Posted on February 24, 2021November 20, 2022 by Aaron Barnett
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4 min read and study time
Last updated on November 20, 2022 7:01 pm by the writer.
Why do we like strong wood so much?
There’s no doubt that wood is one of the most flexible building materials around. There are varying typesof properties in  wood that make the fiber structure more durable, versatile, and easy to work with. In most cases, timber is superior to metal and concrete for house construction and, of course, for woodworking with your favorite pair of woodworking chisels!
Renewable and fast-growing trees are easier to process and involve fewer chemicals, wood is a nifty resource that can make any home a home with its natural luster.
According to the American Wood Council, 90% of American homes are framed with wood .
This quick guide is all about finding and working with the best types of wood that combine sturdiness and convenience.
What is a strong, lightweight, and durable type of wood?
There are 3 main classifications of wood: hardwood, softwood, and manufactured wood. Hardwood and softwood are harvested from their respective trees, while manufactured wood is man-made and is a composite of 2 or more wood types.
While each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, all three have their examples of lightweight and durable wood.
Mahogany is extremely tough and stable and stands out; Pine is softwood used in crates and houses, and plywood is actually the lightest and strongest wood as a sheet and as a beam (LVL).
LVL beams are basically like plywood that’s made into a beam instead of just a sheet covering.
Also, be familiar with different lumber grades  that sorts timber intended for different applications, be that structural or non-structural purposes.
Examples of strong and lightweight types of wood
Pine is a softwood comparable to Spruce, but it is a level higher in terms of durability. Versatile and rustic, it’s naturally impact-resistant. But it needs to be treated outdoors.
Pine is a good strong, lightweight wood that is used in many countries to build houses due to the fact it grows fast, it’s strong, cheap, and lightweight.
Douglas Fir softwood from the tree’s lengthy timber makes for good general construction material.
It’s quite hard despite being classified as softwood and is very stable only if dried correctly. But costs a little more than pine.
Douglas Fir makes a good fit if you’re looking for strong, lightweight wood for shelves, cabinets, and tables.
Alder is one of the softest hardwoods.
It’s just slightly above Pine in terms of tensile strength.
Notably light, Alder also has one of the highest lumber grades amongst all hardwoods at 83% and gives an almost glassy-smooth finish.
The hardwood Mahogany is said to be around 70% tougher than most other hardwood types.
Surprisingly, it’s also relatively light despite its dense, fade-resistant characteristics.
Mahogany has a distinct appearance, making it an ideal material for crafting pieces meant to be centers of attention.
Pine is the most common type of wood used to manufacture plywood.
Plentiful and naturally durable, the resulting layered plywood from Pine is lighter than plywood from other softwoods and makes an ideal material for use in even industrial construction.
‘Luan’ is actually a term used to refer to plywood that’s manufactured using ⅛” – ¼” tropical hardwood.
Sourced originally from hardwood in Southeast Asia, Luan plywood is very workable and remarkably symmetrical, and stable.
How to source and mill your own timber
If your property has an abundance of lightweight but durable trees, you can make use of the wood for different projects.
Sourcing lumber with a chainsaw paired with an Alaskan portable mill
is the bee’s knees.
You can also trim down the wooden slabs perfectly and accurately with a thickness planing power tool.
Use the timber for your own project and have plenty left over for your money-making woodworking projects.
Comparing wood strength to wood ratio
|Wood Type||Weight per sq inch||Strength (bending)||Value for money||Aesthetics|
|Pine (Yellow)||0.16 - 0.257 lbs||14,500 psi||6/10||5/10|
|Douglas Fir||0.229 lbs||12,400 psi||7/10||7/10|
|Alder||0.181 - 0.292 lbs||9,800 psi||8/10||9/10|
|Mahogany (Honduras)||0.278 lbs||11,500 psi||9/10||8/10|
|Pine plywood||1.92 - 3.08 lbs||*14,500+ psi||10/10||3/10|
|Luan plywood||1.5 lbs per sq ft||12,700 psi||8/10||5/10|
*These are general values based on 1×1 dimensions and innate properties and characteristics, actual values will vary depending on the measurements of timbers.
What are the cheapest lightweight woods?
Alder is one of the most affordable hardwoods. Its reduced cost is due to the fact that it’s closer to softwoods in terms of hardness and strength, thus easier to process.
For softwood, Pine is a clear choice. Plentiful and easy to process, the Pine’s innate shock resistance makes it a widely sought-after manufacturing material.
Used for a variety of applications, general prices for Pine are around $3 per square foot. Naturally, plywood made from Pine is equally if not more durable.
Inexpensive, Pine plywood can go for as low as under $10 for a board foot, not to mention can be freely recycled.
However, there is a big difference between structural plywood and nonstructural plywood.
Structural plywood is held together by much stronger glues and will not come apart over time, like the alternative.
Can you get cheap, light, and strong plywood to look good?
You can pretty much make anything look good with the right amount of creativity. Because plywood is basically composite material made from smaller, heated, and super-compressed wood fragments, the result is either a bland, unmoving surface or just a plain, blank one.
Similar to how you apply paint coating to colorless metal pieces, you can use the appropriate wood stain to stylize and protect otherwise boring and tacky-looking plywood.
Though the painting won’t look smooth, a stain or varnish can look good on the natural wood grain that’s on the outer layer.
There are times when applying colorful hues also to plywood makes for an astonishing fit.
Before you go.
When it comes to woodworking and building, all of the wood types mentioned above are viable; they’re within arms reach price-wise and offer a good amount of durability and utility.
Yet of all the types of wood, the Douglas Fir seems to have the best statistics across the board – strength, price, weight and looks.
Douglas Fir is a good structural material.
Its innate tight and straight grain makes it visually appealing, especially as rustic furniture and/or as decorative features when used for exposed structural beams in a home.
Speaking of furniture, do you know what the best wood for furniture is?
No matter the type of woodworking project you have, make sure that you have a professional woodworking apron to protect you from any dust.
- Properties of woods and trees, an article from, https://www.civil.uwaterloo.ca/BEG/CE265/WoodHandbook_extracts.pdf
- 90 percent of Americans love wood in their box, as mentioned at, https://www.awc.org/pdf/education/bcd/ReThinkMag-BCD200A-FireProtection-130610.pdf
- How timber is graded into different categories for its use, https://cwc.ca/how-to-build-with-wood/wood-products/lumber/grades/
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What is the lightest but strongest wood? ›
Redwood – It's one of the lightest and most durable woods used for building. It's one of the many reasons why Redwood is such a popular building material. Heartwood redwood grades are the most durable.What is lightweight wood for woodworking? ›
Corkwood is a very lightweight hardwood at just 12 pounds per cubic foot when dry. Other lightweight hardwoods include basswood, alder, aspen and poplar, which range from 20 to 25 pounds per cubic foot. Lightweight hardwoods are used in manufacturing and woodworking for a wide variety of products.
Types of wood in India: White cedar wood
Also known as Marandi, it is a good veneer for light-weight furniture, such as display shelves, trunks or even decorative items. This type of wood for furniture requires minimal maintenance and therefore, it is most preferred for items which are not used often.
Polyurethane Boards Replace Plywood in Structural and Non-structural Parts. The closed-cell foam sheets are lighter and stronger than plywood and resist warping and mold. This article was updated Jan. 2, 2022.What is the strongest but cheapest wood? ›
Pine. Pine wood is probably the cheapest wood that you can get on a consumer level, but it is also one of the best wood options when high strength and low cost are needed. Pine wood is sourced from the dozens of different pine species that grow natively around the world.What is a very lightweight wood? ›
Balsa wood is the lightest commercial material in the world.What is the lightest and softest wood? ›
Balsa is the lightest and softest timber used commercially.What is the name of a wood that soft and lightweight? ›
It's common knowledge, but Balsa is indeed the softest and lightest of all commercial woods. Nothing else even comes close. Useful for insulation, buoyancy, and other special applications.What is the strongest soft wood? ›
Straight-grained and moderately heavy, with limited resin, this is one of the most attractive and strongest of the Western softwood species.
Oak is more durable, denser, and attractive than poplar, but also more expensive.
What is the strongest wood for furniture? ›
Teakwood is one of the hardest and most durable of all natural woods. It is resistant to rotting, sunlight, rain, frost, and snow, making it suitable for outdoor construction and furniture. However, it is expensive and sometimes hard to find.What is the strongest and most flexible wood? ›
Grown throughout the southeastern U.S., yellow pine is by far the strongest softwood on our list. It has the highest bending strength & compression strength of any softwood seen throughout North America.What is the strongest common wood? ›
Generally acknowledged as the hardest wood, lignum vitae (Guaiacum sanctum and Guaiacum officinale) measures in at 4,500 pounds-force (lbf) on the Janka scale. That's more than twice as hard as Osage orange (one of the hardest domestic woods) at 2,040 lbf and more than three times harder than red oak at 1,290 lbf.What is a lightweight but strong sheet material? ›
Foamlite® P is a PP-C-based lightweight construction material. With a density of 0.65 g/cm³, Foamlite® P offers clear weight advantages over a sheet made of compact polypropylene at 0.915 g/cm³. The material also has an excellent combination of toughness, high rigidity, strength and chemical resistance.What are builders using instead of plywood? ›
Oriented Strand Board (OSB) was introduced to the building industry in the late 1970s and quickly became the sheathing material of choice for North American home builders in place of plywood. The reason? OSB sheathing is typically considered to be more economical than plywood.Is OSB stronger than plywood? ›
While both panels are equitable in strength, weight, span and ability to hold fasteners, OSB's consistent quality from panel to panel and lower cost has made it a popular choice on North American projects with over 80% of residential construction using OSB over plywood.What is a cheaper alternative to oak? ›
Ash is a great alternative to white oak in nearly every application. Elm, similar to Ash, takes beautifully to colour thanks to its natural neutral tone.What is the strongest wood in America? ›
What is the best wood in America? Of locally available woods, Black Ironwood is typically the strongest type of wood you can find in America. It's found in Florida and has a 3,660 lbf (16,280 N) Janka rating. Other strong North American woods include species of hickory, maples, oaks, walnuts, and beeches.What is the best type of wood for beginner woodworking? ›
In general, however, if you're beginning woodworking and expecting to make mistakes, it's usually best to choose some of the least expensive woods, like soft maple, poplar, pine and fir. You may also want to select wood identified above that is easy to work with and won't wear down your tools quickly.What wood is lighter than oak? ›
Pine is usually a lot lighter than oak due to the density of the wood. Oak, as a hardwood, takes longer to grow and is much denser.
What is a cheap lightweight wood? ›
Pine: an inexpensive lightweight wood and also very easy to work with. You can plane or sand to a nice finish, perfect for cheaper furniture.Is poplar wood strong? ›
Poplar is a hardwood, but it's not very hard. That's because the terms “hardwood” and “softwood” are rather misleading. Botanically speaking, poplar is an angiosperm, which is referred to as hardwood. The gymnosperms, which include conifers such as pines and cedars, are called softwoods.What are alternatives to basswood? ›
Aspen is another white wood that is quite popular among woodworkers. It's stronger than basswood but is still quite soft, so it is fairly easy to use for carving. Aspen is readily available and inexpensive. Butternut is another good wood for beginner wood carving.What is a light weight wood for table top? ›
If you are looking for a lightweight and more affordable option, wood table tops made from softwood species such as pine may be what you need. Though softwoods are cheaper, they aren't as durable and they dent easily.What is the smoothest wood in the world? ›
The balsa tree is a tropical plant which is grown across all continents. The trees are very fast-growing and reach a height of 30 to 45 meters. The stem has a smooth bark which is usually light-gray and may have white marbling. With a density of 0.1 to 0.2 g / cm³, balsa is the softest wood in the world.What is the hardest and softest wood? ›
The most durable flooring woods will be hardwoods such as oak, walnut, ebony, maple, ash, and pecan. Softwoods such as fir, pine, and hemlock rarely work well as flooring materials, except in a shop or utility area. For the hardest woods, you need to look for exotics, not domestics.What are 4 soft woods? ›
Softwoods are conifers and normally have needle-like leaves. They generally have lower densities and are often light in colour. Softwoods usually grow quicker than hardwoods and are cheaper, softer and easier to work. Common examples of softwood include: pine, fir, spruce, larch and cedar.What is the softest wood in the USA? ›
As the softest wood species on our chart, white cedar is also one of the least dense woods. This makes it easy to transport in both its raw and finished forms.Is bamboo stronger than wood? ›
In general, bamboo falls at about 1,200 to 1,400 on the Janka Hardness Scale, which means it's a little harder than oak and ash. Some manufacturers claim the product is 12 percent harder than North American maple, but that's hard to say.What wood is stronger than oak? ›
As you can see in the accompanying graph, rock maple is the hardest of these four hardwoods - about 15% harder than red oak, which ranks second. Black walnut ranks third in hardness - about 20% below red oak. Cherry is another 5% or so softer than walnut.
Is birch or poplar stronger? ›
Because Poplar grows quickly the wood it produces is less dense than that from slower-growing Birch trees. This means that the denser (stronger) Birch wood used to make Birch Plywood (laserply) makes it ideal for many construction tasks where its increased strength is a benefit.Is birch stronger than oak? ›
Put simply, birch and oak are very respectable woods when it comes to strength and hardness, with oak performing slightly better. Now, if you're careful around your cabinets, this difference in strength will be negligible to you as a user.Is oak or cherry wood better? ›
Oak is more dense and more durable. Cherry is less dense and can dent more easily. Cherry is easier to work with than oak, and it's easier to carve and sculpt. Both are strong hardwoods, but oak is stronger and does not have to be watched over as much.Which wood is best for strength? ›
When strength is paramount, grain direction may not be your only consideration. Some species of wood are naturally stronger than others. Chairmakers, for example, typically use maple, birch, and hickory for legs, rungs, and spindles.Is Ash harder than oak? ›
Solid ash is a very hard, durable wood flooring. It scores 1320 on the Janka hardness scale – harder than oak, beech, or heart pine.Is oak stronger than maple? ›
Maple is among the harder wood species, with a 1450 rating on the Janka wood hardness chart. As one of the densest wood species, Maple is ideal for high-traffic areas. Oak is slightly less hard – White Oak has a 1360 rating and Red Oak a 1290 rating.Is walnut harder than oak? ›
Durability. Walnut is rated at a 1010 on the Janka Hardness Scale. European Oak is a 1360 on the same scale. This means that Oak is more durable than Walnut and will stand up better against constant use and daily wear and tear.Is pine stronger than oak? ›
Because oak trees can take well over one hundred years to grow and live for more than 300 years, their timbers are much stronger, heavier and denser than those of pine trees. Oak is much less prone to scratching or denting.Is hickory harder than oak? ›
Hardness and Durability
As the hardest domestic wood, hickory obviously outshines both red and white oak in terms of durability. Softer woods may dent or scratch beneath careless footfalls, but hickory is more likely to withstand the abuse. This makes it an ideal choice in homes with a lot of activity and traffic.
Wood Properties of Hickory
It is considered an extremely durable wood, thought to be able to withstand nearly anything. On the Janka scale, hickory comes in at an impressive 1820. That's about 41% harder than the traditional Red Oak. It is the second hardest hardwood species in North America.
What wood is as strong as steel? ›
Liangbing Hu holds pieces of super wood made by removing lignin from and compressing basswood. The super wood is as strong as steel yet lightweight, making it ideal for structural uses.What is the lightest but strongest building material? ›
In addition to being the most thermally conductive material in the world, graphene is also the thinnest, lightest and strongest material ever obtained because of its two-dimensional form.What type of wood is the lightest? ›
Balsa wood is the lightest commercial material in the world.What is considered the strongest wood? ›
1. Australian Buloke – 5,060 IBF. An ironwood tree that is native to Australia, this wood comes from a species of tree occurring across most of Eastern and Southern Australia. Known as the hardest wood in the world, this particular type has a Janka hardness of 5,060 lbf.Which is the world's lightest wood? ›
Ochroma longopus is lighter commercial wood called as Balsa.What material is strong but lightweight? ›
Porous, 3-D forms of graphene developed at MIT can be 10 times as strong as steel but much lighter.What material is flexible but strong? ›
It's “graphene.” Graphene is the strongest, thinnest material known to exist. A form of carbon, it can conduct electricity and heat better than anything else. And get ready for this: It is not only the hardest material in the world, but also one of the most pliable.What is the strongest thinnest material known to exist? ›
Graphene has amazing and unique mechanical, electrical, thermal and optical properties. First, it's strong. People used to think that two-dimensional materials would just fall apart. But in fact, graphene is the strongest material that has ever been tested: about 200 times stronger than steel.What is the lightest density wood? ›
The least dense woods are: Balsa: With cells full of water, balsa lumber is very soft and light, with a density of only 0.11 gm g/cm3 (around 7 lbs. per cubic foot) Bamboo: An evergreen perennial, technically a grass: .