Don’t Get Stumped! Types of Softwood A Beginner’s Guide

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Hey there! Today, we’re diving into the different types of softwood.

Now, for those of you who are new to woodworking, softwood comes from those evergreen trees with cones… you know, the ones that keep their needles year-round.

Softwood is fantastic for all sorts of projects, from furniture to fancy trim, and it’s perfect for beginners because it’s usually easier to work with than hardwood, and (BONUS) it tends to be less expensive too!

So, grab yourself a cup of tea and let’s explore some of the most popular types of softwood!

Now if you want to know about more than just softwood, you can get an overview of EVERYTHING over here!


An image showing off three raw edge red cedar slabs so you can see the lovely reddish purple hues.
You can see these and more like it at North Point Lumber!

This beauty is known for its natural reddish hue and amazing smell.

Cedar is a champion when it comes to resisting rot and decay, making it a superstar for outdoor projects.

Think about building those raised garden beds you’ve been dreaming of, or maybe a fancy new mailbox to greet all your deliveries!

Cedar is also naturally aromatic, so it repels insects… another bonus! However, because it’s a softer wood, it can dent more easily than some other options.

It’s also great for certain indoor furniture. Think about a cedar chest! It’s perfect for storing your linens because bugs just hate it.

Naturally rot-resistantCan be more expensive than some other softwoods
Beautiful reddish colorSofter wood, so may dent more easily
Pleasant smell


A closeup of a cypress board, showing you the grain pattern and pale yellow-beige color.
You can see these and more like it at Bidun Shop

Another champion against rot and decay, cypress is a bit denser than cedar.

That makes it perfect for things that need a little extra strength, like outdoor furniture or even boatbuilding (although maybe hold off on building a whole yacht for your first project!).

Cypress is also known for its tight grain, which means it has a smooth surface and takes stains beautifully. However, this density also makes it a bit trickier to work with for beginners.

Very rot and decay resistantDenser than some softwoods, so can be trickier to work with for beginners
Strong and durableMore expensive than some other options


A image of a massive slab of fir, sitting on what appears to be a forklift, it is a bit reddish in color.
You can see this and more like it at Goby Walnut.

This type of softwood comes in many varieties, each with its own strengths. One of the most common types is Douglas fir, which is a fantastic choice for construction projects because of its strength and affordability.

Other firs, like white fir, are lightweight and easier to work with, making them perfect for interior trim or building those rustic shelves for your living room.

However, fir is generally not as rot-resistant as cedar or redwood, so keep that in mind for outdoor projects.

Lightweight and easy to work withNot as strong as other types of softwood
AffordableMore prone to warping if not dried properly
Many varieties to choose from


An image of a bowl made from hemlock wood, it shows off it's lovely pale color.
You can see bowls like this and more from Little Mule Slabs.

Similar to fir, hemlock is another versatile type of softwood that’s good for beginners.

It’s known for its pale color and smooth finish, making it a great choice for furniture projects or those built-in bookshelves you’ve been wanting to tackle.

Hemlock is also relatively easy to find and affordable.

However, like fir, it’s not the most rot-resistant option, so you might want to steer clear of it for outdoor projects.

Easy to work withNot as rot-resistant as cedar or redwood
Pale color and smooth finishMay have more knots than some other softwoods


A closeup of three pine boards, it has a pale color and looks like it might dent easily.
You can see this and more like it at the Craftsman Herbalist.

Ah, pine!

This is probably the most common softwood out there. It comes in many types, each with its own characteristics.

For example, white pine is a favorite for furniture making because of its light weight and easy workability.

Yellow pine, on the other hand, is denser and stronger, making it a good option for structural projects. Generally though, pine is affordable, easy to find, and perfect for all sorts of projects… from simple picture frames to those adorable wooden toy trucks the kiddos will love.

However, pine can be prone to warping if not dried properly, and some types of pine can be quite knotty.

Affordable and readily availableCan be prone to warping if not dried properly
Easy to work withSoft and may dent more easily
Many varieties to choose fromSome types of pine can be quite knotty


A picture of a man standing next to a redwood slab.  You can really see the red color and interesting grain pattern.
You can see this and more like it from Hamilton Lee Supply.

This giant of the softwood world is known for its reddish color and incredible resistance to rot and insects.

Redwood is perfect for outdoor projects you want to last a lifetime, like decks or siding for your charming cottage.

Redwood is a heavyweight champ, literally… it’s denser than most other types of softwoods. This makes it incredibly strong and durable, but also a little trickier to saw and nail.

Plus, because of its slow growth and limited range, redwood can be more expensive than other options.

But hey, if you’re building something you want to pass down to your grandkids, redwood is a fantastic choice!

Excellent rot and insect resistanceMore expensive than most other softwoods
Beautiful reddish colorLimited availability in some regions


A single board of spruce, showing off the pale yellow color and knotty grain on this type of softwood.
You can see this and more like it from Great Divide Wood.

This lightweight wood is another good option for beginners.

Spruce is often used for soundboards in instruments (think violins!), because it’s good at resonating sound.

It’s also a popular choice for building light furniture or those cute little decorative boxes you might sell at your next craft fair.

Spruce is plentiful, affordable, and easy to work with. However, it’s not the strongest wood out there, and it can be prone to warping if not dried properly.

So, maybe avoid using it for your grandma’s rocking chair, but it’s perfect for those DIY projects where weight and beauty are key.

Lightweight and easy to work withNot very strong
AffordableMore prone to warping than some other softwoods


A raw edge slab of yew, showing off it's paler outer wood and it's richer amber heartwood in the center.
You can find this and more like it from Yewnique For You.

Now, yew is a special case.

It’s a beautiful wood, with a rich, reddish-brown color and a tight grain that makes it perfect for fine detail work.

But here’s the thing: yew is super toxic.

All parts of the yew tree contain poisonous compounds, so you really have to be careful when working with it.

This is a job for experienced woodworkers with proper safety gear, and definitely not recommended for someone just starting out. And no matter who you are, do NOT make bowls or cutlery out of it.

(P.S, you can learn more about woodworking safety here.)

This is not a wood to use as your next dinner plate.

If you do see yew offered at a lumberyard, it’s probably best to admire it from afar and stick to something safer for your next project!

Beautiful reddish-brown colorVery toxic, all parts of the tree
Tight grain, good for detail workNot for beginners

There you have it, my friends! This is just a taste of the many types of softwood available.

Remember, the best wood for your project depends on what you’re making and where it will live. But no matter what you choose, softwood is a fantastic option for creating beautiful and long-lasting projects.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t be shy! Leave a comment below and let’s chat. Happy crafting!

P.S. Soon we’ll be diving into some easy beginner projects you can make with these awesome softwoods. Stay tuned!