Name your favorite wood if cost didn't matter...

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Everyone has their favorite wood, either because it is available, meets budgets, or because it just works wonderfully. I have my favorites for all these reasons, but if cost was no object, here's my short list:  

1. All time favorite is Black Cherry.  Machines to sharp edges, smells soooo good. Ages beautifully to a deep orange then ruby red. Refuse to use any sap wood, though, as it never darkens and stands out like a sore thumb over time. 

2, Since cost is no object, next up is mahogany. I love a great ribbon figure, with the chatoyance that comes out with a clear finish. It works cleanly with no fuzz, has a pleasant aroma. Generally very stable. 

3. Black Walnut. The chocolate brown color is so rich looking and again, it machines great. Dust/odor can be irritating to some, but doesn't bother me much.  


A couple other woods that are great to work, but are not very common--don't have any of this stuff any more, but have come across stashes of it from time to time and usually snap it up when I find it. 

1. Wormy Chestnut. Here in Virginia, they still find standing dead trees up in the mountains (for you guys out west, we use the term "mountains" loosely. Your translation would be "foot hills".) So occasionally someone will pull such a tree out and have it milled. I've been through 200bf of wormy chestnut from a purchase about 30 years ago, saving it for unique projects. A lot of picture frames and a few hall mirrors. Another source is reclaimed barn beams that have been resawn. Need to worry about nails with this stuff!  Chestnut was a very common lumber up until the blight. It machines easily, leaves a clean edge, and is relatively lightweight. 

2. Butternut. The "blonde" walnut. This is an interesting wood. It is lighter than walnut, and fuzzes a little on machining, so sharp tools are needed. Stains beautifully and can mimic either mahogany or walnut, depending on the stain applied.  It's very stable.  Great for drawer sides or an entire project. Here's a chest in Butternut. 


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Same three for me: walnut, cherry, genuine mahogany.  Figured maples take fourth and QSWO would have to round out the top five.  Exotics I like cocobolo and bubinga the most probably.  I think wenge is beautiful but it has limited use and it sucks to work.  Zebrawood the same.  I just bought my first big piece of sycamore so I look forward to playing with that, and I have some thoughts about alder too.  I enjoy trying them all at least once but I always default to the trifecta for most of my work, at least as primary species.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Being new to this, I have very few project builds under my belt, and add to that the fact that my first few were done with sub-par materials (pine, poplar, construction 2x4s), I'm limited in scope.  However, I have turned a few dozen pens/wands/razors/etc. now and have found a few favorites for turning.  

Walnut- classic, simple and beautiful.

Grenadilla- I almost don't need to finish this stuff.  Hell, if i'm having a good day, I barely need to sand it.  It turns like frozen butter!  The color is soooooooo rich.

Cocobolo- It turns easily, but what I love most is the striking contrast between the black grain and orange/red is brilliant.

Bethlehem Olive Wood- Warm color and amazing contrast. Zebrawood on steroids (and it doesn't smell nearly as bad).

Paduk- I just love the color and it turns easily.

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Walnut I suppose. Works with machine or hand tools easily, looks great, finishes great, fairly stable, hard/dense enough for most projects, and it smells good too. I also like cherry and sapele, neither of which is fairly cheap around here either.

I'm told sapele will remain flat or get a little lower with time though since the supply is very very good.

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