First of all, I want to thank the community for your patient and informative answers to questions from me, a “pre-newbie”, who will not even receive his XXL until tomorrow.
When CNC operators refer to “hardwood” and “softwood”, are they generally referring to hardwood and softwood, or “hard wood” and “soft wood”? In other words, deciduous and evergreen, or based on the Janka scale?
I’m afraid the two interpretations are used and only the context will allow to differentiate, some think “seeds” and some think “Janka hardness” when mentioning “hardwood”. I would think that most people on a CNC forum use the latter interpretation, but I could be wrong.
My understanding of the convention in Carbide Create is that “softwood” == softer construction-grade timber, so fir, spruce, southern yellow pine, &c., while “hardwood” == the traditional better quality hardwoods which are readily available such as red oak, maple, walnut, &c.
Best thing to do is to try a test cut — one technique for that is:
Well, there really is only one actual definition of “hardwood or softwood” - and that’s the existence of an external seed pod in hardwoods (think nuts and fruits), whereas softwoods have things like pine combs and open seeds. It actually has nothing to do with wood density…the obvious example being balsa wood - which is a hardwood.
When people refer to hardwood on this forum, it tends to be in discussion that pine does not machine very well and you generally get better results with hardwoods such as cherry, walnut or maple.
But it is dangerous to simplify to hardwood vs softwood since each species cuts very different and what the best choice is depends on your design and intended use. I will say that if you are going to be doing vcarving, you should avoid pine. (or use for prototyping with the knowledge that your final cuts on the intended material will have much less tearing)