August 4, 2021

Softwoods (Coniferous) Trees | What Woodworkers Should Know

Softwood coniferous trees

Softwoods (also known as coniferous trees) are the new hardwoods on the block. Once considered specialty woods, softwoods are now being used in more and more woodworking projects, with softwood lumber gaining popularity among hardwood haters and hardwood fans alike. Softwoods are becoming increasingly popular with builders, framers and furniture designers because of their elegant appearance and durable properties.


Araucaria is a species that belongs to the Araucariaceae family, and it originated in New Caledonia. It is a genus of evergreen coniferous trees named Araucaria Juss. It is for timber production. 

The seeds from the Araucaria tree are known as Araucaria nuts, and it comes with pharmaceutical advantages since it is an antidepressant, antiviral and anti-ulcer. It is for light construction and interior work such as flooring, shelves, cupboards, cabinetwork, linings, and moldings. It requires special applications such as chopsticks. Below are types of Araucaria trees. 

Cedrus is popularly known as a Cedar tree and is a genus of coniferous trees. The plant belongs to the Pinaceae family and originates from the western Himalayas and the Mediterranean region. The husband is Cedrus Trew. It has a sweet scent, distinctive color, and grain. 

It is repellent to moths, and that is why it makes chests and closets. It makes ornaments and shoe trees since it absorbs moisture. Ornament making gives you the chance to showcase your creative skills. 

Celery-top pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius)

The Celery-top pine is a tree species that came from Tasmania, Australia, in the Western Highlands. It belongs to the P. Aspleniifolius species and Podocarpaceae family. 

The genus of the tree is Phyllocladus and makes high-quality furniture, railway sleepers, floors, cabinets, and boats. The wood is straight-grained and dense.

Cypress (ChamaecyparisCupressusTaxodium)

Cypress is a tree species that belongs to the Cupressaceae Bartlett family. It has 140 species that include both junipers and redwoods. The family is subdivided into seven and based on genetics and morphological analysis. 

It originated from China and produces mass timber. The wood makes fence posts and bows because it is durable. It makes drawers, chests, wooden pencils, cupboards, and closets. 

The Douglas-fir is a tree species that belongs to the Pinaceae family. It is categorized as a P. Menziesii species and belongs to the Pseudotsuga genus. It originated from North America. 

Below is a variety of the Douglas-fir. The leaves encircle the branches, and that is how quickly you recognize the tree. The tree loses its leaves as it grows taller. 

It produces soft timber for frame construction and trusses. It is strong, hard, and durable, and that makes it ideal for flooring. It is also ideal for heavy timber constructions since it lasts longer. Chances of supplying longer timber as Douglas-fir are high. It has value in furniture in the parks and gardens. 

Coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii)

The European yew is a tree species that belongs to the Taxaceae family. It is categorized as Taxus baccata species belonging to the Taxus genus. It originated from western, central, and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran, and southwest Asia. 

You have a chance to exercise your creative skills as a woodworker. The timber found in the European yew is known as a closed pore softwood. That makes it similar to Cedar and pine. It is a hard type of softwood, and its characteristic is elasticity. That explains why it is used on items that require elasticity, such as bows and musical instruments. The use of the tree is for ornament making because it is highly poisonous. It is a rare quality that makes it special in craftwork.

Fir (Abies)

Fir is a tree species that belongs to the Pinaceae family. It originated in North and Central America and is a genus of Abies Mill. It is related to the Cedar tree, and it comes with a huge trunk. A huge trunk gives you timber for broad applications. It belongs to the pine family due to the needle-like leaves. 

Decay-resistant and the size and shape of the cones. It is different from the rest because of the size and arrangement of the leaves. It produces plywood and rough timber. Rough timber lasts longer and makes unique pieces. Lack of decay and insect resistance makes it ideal for indoor use. Below are types of the Fir tree.

Tsuga is a Japanese word for the Hemlock tree. It belongs to the Panaceae family, and the genus is Tsuga Carriere. Panaceae is a sub-family for the pine family that has ten species in North America and Eastern Asia. 

The trees are evergreen and tall and used as wood pulp in the timber industry. It makes light framing, roofing, and sub-flooring. That makes it ideal for high-traffic areas since it is durable and strong.  The timber is lightweight and has a coarse grain. The grain protects the items made. A shortlist of Hemlock trees is mentioned below. 

Huon pine belongs to the Podocarpaceae family and falls under the Lagarostrobos franklin species. It originated from the southwest part of Tasmania, Australia. It is the Lagarostrobos

Quinn genus. It is not a pine tree. 

The wood comes at a steeper price due to its golden yellow color, fine grain, and natural oils resistant to rotting. It has a unique smell and great preservative qualities. It makes furniture and cabinets, especially for wool clothing. In spaces that are surrounded by moisture, chances are very low that you experience odor. 

Kauri (New Zealand) (Agathis australis)

The Kauri tree belongs to the Araucariaceae family and is an Agathis australis genus from the Northern part of New Zealand. The tree has smooth bark and narrow leaves. The Kauri timber produces wood for construction and shipbuilding. 

It produces nice items that are smooth and durable. What makes it ideal for sailing ships is the parallel grain and absence of branches. 

