Hard or Soft?

No, this article is not about eggs. However it is about the differences you can expect to find in hard and soft woods. The aim is to give you a basic understanding of the differences, enabling you to make an informed choice when it comes to choosing a wood for your project. The characteristics of the lumber produced from hard or softwood trees depends on the actual species of tree, for example the wood from a Yew tree, which is classified as a softwood is denser than Balsa wood which comes from a hardwood tree.


  • Are made of longitudinal and transverse ray cells. This means that this type of wood is suitable for papermaking, construction and furniture. It is rarely used on it’s own as flooring, but it may form part of a veneer, which are commonly used to renovate old staircases.
  • Softwood is easier to carve and drill though, making it popular for intricate furniture designs.
  • Usually softwood is harvested from conifer trees such as pines, hemlock and redwoods. There are many more.
  • The trees that it comes from will usually have evergreen leaves that are shaped like needles or flat with pointy edges.
  • The seeds are dispersed by the wind as the fall out of a cone like structure.
  • They tend to grow faster than hardwoods when planted in their optimal conditions.


  • Hardwood trees have pores which carry water throughout them, in a way that softwoods do not, in addition to the tracheid cells that are evident in both types of tree.
  • Hardwood trees such as Oak, Ash and Maple trees are commonly used in flooring, construction, musical instruments.
  • The leaves tend to be large and are shed in the autumn months.
  • The seeds from this type of tree will have a shell that could be in the form of a case as in a chestnut tree or a fruit.
  • A lot of the English countryside used to be covered in forests of ancient hardwood trees. Unfortunately these were not replanted as they were cut down. This means that it is becoming harder to source large planks of hardwood resulting in the booming industry of reclaimed lumber. Old buildings and furniture are being taken apart and the wood is being reused for a different purpose. As this wood has already been subjected to changes in temperature and moisture levels it is much more stable than newer wood.
  • Makes a good fuel for a wood burning stove as it burns slower, it also gives a smokey flavour to food such smoked bacon and cheeses.
  • It is unlikely that this type of wood would be used to make paper, however it is used to make the finish for veneers, staircases, furniture, construction and flooring.

Both types of wood have their distinct advantages, the choice as they say, is yours.