Differences in Hardwood vs. Softwood

The difference seems simple: Hardwood is hard and durable while softwood is soft and workable. Right? Well, that is often the case. However, you could get yourself into some unexpected trouble if you only go by that rule of thumb. There are certain exceptions to the rule; one being that hardwood and softwood can often be used interchangeably, and other times they can be used in conjunction.


For example, certain instruments and pieces of furniture use both soft and hardwood for specific parts of the object. This is where over-generalizing could get you into trouble. However, for the sake of simplicity on this post, we’ll only go over the basics. Below is a chart showing examples of both types of wood:


Overall, hardwood is great for sturdy homes, decks, floors and pieces of furniture that you want to last. It tends to be more expensive but can also pay off in the long-run. Hardwood is also much denser, which is what contributes to its sturdiness, making it more difficult to work with.

Softwoods, on the other hand, are more porous making them much easier to work with. So much so that 80% of timber used in the world today comes from softwood even though the majority of trees are actually hardwood. Softwood makes up most of the paper, pencils, window frames and much more, including some furniture and other building components.

So, before diving into any major projects, be sure you understand the level of sturdiness that will be necessary in order for greatest durability and how much workability you’ll need in order to create the exact pieces and shapes you require. As always, do your research. (A great resource to check is Types of Wood for Woodworking “For Dummies.”) But most importantly, have fun with it!

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Finding the Right Builder

Finding the right carpenter for a big job can be quite overwhelming. Especially for those who are unfamiliar with the carpentry and construction process or industry. That’s why I’m going to break it down for those of you who aren’t looking to get into the technicalities, but rather just want to make sure you’re finding the right person for the task.


So, let’s say you’ve decided you want to build a brand new home; some place special that you can say is not only yours, but that you even helped bring to life. Well, the person you hire to help make that dream become a reality will either make or break the experience. So what should you look for?

First of all, you can always refer to the National Association of Home Builders. This is a great place to look as you can find the many credible, quality carpenters and home builders in your area. For example: Let’s say you’re looking for home builders in Greenville, SC. You would simply go to that website and type in your location; “Greenville, South Carolina.” This would lead you to a wide variety of different experienced builders to choose from.

However, just because you’ve found some quality builders doesn’t mean you can just pick one and run with it. You need to dig deeper and really do your research. Decide what it is you’re looking for. If you’re looking for someone who’s experienced in carpentry specifically because you love industrial style beams or Victorian style arches, then you’re likely not going to choose the guy who has only ever worked on contemporary homes. Know what you’re looking for and then find someone who matches the description.


You also want to find someone who will sit down and plan things out with you. Your best potential candidate is likely the one who listens the best. When meeting with and interviewing your different prospects, don’t be afraid to test them to see just how well they are listening. If you find that they’ve missed a big detail, even just one, you may consider moving onto the next. If they can’t even follow your most broad instructions, good luck making sure they get all of the little details done just the way you wanted.

If possible, once you’ve narrowed down your list to your handful of favorite potential builders, ask them for references. Sometimes, people who have worked with them prior will be willing to speak with you directly. This gives you a chance to get the most accurate and honest feedback through someone who has first-hand experience with that person. And people often are especially glad to offer any negative critique. Use these resources wisely.

Understand that this can and should be a very fun process! But also realize the importance of finding a craftsman who is compatible with your specific taste and vision. Don’t rush into this decision. Choose carefully and then have fun!

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Woodworking: Where to Begin

Any new hobby or job starts off sounding and feeling completely unfamiliar, between all of the jargon and new tools or techniques. Of course, the same goes for anyone looking to get into carpentry. If you’ve had some experience, like I did growing up with a very handy father, some of these tips may seem like common sense to you. But for those who are just getting started, these tips will be very helpful to you in the long run.

So one of the most common problems people tend to have when jumping into carpentry is that they rush into it without taking the time to get to know their tools. Of course, each tool is created for a specific purpose. And each tool has its own unique characteristics, uses and benefits. However, if you haven’t taken the time to carefully study each tool, you could wind up missing out on some of its highlights. Or, even worse, you could really mess up what would have been a great project or potentially injure yourself and others. Because of this, getting to know your tool is the most important first step. Reading a user’s manual may not be the most stimulating thing in the world, but you’ll be glad you did once you feel as though you’ve mastered your own tools.


Now that you know your tools, it’s time to start practicing with them. The best way to start is by either asking around or going out and finding a bunch of scrap wood. Start with pieces where it doesn’t matter if you mess up. Remember, mastering anything takes a lot of practice and patience. Don’t jump into any important projects expecting to get it right on the first try. More than likely, you would wind up stuck with a failed attempt and less confidence to fix it than you started with in the first place. The old saying is as true as ever, “Practice makes perfect.”

Once you’ve practiced with enough scrap wood and are able to get fairly consistent results, it’s important to try and maintain a workable area. This means keeping your tools in tip-top shape and being sure your work space remains neat and tidy. You should be sure to clean up any sawdust or scrapings after each project for a safe environment that’s easy and enjoyable to work in.

Finally, before starting on your first big project, do your research on the types of wood are out there and which one you would prefer to work with. You should understand the difference between hard and soft woods, which I will share in another post, and both their benefits and downfalls.

There are also plenty of other resources available such as the Carpenter’s Brotherhood. You can find lots of useful tips and resources through their site and several other credible sources.

If you’ve accomplished all of this, congrats! You’re now ready to begin your first big project.

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