Favorite wood / material of choice

What’s your favorite material ? I made up some outdoor signs for Christmas gifts out of cedar I bought from the local box store.
Cedar is great, routes, paints, and finishes very well ( a little pricey). I’m looking for something different, not mdf. Oak doesn’t paint well, poplar isn’t to a bad, cherry and walnut pricey,
I’m looking for indoor or outdoor use.

Has anyone used what I believed is called MDO plywood, or maple?

Thanks, for all the help. I’ve had my XXL for a few weeks.



I have ordered Black Walnut from Amazon and Etsy that is very nice. I get Red Oak from Lowes but have cleaned out all the stores in my area for all the straight planks in large sizes.
I am planning on exploring the lumber yards next.

Here in the Ohio’s Amish country, sawmills and native lumber are everywhere, but finding some quality can be a challenge. I’ve been a woodworker for 40 years using mostly walnut and cherry. CNC has has always interested me maybe I’ll give maple a try.


I still have a bunch of rough 4/4 red oak I’d like to get rid of if anybody is close to central KY.


I use walnut, cherry, hard maple, soft maple, ash, beech, popular, cedar, white oak and red oak for different projects. I love the maples for signs. Cherry and walnut for jewelry boxes. Ash and beech are ok and reasonably priced. Popular is cheep but I dont get good carves out of it on the CNC usually. The oaks are great for furniture.

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I have done Maple and Yellow Birch and they both carve very well, white pine can be a bit stringy. Maple is very hard and you need to back off the F&S for best results.

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I’ve done a lot of hard maple, and really enjoy it. Does require a sharp tool or it can require some handwork to clean up edges. Cherry is really great to work with, but I’m not sure I would use it for an outdoor sign. I’ve been told that PVC (Aztek, etc) trim boards make great outdoor v-carved signs.


If you don’t need wood, expanded PVC is excellent. Carves like butter & takes paint well.


Don’t try to use any kind of plywood. Even the very “nice” stuff is only a veneer. If you paint it, and then try to sand of excess pain, you will most likely go through the veneer. There are usually holes in the layers under the veneer and it will ruin your project. I usually do signs like yours in birch. It isn’t very spendy and cuts nice.

Wood choice is important based on the end use of the cutting- if outdoor, the red cedar, or white cedar will hold up well as well as pressure treated pine. Popular, and other soft woods are not suitable outdoor in-durance. The cedar a, pressure treated pine and red cedar hold up well outside as well as teak, mahogany. If carving pressure treated, you absolutly need dust collection as the preservative is highly irritating to the body. Particle board is OK for indoor, but it falls apart with any moisture . For nice carving signage for indoor I use MDO- Medium density overlay- this is composed of a plywood center with a resin coated paper on the surface. Paints like a dream, and is stable. Find a wood mill in your area or ask a wood worker where to get specialty wood. The big box stores offer some nice woods, but are very costly compared to a mill resource.

A good resource for wood hardness is https://www.hardwoodinfo.com/consumer/rediscovering-hardwoods/types-of-wood/ Tom


The U.S. Forestry Service has many publications on wood. One especially useful example is, Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material (Centennial Edition). https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fplgtr113/fplgtr113.htm

UK take on it here:http://www.laver.co.uk/content/timber-pdf-downloads (Timber%20properties.pdf seems to no longer be available)

A great book is Understanding Wood: A Craftsman’s Guide to Wood Technology by R. Bruce Hoadley (get the second/revised edition)

My favourite domestic wood is American Walnut (or hickory if making bow), tropical is probably Ipê (though it’d be ebony if I could get it in reasonable sizes at a reasonable price).


If I am allowed to ignore price and difficulty obtaining, my answer is Bamboo.
All the benefits of plywood without most of the problems.


Yeah, I’ve found bamboo flooring wonderful to cut (though I feel badly about the wasted edges). I need to work out ordering some 4x8 sheets from a local supplier.

I have had some nice results from maple, the problem with it is when I use the table saw the smell of maple syrup makes me want to eat pancakes…


I have used cherry, maple, bamboo (not technically a wood, but whatever), padauk, wenge, zebrawood, leopardwood, katalox, chakte viga, black walnut, purpleheart, chechen, cedar, Bolivian rosewood and, oh something like olivewood, but not exactly sure. That last one was a butcher block style cutting board from Ikea. It was very stringy, and a pain to clean up the edges of the cuts. I still have a few of the cutting boards left. Not sure what I am going to do with them.

Anyway, my favorite looking wood is the Bolivian rosewood. The beautiful red-brown and black grain is so fantastic looking when polished up and oiled. I am a minimalist when it comes to my cribbage boards. I love the look of the grain of the wood, and I like to have the minimum amount of marking on the wood surface.

My favorite feeling wood is Katalox. This stuff is incredibly dense and fine grained. If you sand it to 400 grit and hit it with a coat of mineral oil, it will feel glossy - almost like it has a thin shellac on it. Did I mention it is dense? Also, as a side note, I do like the colors of it. A red-brown to dark brown heartwood, and a yellow sapwood. I still plan on making a checkerboard with the dark and light squares katalox.

I am lucky living near a port (Seattle) because there is so much inexpensive wood from around the world available to me, and I can stop and pick it up on my way home.

EDIT: For outdoor use, I cut some signs out of some Baltic birch plywood for my daughter. I used white spray paint to paint the surface and then v-carved them and then applied 3 coats of clear spray paint on them. I know, not too classy, and if I were not so lazy I would have picked a better outdoor wood, but it was a quick and dirty weekend job so she could get to selling chicken eggs, since her hens were laying like crazy and she had to start reducing her inventory. The sign has held up the last 18 or so months (at least one Washington winter) and still looks unaffected.