Best Hardwood Species for Spindle Turning

These Wood Species Turn Cleanly and Can Be Sanded Smooth

Carpenter man is carving the wooden stick.
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Woodturning is one aspect of fine woodworking, but it is a segment all its own. In many cases, experienced woodturners enjoy that one aspect so much that they don't really have any desire to perform any other tasks in the wood shop.

Learning wood turning takes a good lathe, sharp tools and plenty of practice. However, working with the right woods can make a huge difference in the results, not only by producing some beautiful turnings but by also increasing your enjoyment in woodturning.

  • 01 of 07


    Baseball bats leaning on wall

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    There may be no more common of an example of woodturning in American society than the baseball bat. Most bats have traditionally been made from ash because of the wood's durability and resistance to damage from impact. It is also commonly used to make handles for hammers or other hand-operated tools like shovels.

  • 02 of 07


    Beech hardwood

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    At first look, you might think that beech hardwood would be best described as the epitome of bland. It doesn't really have a distinctive grain pattern, it is very light in color and doesn't impart any flavor or smell if used in a food-grade project. While some might think of this ​a drawback, others would embrace the plainness of this wood and use it as a contrast in segmented turnings, to simulate other, more expensive hardwoods or even to make bowls and other items for drinking and dining.

  • 03 of 07


    Ebony Wood

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    Ebony is somewhat of a controversial hardwood, mostly because of the history surrounding the harvesting of the trees. There are a number of species of ebony, ranging from a deep, dark brown to a jet black in color. Ebony is a very slow-growing wood, often taking as much as 100 years for a tree to reach full maturity. In some countries, crews would come through an area like locusts and cut every viable ebony tree. As a result, ebony has become a rare commodity and an expensive one at that. The deep black color can provide an amazing contrast to the other woods in a segmented woodturning.​

  • 04 of 07


    Hickory hardwood

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    Hardwoods don't come much tougher than hickory. It is renowned for its ability to take a beating, so it is used when hardness is a requirement for the project. Ironically, hickory turns extremely well with very sharp tools, but it does scratch easily, so always sand hickory with the grain rather than holding sandpaper on the turning while the lathe rotates it in the spindle, as the wood scratches easily opposite the grain pattern.

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  • 05 of 07


    Dead Mesquite Tree in the Dunes

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    Mesquite is a hardwood indigenous to Texas and the desert southwest of the United States. Some might argue that mesquite is more of a weed than a wood, but those who have embraced its unique qualities would likely beg to differ. Working with mesquite is all about highlighting the wood's imperfections. It turns cleanly but is not available in large quantities, so it is ideal for projects like pen turnings, bottle stoppers or pepper grinders. The blemishes inherent in the wood can give every piece a one-of-a-kind look.

  • 06 of 07


    Natural rosewood texture

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    Much like ebony, rosewood is a hardwood steeped in a bit of controversy. The most popular varieties of rosewood were mass harvested from Brazilian rain forests a few decades ago, and little of that species remain. Other rosewood varieties come from India and the far east, but getting your hands on some legal stock may prove difficult, and expensive. If you can find some, rosewood can produce some exquisite turnings, particularly as part of a segmented woodturning.

  • 07 of 07


    Close up details of sycamore tree

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    Sycamore has a distinctive interlocked grain pattern that makes it nearly impossible to split. It also is rather plain looking and similar to beech, it doesn't pass along much in the way of taste or smell if used in a food-grade woodworking project. However, quarter-sawn sycamore is prized by woodturners because of a unique grain pattern that really contrasts other hardwoods in a segmented ​woodturning.​