Hardwoods or hard timbers are generally more durable and dense then softwoods or soft timbers although not all are harder than softwoods the main differences between them are botanical.

You are able to identify hard timber trees by characteristics such as their leaves because these types of trees have broader leaves than soft timber trees.

Hard timbers are often a darker colour than softwoods and most are denser due to thicker cell walls although again this does not mean that all are denser than soft timbers.

The main difference between a hard and soft wood is the vessels or pores in their microstructures. Vessels are like pipes running through the tree and act as conduits for water and nutrients in the outer layers of wood in a growing tree.

The cells in these woods are closed so they cannot function like a conduit and this is why they have vessels where softwoods don’t.

Many people like to buy hard timber furniture, wood panelling or floors because the majority are fairly dense which means if looked after well they last a long time and are more resistant to dents and scratches.

These woods are also good for making really strong woodwork joints such as the mortise and tenon joint because they are often dense.


Just like hardwoods softwoods or soft timbers are not necessarily soft or less dense it is just more likely that they are softer than hardwoods. The visual differences in soft timbers compared with hard timbers include things such as usually being lighter in colour and usually softer.

Soft timbers come from trees that are conifers meaning that their leaves are usually needle shaped instead of broad like a hard timber trees leaves.

The difference in a softer woods microstructure is that they do not have vessels like harder woods because their cells are open not closed unlike a hardwoods which enables them to act as conduits and feed nutrients and water throughout the tree.

Because soft timbers have open cells this also allows them to absorb things better than most hardwoods such as adhesives or finishes and it also makes it easier to treat soft timbers and increase their durability.

Because these woods take well to finish and adhesive they are a good woodwork product for furniture use or cabinet making as long as they are maintained regularly.

Pine is an affordable soft timber that is also denser than some hard timbers which is why it can be a very useful product for interior furniture if you are working on a budget but wish to use a solid timber instead of a manufactured board like particle board.

Solid Timber

Solid timber is rapidly becoming scarce and expensive due to logging and the long periods of time it takes for most trees to grow. There are many different timbers on the market that range in price, characteristics and strength.

The two categories that timber can be put into are hardwoods and softwoods and the two can be defined by their differences in the woods microstructure which determines its density and strength.

This timber is an excellent choice for any sort of woodwork but if you want a good quality timber with minimum flaws, be prepared to pay a bit extra due to the reasons above. Cheaper timbers such as pine can be good but don’t compare in aesthetics and quality to dearer timbers.

In my opinion solid natural timber is the best type of timber for cabinet making and furniture use because it has the best features and characteristics. Manufactured boards are also good but nothing compares to solid natural timbers.


  • It is the most aesthetically pleasing type of timber
  • There are a vast amount of types for example Tasmanian oak, pine, Jara
  • It is suitable for all woodwork joints
  • Its long lasting
  • There are a range of colours, textures and grains available
  • Takes adhesives and finishes well


  • Can be expensive
  • Can be difficult to find the timber you are after
  • Has natural defects such as knots
  • Can warp, shrink, twist or swell


Seasoning timber is essentially just to drain it of water which is called its moisture content. This can cause it to shrink but it helps to prevent warping, splitting, it will become lighter and stronger and it becomes easier to machine.

There are three main ways to reduce moisture in timber which includes kiln, air or chemicals. Using a kiln to reduce water involves a large kiln to reduce a stack of timbers moisture content and it is commonly used because it is non toxic, fairly quick and also easy.

Using air to reduce water is when the timbers moisture content is reduced naturally with air although this method takes a long time.

Using chemicals to reduce water involves the use of chemicals to reduce the timbers moisture content but sometimes it is toxic and can change the timbers colour.

This type of timber is a good woodwork product for things such as outdoor furniture and carpentry because reducing the moisture content helps prevent weathering and swelling. it is not as good for interior furniture and isn’t really used in cabinet making.

If you are interested in making your own outdoor furniture a wood such as seasoned pine is a good product to start with because it is fairly affordable plus because it has been dried almost all of its strengths will be increased.

For example the timbers ability to absorb a finish or adhesive will be even better than untreated pine because of its reduced moisture content. This is why the dried timber is a great option for outdoor products.

Wood Layers

There are many different species of trees and they are either hardwoods or softwoods but the one thing they have in common is the woods layers.

Every different timber has different characteristics such as its ability to take a stain or adhesive, how well abrasives work on it when sanding or even things like if it is suitable for furniture but the one thing that is the same is the woods layers.

A tree is made of five main layers and when it is cut down for timber you are able to see these layers in the trunk. These layers are the pith, growth rings, medullary rays, cambium layer and bark.

As a tree gets older these layers increase in size and become more distinguishable once the tree has been cut down.

The first layer of the tree is the pith and the pith is essentially the centre of the tree which is developed in the trees first year, it is also where the impurities and deposits are stored as the tree grows.

Growth Rings:
Growth rings are the rings throughout a trees trunk and one is made per year which shows the trees growth and age. Once a tree is cut down you can count the growth rings to determine a trees age.

A tree does not have to be large to contain a lot of growth rings and large trees don’t always have many growth rings and the rings can also vary in size depending on such things as growing conditions, temperature and water consumption.

Medullary Rays:
The medullary rays are the vertical lines in a trees trunk that pass from the pith to the bark. They are cellular tubes used to transport sugars and food throughout the tree and the waste is left behind in the pith.

Cambium Layer:
The cambium layer lies between the outer bark and inner bark of a tree. The cambium wood layer is the part that is used to produce the new cells of a tree and essentially being the cause of its growth and it also helps to make a protective cork under the bark.

The bark is the most easily identifiable part of the trunk as it lies on the outside and is the only part you usually see. The bark is the wood layer that offers the most protection from weather, insects and fungus and it also helps to keep things in such as moisture and food.

wood layers