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What Is The Best Wood For Turning? What You need To Know!

man works on wood turning

Woodturning is a skill that has been around for thousands of years and is enjoyed by both hobbyists and professionals alike. If you have ever been interested in wood and wood art, then woodturning should be among your interests.

In woodturning, one designs patterns from the wood by rotating it on a lathe, and with the help of tools like chisels and gouges, creates  beautiful pieces. The better you are at the art the better your product will be.

Beginners can start practicing on simpler objects like table legs and chair legs while the more experienced woodworkers do more intricate designs and can produce such things as bowls, vases, birdhouses, candle holders and more.

But whether your are a novice or expert, you will need the right wood for turning to pruce excellent work. In this article, we look at the best wood for turning,  and other related questions.

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The 9 Best Wood For Turning

Some of the woods mentioned in the list below are quite hard to come by and fall under the category of exotic wood. However, some are easily available and will just need you to take a look around and you will be on your way to making some beautiful wooden products.

1. Maple

different kinds of maple wood
Image By: optimarc, Shutterstock
Difficulty Level Harder and softer varieties available

Maple comes in two varieties, the harder and softer varieties. Beginners should start with the softer varieties which are easier to work with. On the other hand, the harder varieties are a bit difficult to work with, and will require a bit of expertise.

Maple wood has a closed-grain, which produces a great finish. It also comes in a variety of colors allowing you to choose and blend your pieces.

The wood may need some extra dye when staining it, plus a little bit of sanding to provide a great finish.

2. Walnut

Manchurian walnut tree
Image Credit: ANGHI, Shutterstock
Difficulty Level Medium

Walnut  is common to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, and southern Ontario. The wood is considered one of the best commercial woods for woodturning. It comes in a white hue and some reddish-brown tints to it providing a beautiful color, and elegant finish. It is a bit rare with a rich grain perfect for a wide array of products including gunstocks and furniture.

It requires sharp tools and  around 800-1,000 rpm. The wood is beautiful but will need some expertise to work with as it is hardwood.

3. Cherry

man cutting cherry wood
Image Credit: Serz_72, Shutterstock
Difficulty Level Easy

Cherry is a favorite among beginners because it is easy to work with. Apart from its ease of work, it also boasts a broad range of colors. Its grain is not easily recognizable; however, it works well with coating and finishing. Add some varnish or clear lacquer to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

It has a closed-grain that allows for a good finish without difficulty. But due to warping and cracking over time, it has to be fully dry before using.

4. Rosewood

Image Credit: Pixabay
Difficulty Level Medium

Rosewood is a beautiful wood native to tropical areas such as Jamaica. It has a sweet scent with a great grain and quality. It responds well to polishing and satining, with a knack for producing exquisite designs.

However, it can cause some irritation and may require a respirator while working with it. The wood is also quite hard and it dulls the cutting tools quit fast.

5. Boxelder

Difficulty Level Medium

Boxelder is a medium-level type of wood in terms of difficulty to work with due to its hardness when dry. You will need extra sharp tools to make precise cuts and turnings.

However, the wood also comes with a beautiful finish and is also quite easy to sand.

6. Acacia

acacia wood
Image Credit: Pixabay
Difficulty Level Medium

Acacia is a heavy type of wood with strong resistance capabilities, which makes it ideal for producing durable pieces such as hardwood furniture and support beams for both interior and exterior use.

The wood comes in variety of irregular color pattern. It is also smooth with a warm tone, beautiful veins and medium to coarse grain with a wavy or straight pattern.

On the flip side, due to the wood density, there is an increased resistance to friction making it difficult to dry.

7. Oak

oak wood
Image Credit: seagul, Pixabay
Difficulty Level Easy

Oak wood has a deep rich medium brown color that gives it a beautiful and elegant antique look. To add onto that,it is quite durable product with a sweet-tasting smell.

The wood has a straight grain that produces a beautiful finish, ideal for floors, chairs tables and spindle banisters.

On the flip side, the wood is difficult to work with as it warps excessively, and may be difficult to turn to. However, if you manage to dry it, it will provide quite the stable kind of product every woodworker would want.

8. Black Locust

Black locust log
Image Credit: Emilio100, Shutterstock
Difficulty Level Medium

Black Locust wood is another popular material for most wood turners. It has a couple of advantages that make it stand out from its competition including a range of colors from brown to greenish-yellow.

It has a straight grain and amazing texture, with good weathering characteristics. The wood is also rated as one of the more durable wood and is amazing for outdoor work including shutters, fences, furniture and more.

On the other hand, the wood is quite hard and will need some expertise coupled with sharp tools. But the hardness means that it is also strong and durable.

9. California Buckeye

california buckeye tree
Image Credit: Sundry Photography, Shutterstock
Difficulty Level Easy

The California Buckeye wood has a creamy white and light yellow color, with grayish streaks in certain instances. It comes with a fine texture with a straight grain or is slightly interlocked. It is easy to work with and can be used by beginners.

On the other hand, the wood can come with a bad smell with poor decay resistance. The wood also comes with some health risks such as irritation. It can also come with fuzzy surfaces as it has low density.

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Factors To Consider When Choosing Wood For Turning

Certain factors come in handy when choosing ideal wood for turning product. Some of these factors include:

Changes After Drying

Wood will change shape as it dries, which may end up affecting the product you created. Depending on the species of wood, the finished product can either end up cracked or warped. Choose a type of wood with little alterations to help maintain the product.

pine wood trunks
Image Credit: vasecar, Pixabay

Level of Working Difficulty

The grain patterns on the wood and the density will influence how hard it will be to work on. The harder the wood, the more work you have to do. The tools have to be extra sharp and you will probably take more time. If you area beginner with woodturning, it could be better to choose woods with easy to medium difficulty levels.

Finished Look

Enquire about the finished look of the wood before making a purchase. This is because some types of wood will appear bland after they are done, reducing the aesthetic appearance of your masterpiece. Wood species like olive trees have an amazing finish.


The cost will go a long way in influencing the kind of wood you get. If you are a beginner, the best types of wood will be the cheaper versions to allow you to train without going on huge losses. A great example is a pine which will be easy to turn and cheap to purchase.

man chooses and buys plywood in a construction supermarket
Image Credit: Sergey Ryzhov, Shutterstock


The wood should be able to withstand climatic changes and pests. You want to see your product for a long while after you are done, which is why the wood should be durable.

Color and Fibers

If you are about to purchase some wood, always look for a dark exterior type of wood with beautiful grain in its core. It is a good telltale sign that it is a quality piece of wood.

Similarly, ensure you look for wood with firm straight and compact fibre. It’s a show of good quality. If you find wood with twisted fibers run, it may not be as good to work with.

Tough, Hard And Fire-Resistant

The best wood for woodturning comes with annual rings which can endure shocks and vibrations. It should also be able to withstand any mechanical wear and tear.

ebony wood
Image Credit: Thichaa, Shutterstock

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If you are a DIY woodwork enthusiast, it is no surprise that woodturning is among the projects you have already worked on, or are panning to work on in future. Whatever the case, you will need ideal wood  to turn to produce amazing pieces.

The above are some of the best woods for turning. The list may not be conclusive, but it’s a good place to start. We have also highlighted some of the qualities to look out for before choosing a specific wood. With this, you will make an accurate choice and enjoy your woodturning project.

Featured Image Credit: Aleksandr Pobeda, Shutterstock


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