Walnut, Cherry, Maple, Cedar What Wood Should I Use?

Black Forest Sawmill is nestled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where an abundance of domestic wood types awaits woodworking enthusiasts. Each wood type has unique characteristics, making them suitable for various woodworking projects. We often receive questions like "What wood species should I use for this project" or "What makes this wood species preferred over another". We hope to answer those questions and explore some of the prominent domestic wood types found in the Shenandoah Valley that are most popular in the wood working community.

Black Walnut

First off we would like to discuss Black Walnut (often referred to as "Walnut"), this is one of our most popular sellers and is a prized wood known for its rich, dark brown color with striking grain patterns. Black walnut has excellent workability, sands easily, and finishes beautifully, making it a great entry wood for a novice wood worker. Black walnut is also a popular choice for cutting boards and butcher blocks. Even though it is not as hard as maple, black walnut is still a durable wood with its tight grain pattern making it durable and resistant to cuts. In the end, most people prefer black walnut for crafting furniture such as tables due to its elegant apperance that fits well into almost any interior design. Oh and if you ever want to add a little bit of flavor to your project find a piece of black walnut with a little bit of sap wood showing through on the sides for a little extra pop!


Next on our list is Cherry. Cherry wood features a reddish-brown hue that tends to darken over time when exposed to light. It also features a fine straight grain structure making it suitable for a wide range of woodworking projects. Cherry is relatively easy to work with for both hand and power tools making it a preferred wood choice for furniture including tables, dressers, bed frames, and cabinetry. Cherry is also a good choice for cutting boards but will not hold up over time to wear and tear like walnut and maple will.


Third on the list is Maple. Maple is a unique wood with many different characteristics depending on the variety. Overall, maple has a light, creamy color with subtle grain patterns. Maple is a dense and durable wood with excellent hardness making it resistant to cuts and gauges. Additionally maple has natural antimicrobial properties, which can help inhibit the growth of bacteria making it a great choice for cutting boards. Maple is also a great wood to include in your designs with other wood species since its light color contrasts well. One final piece we want touch on is ambrosia. Maple wood is considered "ambrosia" maple when it displays unique and visually striking patterns caused by the ambrosia beetles. These beetles infest the maple tree (which is typically dead or diseased already), carrying with them a fungus that stains the wood as they burrow through it. The results of this infestation is a network of dark streaks throughout the wood which often begin or end with a small hole where the bug has entered or left the tree. Although this beetle may impact the tree, the resulted ambrosia maple is a highly prized wood for the wood working community.

Eastern Red Cedar

Last on our list, but certainly not least is Eastern Red Cedar. Eastern red cedar features a purplish hue with aromatic features that you can smell just by reading this sentence (if you have ever worked with it you know what I mean!). Cedar has a fine, straight grain and is resistant to rot and insect damage. When it comes to the sawmill process, cedar is a great wood, its soft, it dries easily and again it smells great! On the wood working side, cedar is well know for its outdoor applications making it great for benches, Adirondack chairs, and picnic tables.


As we conclude this quick review of four wood species found in the Shenandoah Valley, it becomes clear how unique each individual species is. From the elegance of Black Walnut to the versatility of Cherry, the durability of maple, or the aromatic charm of Eastern Red Cedar (Yes I smell it also you aren't crazy!). Each of these species provides endless opportunities for craftsman and hobbyists alike. As you embark on your wood working journey, whether furniture, cutting boards, or outdoor pieces, we hope the insights into the characteristics and uses help inspire your creativity and serve as a guide for your next project!

Stay tuned for our next wood working adventure and let us know what you think in the comments below!

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