Anatomy of Woods | Hard and Soft

Hard Wood Strips

Hard Wood Strips

The anatomy of woods … hardwoods.  There are many species of hardwoods throughout the world that I can list (but I won’t – the list is way too long).  Wikipedia says it best.  Hardwoods vs softwoods.  What is the difference?  Hardwoods are naturally grown with a complexed structure making the woods very dominant and less pore-as.  Hardwoods are heavier in weight and solid solid solid.  Softwoods tends to be … well … soft, lighter and easily breakable.

So, the way woods are measured are through a series of guidelines.

Redwood Trees

Redwood Trees

Here’s a breakdown for you:

  1. Common name(s) – hardwoods have a common name and one or more funky scientific name(s) that you can’t pronounce.
  2. Tree size – how tall and wide (trunk diameter) does the tree growAverage weight – when the tree is fully matured
  3. Specific gravity – this test measures the density of the wood
  4. Janka hardness – it’s a test measuring the hardness of the wood
  5. Modulus rupture – bending strength in pounds-force per square inch
  6. Crushing strength – is a measurement of the wood’s maximum crushing strength when weight is applied to the ends of the wood
  7. Shrinkage – a test to measure how the wood shrinks under certain conditions
  8. Color/appearance – pretty simple
  9. Grain/texture – woods have their own variation of texture (straight, spiral, interlock)
  10. Common uses – generally what you can use the wood for

That’s it for the most part.  Interesting for sure.  If you are a woodworker, these guidelines are crucial for you to know what types of woods are out there for the project you are looking to do.

my guide Edge Grain Cutting Boards

For my guide, we generally work with hardwoods.  Hardwoods such as maple, walnut and cherry with a janka hardness of over 1000 lbf.  This number is incredibly useful in directly determining how well a wood will withstand dents, dings, and wear—as well as indirectly predicting the difficulty in sanding, sawing and routing.  We also search for exotic hardwoods (purple heart, padauk, yellow heart, zebra, bloodwood) typically have a janka hardness of over 1000 lbf and the colors are absolutely gorgeous.  You typically don’t see cutting boards made with exotic woods primarily because of the janka hardness.  It is very solid wood to work with and often times your tools wear down faster because of this.  Still, that doesn’t stop us.  I especially love purple heart in our cutting boards.

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  1. […] an awesome board to have.  It is the difference between soft vs hard woods.  Check out my blog on the variety that […]