Shelves are handy for displaying and storing various items in all living or working spaces. However, a lot of planning and consideration goes into making these pieces of furniture.
You need first to decide the shelf’s intended use and location before you can establish the best wood for your project. Stronger woods are best suited for heavy loading shelves, while light and colorful woods should be used for light decorative shelves. Other factors to consider include the wood’s workability, cost, and availability.
With that in mind, here are some of the best types of woods for shelves.
What is the best wood for shelves?
Despite being a softwood, the western red cedar is a cut above the rest when making wooden shelves. Woodworkers give it prominence largely due to its unique growth pattern.
This softwood variety features a red tint with an exceptionally fine texture, making it easy to paint and stain. Moreover, it has very visible growth rings and straight grain that make it easy to cut.
In addition to its elegant appearance and workability, the western red cedar is also very sturdy. It has a hardness rating of 350 on the Janka scale, implying that it can withstand heavy impact.
Hence, the western red cedar offers workability, elegance, and durability, making it the best wood for shelves.
What is the best material for a shelf?
Solid timber is by far the best material for a shelf. Not only is it strong, but it is also available in an extensive variety of planned widths that are guaranteed to suit all shelving needs.
If the width is not obtainable using a single plank, multiple planks can be fastened together using dowels, and grooved or tongued boards used to prevent them from warping.
Other good woods for shelving
Pinewood is also a good option for making wooden shelves. This softwood variety is more affordable and readily available than western red cedar.
However, its soft texture is what makes it an ideal pick. Pinewood is ring-porous as its growth rings form visible dark bands, and its grain is straight. This, added to its soft texture, give it an immaculate finish that is easy to work with and will look good without tedious finishing routines such as applying varnish or paint.
On the flip side, pinewood’s soft texture limits its scope of use. This wood cannot be used for heavy loads. It is best suited for short-width shelves meant for light objects.
Another valuable addition to this list is walnut. It is the best choice if you are looking for heavy-duty hardwood for your shelves. While it is not cheap, walnut’s grain structure and depth make it worth every penny.
It is among the most durable options in the market, with a hardness rating of 1,010 on the Janka scale. Walnut also offers natural aesthetic appeal as it comes in a dark brown shade that does not need paint to look good.
Other notable mentions include douglas fir, red oak, padauk, mahogany, and plywood.
Are manufactured boards strong enough for shelves?
Manufactured boards are not as strong as solid timber shelving options such as plywood or walnut. They are made from waste trimmings collected after the production of timber logs or wood planks. Therefore, manufactured boards cannot compare to other woods made from solid timber regarding durability and sturdiness.
These materials are often smoothened, flat surfaces free of rings, grains, or knots. Without the density characteristic of solid logs, manufactured boards are more prone to sagging when exposed to heavy weight.
Nonetheless, they can be used for shelving if there is ample support. Wood edgings are viable reinforcements as they can hold the sheets’ mid-section in place to prevent them from crumbling under heavy weight.
Manufactured boards are also difficult to work with, especially for woodwork joints. Their tendency to bow easily without the support and lack of grains make it almost impossible to cut these materials in traditional woodwork patterns.
Summary: Best wood for shelves
Utility and aesthetics are the primary factors to consider when choosing the best wood for shelves. The western red cedar stands out as the ideal choice since it offers a perfect balance between the two considerations.
However, there are many more options depending on your shelving needs. A suitable shelving wood is strong enough to hold your displays or items in place and elegant enough to add ambiance to the room.