timber, as it will affect how easy or difficult it is to work with. Some projects require timber with tight grain patterns for intricate detailing, while others may benefit from timbers with more pronounced grain patterns for visual appeal. It’s important to evaluate all these factors when selecting the right timber for your specific woodturning project.

4. How should I store timber for woodturning?

Properly storing timber for woodturning is crucial to maintain its quality. It’s essential to store timber in a dry and well-ventilated area to prevent moisture buildup and potential warping. It’s recommended to stack the timber with spacers or stickers between each piece to allow air circulation and minimize the risk of mold or mildew.

For longer-term storage, it’s advisable to seal the ends of the timber with wax or a commercial sealer to prevent excessive moisture loss and splitting. Keeping the timber away from direct sunlight and drastic temperature changes will also help maintain its stability. By following these storage guidelines, you can ensure that your timber remains in optimal condition for your woodturning projects.

5. Can I use reclaimed timber for woodturning?

Using reclaimed timber for woodturning can be a great way to repurpose and give new life to old wood. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Ensure that the reclaimed timber is free from any contaminants or embedded metal objects that could damage your tools or pose a safety risk during the turning process.

Additionally, watch out for signs of decay or rot, as they can affect the stability and integrity of the timber. It’s advisable to thoroughly inspect and prepare reclaimed timber before using it for woodturning projects. With proper care, reclaimed timber can produce beautiful and unique results in your woodturning endeavors.

what timber to use for woodturning? 2


Choosing the right timber for woodturning is important. Hardwoods like oak and walnut are durable and easy to work with. Softwoods like pine and cedar are good for beginners. Avoid toxic woods like yew. Always consider the project and your skill level when selecting timber. Happy woodturning!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *