Timber comes from trees. Trees have to grow to full maturity (between 25 and 100 years) before they can be cut down for wood.
Hardwoods come from deciduous trees, which have large flat leaves that fall in the autumn. Hardwoods take longer to grow, are not easily sourced and are expensive to buy.
|Hardwood||Physical properties||Working properties|
|Ash||Pale coloured, narrow grain||Flexible and good for steam bending, tough, used for sports equipment|
|Beech||Slight pink tint, close grain||Tough, durable and smooth to finish|
|Mahogany||Dark-reddish colour, very close grain||Cuts and polishes easily, gives a fine finish, used for high-quality furniture|
|Oak||Moderate-brown colour with unique and attractive grain markings||Tough and durable, polishes well, used for quality furniture|
|Balsa||Pale and wide-spaced grain due to it being a fast-growing hardwood||Very soft and easy to form, often used to make models|
Softwoods come from coniferous trees. These often have pines or needles, and they stay evergreen all year round - they do not lose leaves in the autumn. They are faster growing than hardwoods, making them cheaper to buy, and are considered a sustainable material.
|Softwood||Physical properties||Working properties|
|Larch||Pale coloured with a contrasting darker grain, knotty||Durable, easy to machine, high sap content gives it good water resistance, used for exterior building and flooring|
|Pine||Pale coloured with aesthetically pleasing grain||Lightweight, easy to form, used for construction and decking|
|Spruce||Pale cream with an even grain||Easy to form, takes stain colour well, used for construction and furniture|
|Manufactured board||Physical properties||Working properties|
|Medium-density fibreboard (MDF)||Smooth, light brown, can be veneered||Smooth and easy to finish, absorbs moisture so not suitable for outdoor use, used for kitchens and flat pack furniture|
|Plywood||Odd number of layers of veneer glued at 90 degree angles for strength, aesthetically pleasing outer layer||Easy to cut and finish, can be stained or painted, used for shelving, construction and toys|
|Chipboard||Compacted wood chips, laminated with a variety of coverings, end cuts are difficult to finish||Strong but absorbent to water, used for veneered worktops and flooring|