Learn how to build beautiful furniture from inexpensive lumber.
Like most woodworkers, I love beautiful wood. And I want to use the best I can find in the furniture I make. Woods like cherry, walnut, and white oak, however, can cost $6 or $7 per board foot, and much more in some regions. Even in the best of times, that adds up quickly. In these hard times, with everyone’s purse strings cinched tighter, it’s not easy to drop several hundred dollars on wood.
That’s why I began to look around for some furniture woods that were high in quality but lower in cost. I asked editors and longtime authors, I queried lumber dealers around the country, and I scoured the Internet. Below, you’ll find a roundup of six low-cost wood species available throughout much of the United States. Better yet, all cost less than $5 per board foot.
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Download the entire guide from Fine Woodworking #205
Once favored for handplanes and other tools, beech is tough, even-grained, attractive, and fairly easy to work. It has the soft, fleshy tones of pear, with very fine, light flecks. Beech isn’t known for its stability, so design accordingly.
Average price: $2-$3 bd. ft.
With a warmth and tone similar to raw cherry, hickory is a beautiful furniture wood, even if it doesn’t darken with age. It’s extremely difficult to work with hand tools, but power tools can get the job done. Be wary of cracks: Once one starts, it tends to dive deeper. There are several type of hickory, shagbark being common, but there’s little difference among them.
Average price: $3-$4 bd. ft.
Poplar Poplar is often used as a secondary wood in furniture, and most woodworkers are hesitant to let it take center stage. One reason is its green…