Wood type is one of the most important considerations when making a table. For one, the type of wood you choose for your table determines the lifetime of the furniture.

Tables made from weak woods may only last a few years, typically under five years. However, if you choose the best wood to make a table, you can be sure your fine furniture will last several decades.

How to Choose the Best Wood for Table top

Let’s begin with basic considerations when selecting wood for any wood furniture project. You need to keep the following in mind;

Hardwood vs. Softwood Tabletops 

Wooden tables can be made from softwoods or hardwoods. The difference is in the Janka Hardness rating (wood hardness is measured on the Janka scale).

Softwoods are hard enough to use for any type of table, from dining tables to kitchen table tops. However, they score poorly on the Janka scale.

The hardest softwoods, such as Fir, only score about 660 Janka points, while softer softwoods, such as pine, score as low as 400.

Meanwhile, hardwoods typically score 1,000+ on the Janka scale, with some up to four times harder than the softest softwoods.

Generally, softwoods are easier to work with and are more affordable. However, their low density means they get damaged quicker, rarely last long, and have poor fire resistance.

On the other hand, even the cheapest hardwoods are still extremely durable, boast excellent strength, and are generally naturally beautiful. However, working with hardwood for table top is difficult.

Solid wood vs. Veneer vs. Laminate Table tops

The other thing you need to consider when making table tops is whether you want solid wood, veneer, or laminate tops.

Solid wood is a term often used to distinguish ordinary lumber from engineered wood. Generally, it refers to natural lumber that doesn’t have hollow spaces.

A key advantage of solid wood is that it’s easy to refinish, repair, and stain to conceal damages. Solid hardwoods are also extremely durable and naturally beautiful. However, solid woods are expensive.

Veneer refers to thin slices of wood, typically thinner than 3mm, glued onto core panels to produce flat surfaces. They’re typically made of manufactured wood.

Veneer stands out for i’s striking beauty, exceptional strength, warp resistance, and ease of working. It’s also one of the inexpensive wood for table top. But unfortunately, veneer wood is weak and can’t hold much weight.

Finally, laminate is a multi-layer synthetic wood product fused in a lamination process. It’s resistant to heat, scratches, and moisture. It’s also clean and low-maintenance. However, it’s hard to conceal once the scratches begin to show.

Wood Tables Edges 

Another thing you must consider when trying to find a good wood for table top is the edges. Table edges come in different styles. However, the three most popular edge styles are bullnose, eased, and waterfall styles.

Bullnose edges are rounded table edges with a radius of half the thickness of the table. It gives the table a classic look. Meanwhile, eased edges are slightly radiused profile edges that don’t exceed 1/6. It’s like a quarter circle.

Finally, waterfall edges are rounded at the top and bottom with a flat middle, thus creating a sort of a waterfall.

Your choice of wood directly determines whether you can have the edge design of your choice and the ease of creating the desired edge.

Type and Styles, e.g., Traditional vs. Contemporary

Finally, you should also consider the desired table type and style. For one, consider what type of table you’re making. Is it a solid wood dining table, a coffee table, or a kitchen table?

Or are you making a refectory table or console table? Different table types work best with different wood types. Secondly, consider the style.

For instance, if you’re making a dining table, you may want a rustic look, farmhouse style to add a rugged, vintage-inspired touch to your dining room. Alternatively, you may want a pedestal dining table with a single solid leg in the middle.

The different styles may work best with specific wood types. For instance, you cannot make a farmhouse table made from softwood such as pine. Instead, you need some of the best hardwoods with darker shades.

Top 8 Best Wood to Make a Table

Now that we know a few important points to consider when choosing wood for a table, let’s look at some of the best types of wood for tables.

1. Red Oak

Quartersawn oak is one of the most popular choices for making solid wood table tops. Woodworkers and customers alike love the wood for its versatility and extreme strength.

Even standard oak tables appear warm and rich. They pretty much light up the room under good lighting, providing a sophisticated and contemporary feel in any room. And if, for example, you order flowers to decorate the table, the table will look exquisite and richer.

However, oaks come in many species. So, we specifically recommend the red oak. Red oak comes in a beautiful orange-reddish tone with a white to light brown sapwood.

It’s also characterized by a pronounced beautiful grain pattern that easily absorbs stain to give the finished dining table a gorgeous darker tone. Above all, it is a durable hardwood.

However, beware that your red oak table will be a little heavy. So, it’s best for furniture that you don’t intend to move often, such as the dining table.

What We Liked Most

  • Warm, more traditional look
  • High density for extreme strength
  • More readily available
  • More affordable

What Could Be Improved

  • Limited color choices



2. Brown maple

Maple is one of the hardest domestic hardwood species. Hard maple wood is rated 1,450 on the famed Janka hardness scale, making it harder than oak (rated 1,290) and many other hardwoods.

Thus, hard maple guarantees durable furniture that can last decades. It’s the best wood for dining table top and coffee tables. Of the hard maple varieties, we recommend brown maple.

Brown maple is smooth and of light grain. It’s creamy white to light brown, though some may appear dark golden brown. The straight grain pattern gives it a beautiful texture.

