The 5 Best And Worst Woods To Turn On A Lathe For Beginners


While there are many factors to consider, such as hardness, density, and dryness, some woods are more suitable for beginners than others.

The Bottom Line:

  • Choosing the right wood is essential for successful woodturning.
  • Beginners should opt for woods that are easy to work with and have beautiful grain patterns.
  • Walnut is a top choice for beginners due to its workability and attractive color.
  • Softwoods like pine should be avoided as they are prone to tearing and produce lower-quality results.
  • Consider the hardness, density, and dryness of the wood when selecting materials for woodturning projects.

The Best Woods for Woodturning


1. Walnut

Walnut is a popular choice among woodturners due to its easy workability and beautiful grain pattern. Its creamy white color adds an elegant touch to any woodturning project. As a hardwood, walnut is relatively easy to shape, making it suitable for a wide range of projects. Whether you’re turning bowls, vases, or pens, walnut is a versatile and beginner-friendly wood choice.

2. Cherry

Cherry is another excellent wood for woodturning, known for its warm tones and smooth finish. It is also relatively easy to work with, making it ideal for beginners to practice and refine their woodturning skills. Cherry is commonly used to create small decorative items, such as candlesticks and jewelry boxes.

3. Maple

Maple is a favorite among woodturners due to its light color and tight grain. It is a dense and stable wood that turns beautifully on a lathe. Maple is commonly used to create bowls, platters, and utensils. Its fine texture and smooth finish make it a pleasure to work with, even for beginners.

4. Ash


Ash is a hardwood that is known for its durability and versatility. It is relatively easy to turn on a lathe, making it a good choice for beginners. Ash is commonly used for making furniture components, tool handles, and sports equipment. Its pale color and distinct grain pattern add visual interest to wood turned projects.

5. Oak


Oak is a classic choice for woodturning due to its strength and durability. It has a distinctive grain pattern that adds character to woodturned items. Oak is commonly used to create furniture components, bowls, and decorative items. Although it is a bit harder to work with compared to other woods on this list, with proper guidance and practice, beginners can achieve impressive results with oak.

Wood Characteristics Common Uses
Walnut Easy workability, beautiful grain pattern, creamy white color Bowls, vases, pens
Cherry Warm tones, smooth finish Candlesticks, jewelry boxes
Maple Light color, tight grain Bowls, platters, utensils
Ash Durable, versatile, pale color, distinct grain pattern Furniture components, tool handles, sports equipment
Oak Strong, durable, distinctive grain pattern Furniture components, bowls, decorative items

The Worst Woods for Woodturning

When it comes to woodturning, it’s important to choose the right wood for the best results. While there are many beautiful types of wood available, not all are suitable for beginners. One type of wood that beginners should avoid is pine.

Pine is a softwood that may seem like an affordable and convenient option, but it has its drawbacks. Due to its soft nature, pine is prone to tearing during shaping, which can lead to frustration and less than desirable finished products. Additionally, pine is less durable compared to other woods, making it less suitable for projects that require longevity.

For woodturning beginners, it is advisable to stay away from woods like pine and instead focus on hardwoods that are more forgiving. By working with woods that are easier to turn, beginners can gain confidence and experience while producing higher-quality pieces.

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