All hard maple varieties are easy to work with, which may be surprising considering their Janka hardness scores. The brown maple, specifically, burns with ease under high-speed cutters such as routers.

You can also finish your table with a maple wood stain of your choice.

What We Liked Most

  • Excellent strength
  • Beautiful grain pattern
  • Easily workable
  • Extreme durability

What Could Be Improved

  • A bit expensive



3. Rustic cherry

Cherry is another excellent wood choice, particularly for traditional and formal tables. It’s actually common in the US. If you come across reddish brown furniture in the US, it’s most likely cherry wood.

The popularity is because of the ready availability of cherry trees. Cherry is also a reliable wood type but doesn’t cost as much as comparable alternatives. We specifically recommend rustic cherry wood.

Rustic cherry has a white, brown, and deep red tone. It’s a less refined version of traditional cherry wood and easily identifiable given its widespread knots, pits, fine satin-smooth texture, and unique grain pattern.

It’s the perfect choice for a rustic style. The only drawback is that rustic cherry wood isn’t as strong as other hardwoods. It’s rated 950 on the Janka hardness scale, which makes it one of the softest hardwoods.

What We Liked Most

  • Stunning reddish-brown tine
  • Easily workable and glues well
  • Fine smooth texture
  • Fairly durable hardwood

What Could Be Improved

  • Susceptible to dents and cracks
  • Fairly expensive



4. Poplar

Polar is among the most common utility woods in the US. It has characteristic white sapwood, sometimes with stripes. Meanwhile, the heartwood is usually tan but can be found in brown to yellow shades. Some poplars even have dark green and blue heartwoods.

Poplar wood has a fine grain pattern with a uniform texture. The wood planks are lightweight, though older ones can be moderately heavy. It has a medium-density, thus machines and glues well. Let’s just say it’s easy to work.

Poplar makes all kinds of furniture, from restaurant tables, wood for bed frames, and even formal dining sets. The tables and table tops boast sheer strength while remaining attractively smooth.

What We Liked Most

  • Easily workable
  • Excellent finishing properties
  • Incredible bending strength
  • Available in a wide range of colors

What Could Be Improved

  • Lacks unique grain patterns



5. Quarter sawn white oak

If you’re not a fan of red, consider white oak. White oak is a little different from red oak. Interestingly, it’s a little darker than red oak, with more beige and brownish hues. Meanwhile, red oak has more salmon and pink undertones.

However, white oak has a variegated grain that is also more even. For this reason, it doesn’t absorb too much stain. This quality allows white oak furniture to retain its natural colors even after staining, whereas red oak typically becomes darker.

We specifically recommend quarter sawn white oak. Quarter sawn white oak is extremely hard, up to 1360 Janka, and resistant to dents and scratches. However, beware that quartersawn white oak is also more expensive.

What We Liked Most

  • Excellent strength
  • Easily paintable
  • Smoother grains
  • Better with lighter stains

What Could Be Improved

  • More expensive than white oak



6. Pinewood

Pine is one of the most popular types of wood in the US, and for a good reason. First, it’s readily available. Few lumber yards will be missing a few pine pieces at any given time.

Secondly, pine isn’t endangered. So, millers can cut them without any worries. Above all, pine is a softwood, thus easy to work with. It’s also applicable in a wide range of situations.

It makes beautiful restaurant tables, strong dining room tables, and excellent table tops for use in contemporary furniture. You can even use it in applications typically reserved for heavy wood.

The knots on pinewood especially make it a good choice for restaurant tables. It gives the restaurant table an enhanced appearance that easily complements the décor. The pleasant resinous fragrance also adds to the charm.

One downside, just like stained pine doors, pine tables are hard to stain if you’re not a pro.

What We Liked Most

  • Cheaper than most solid wood species
  • It’s a light wood that takes nails and screws readily
  • Takes polish well
  • Excellent for DIYs

What Could Be Improved

  • Not very strong (380 Janka)
  • Only averagely durable



7. Walnut – Best dining table wood

Walnut is a top choice for many woodworking projects. It’s even used to make wooden utensils, from spoons to bowls and so on. However, it’s most common among woodworkers and buyers looking for a modern and contemporary style.

It offers a unique mix of durability, feel, and a golden glow that most people find irresistible. Walnut wood is characterized by a creamy-white to dark chocolaty tone.

It’s not quite as hard as, say, oak. However, at 1010 Janka, it’s still hard enough to resist denting, scratching, and other accidental damages.

The only downside is that walnuts are fairly expensive. The high demand for walnut trees and low supply means that you’ll pay a premium for walnut tables.

What We Liked Most

  • It has a beautiful golden glow
  • Excellent for contemporary furniture
  • Resists denting and scratching
  • The best wood for a dining room table
  • A gorgeous, unique grain pattern

What Could Be Improved

  • A tad expensive
  • Prone to planer tear-out



8. Hickory

Finally, if you’re hellbent on getting a hardwood table but aren’t a fan of the above options, you should consider hickory.

Indeed, many people consider it the best wood for a dining table, as the strong grain pattern offers a striking look that echoes visions of an expensive getaway.

Hickory wood comes in varied tones, ranging from reddish to cream. It has an open grain pattern that gives an earthy feel. However, the grain offers a smooth look for easy finishing.

The contrasting streaks in the wood grain pattern fit many settings in both domestic and commercial applications. But the most important thing about hickory is its hardness.

Scoring an incredible 1,820 on the Janka hardness scale, only a few wood types are harder than hickory. Go ahead and build your hickory farmhouse table today.

What We Liked Most

  • Attractive light to dark-brown tone
  • Incredible strength at 1,820 Janka
  • Surprisingly easy to work with
  • Extremely durable

What Could Be Improved

  • Prone to tear-out
  • Prone to warping and cracking



Best Wood to Use for Making a Dining Table

Consider these two types of wood for dining table;

  • Walnut: Walnut comes in several varieties, and any will work. However, the Eastern Black Walnut is one of the best wood for dining table top. This dining table wood has beautiful grain patterns that offers unique statement pieces.
  • Maple: Both walnut and maple make excellent choices for a contemporary dining room table. However, maple offers a uniquely soft, smooth texture that makes it even better for formal dining room furniture. We particularly recommend soft maple (brown maple), though hard maple varieties, such as rock maple, are also desirable.

Related Read: How to Get White Heat Stains Out of Wood

Best Wood for Coffee Tables 

Whereas dining table wood are more about strength and durability, the priority when making coffee tables is aesthetics and design. Thus, your wood choices should be different. We recommend either pine or oak.

  • Pine for softwood: Pine is arguably the best choice if you’d like to build your coffee table with softwood. It has a beautiful light brown tone and is easily workable if you need a few carvings. Pine is also light and cost-effective.
  • Oak for hardwood: However, oak is arguably the best choice if you prefer more durable wood. Oak has a gorgeous flame-patterned grain pattern and is hard enough to withstand rough use hence its best for hardwood table top. The only downside is that oak is more expensive than pine.

Best Wood for a DIY Farm Table

DIY farmhouse tables are more about strength and a rustic look. We recommend the following wood species.

  • Mahogany: Mahogany is widely available domestically, though it’s imported. It’s slightly soft, scoring about 800 on the Janka scale. However, it boasts beautiful close straight grains and a warm orange-to-reddish tint that make it the perfect choice for farm tables.
  • Cypress: Cypress is a softwood comparable to pine. However, it offers exceptional strength and unique resistance to warping. More importantly, cypress wood boasts beautiful knots that add style to farm tables.  

Why Choose Wood for Tables

Here’s why people prefer wood for table making:

  • Aesthetic properties: You must select naturally beautiful wood if you want a beautiful table. Otherwise, you’ll need to paint the wood tabletop constantly.
  • Indoor or outdoor table? Your wood choice directly determines whether you can use the furniture outside. Whereas highly waterproof wood can safely stay outside, species that absorb too much moisture can warp and get damaged outside.
  • Ease of working: You’ve probably heard that some woods are easier to work with than others. Well, it’s true. High-density hardwoods, for instance, are difficult to saw and don’t readily accept nails and screws. So, you must keep this in mind too. Risk for insect damage: No one wants to worry about mites and other insects boring holes into their premium table. Unfortunately, some wood types are prone to pest attacks. You must avoid these wood types.
  • Budget: You probably saw this coming. Your choice of wood determines how much money you’ll eventually spend on the woodworking project. More expensive wood varieties, such as teak, often mean a higher budget in the end.

Given the above factors, you need to carefully consider your options when choosing wood for your own table project. This guide discusses the basic considerations to help you pick the perfect wood.

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FAQs

Which wood is good for table top?

Cherry wood, walnut wood, hickory, and soft maple (brown maple) are some of the best choices. However, hard maple is also a worthy option.

How thick should wood be for a table top?

Ideally, 1 ½ to 1 ¾ inches thick. So, you need to start with 2-inch-thick wood pieces.

What’s the best wood for making a dining table?

Oak is considered the best wood for dining tables. However, hard maple is another good choice, especially when working on formal dining room sets, as oak can be expensive.

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Best Lumber for Tabletop Summary

In the end, the best wood to make a table depends on the type of table you want to make, your style preferences, whether you prefer hardwood species or softwoods, and your budget.

It also depends on where you’re making the whole table or just a wood table top.

Nevertheless, some of the best solid wood options for table making are oak, maple, cherry, and walnut for hard wood species, and pine and poplar if you prefer softwoods.

For softwood lovers who are wondering whether Poplar is Stronger than pine, check out the battle of poplar vs pine before deciding on the best lumber to use for a table.

Now you know the best wood for tables, please comment with your favorite option.

Next Read: Best wood for your exterior columns.

4 thoughts on “Top 8 Best Wood to Make a Table Top or Dining Table”

  1. Can furniture pieces be made from patagonia hardwood? I have some 4″ wide hardwood flooring and want to find someone who has the skill vision and passion to make them. Thanks

    Reply

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