Queensland kauri (Australia) (Agathis robusta)

Agathis robusta is a coniferous tree in the family Araucariaceae. It comes from Guinea, and Australia is a genus of the Agathis and grows tall and straight. The wood is strong and durable. That is used for flooring and cabinetry. It produces a resin that makes varnish for furniture, making it a versatile wood type that builds cabinets and polish at the same time. 

Japanese nutmeg-yew, kaya (Torreya Nucifera)

The Kaya tree originated from southern Japan and South Korea‘s Jeju Island and is part of the Toreya genus of the Taxaceae family. The tree type is classified as Torreya Nucifera. The leaves are evergreen and take the shape of a needle. The timber is rich due to its yellow-gold color. It makes construct boards. What makes it special is the scarcity. 

Larch (Larix)

Larches are deciduous conifers in the genus Larix and belong to the Pinaceae family. Larches’ subfamily is Laricoideae). It is a Larix decidua genus that originates from Canada and Siberia. They grow better in cooler temperatures. 

The Larch timber is durable, strong, and tough. It comes with durability qualities that make it withstand rain and storm. It is waterproof, and that makes it ideal for yacht and boat building. 

When the timber contacts the ground, it is resistant to rot. It withstands the pressure that comes with fencing and posts. The tree grows fast and is resistant to insects. A preservative extends its life in low-temperature areas.

Pine is a softwood that belongs to the Pinaceae family and is a genus of the tree. The pine tree originated from North Korea. It is one of the widely used softwoods used as lumber. It has multiple species that are over 100. Below are a few of them. 

In the commercial sector, pine has more value in its timber and wood pulp. It grows fast in dense areas. Being durable makes it valuable in carpentry items, furniture making, window frames, paneling, floors, and roofing. Since it is not resistant to insects, it is ideal for indoor wooden items. 

Juniperus virginiana, also known as red cedar, eastern red cedar, Virginian juniper, eastern juniper, and red juniper, is a juniper species. It comes from eastern North America, south-eastern Canada, the Gulf of Mexico, and east of the Great Plains. It belongs to the Cupressaceae family. See our guide to carving juniper.

It is a genus of the Juniperus.  It is durable when in contact with the soil, and that is why it makes fence posts. Its resistance to decay makes it ideal for outdoor use. Its high demand lies in closet and cabinet making as well as bows. Its heartwood makes pencils. 

Coast redwood is a species of the genus Sequoia in the cypress family Cupressaceae. It is known as Coast, coastal, and Califonia redwood. It is evergreen, and the trees are tall. It originated from the United States. It is resistant to decay, and that makes it ideal for railroad and trestles. It also makes tabletops. Old Coast redwood makes house beams and steps. 

Rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum)

Dacrydium cupressinum is known as rimu, and large, an evergreen coniferous tree endemic to the forests of New Zealand. It comes from the southern conifer group and the podocarps. The genus is Dacrydium and is a species of Dacrydium cupressinum and belongs to the Podocarpaceae family and makes high-quality wooden furniture and house construction. It also makes bowls and other wood-turned objects.

Spruce (Picea)

Spruce is a tree of the genus Picea and a genus of about 35 species in the Pinaceae family.  It is from the northern temperate and boreal (taiga) regions of the Earth. Distinguish the tree from the rest due to the needle leaves that come with four sides. The wood is for buildings. It is not decaying or insect resistant, and that is why I recommend the use of the Spruce indoors. 

Sugi is known as Cryptomeria japonica, and it is a genus of the Cryptomeria D.Don. It belongs to the Cupressaceae family, and the species are classified as Cryptomeria japonica. It originated from Japan. 

The wood product is for decorative items. Cryptomeria japonica timber is fragrant, weather and insect resistant, soft. It comes with a low density, and the timber is for the making of staves, tubs, casks, furniture, and other indoor applications. It is easy to saw and season for light construction, boxes, veneers, and plywood. 

Wood that has been buried turns dark green and is much valued. Resin from the tree contains cryptopimaric and phenolic acid. The wood is pleasantly scented, reddish-pink in color, lightweight but strong, waterproof, and resistant to decay. It is favored in Japan for all types of construction work as well as interior paneling.

White cedar

White cedar belongs to the Cupressaceae family, and the genus is Thuja. Its country of origin is eastern Canada and much of the north-central and northeastern United States. It is valuable timber in the woodwork industry since it is for construction.  The ornamental plant belongs to the Thuja occidentalis species. 

Cupressus nootkatensis is a species of tree in the Cupressaceae family. It originated from the coastal regions of north-western North America and is in the Cupressus genus and Cupressus nootkatensis species. 

The timber is for construction and boat building. It grows slowly, and that explains its scarcity. It is durable and stable, and the straight grain makes an excellent finish. The steeper price makes it ideal for finished carpentry. These include beams and decks.

What wood comes from coniferous trees

Softwood, also known as coniferous wood, comes from coniferous trees. These trees have needles instead of leaves, producing cones instead of flowers. The most common types of softwood are pine, fir, and cedar. Hardwood, on the other hand, comes from deciduous trees. These trees have leaves that change color in the fall and lose them in the winter. The most common types of hardwood are oak, maple, and cherry.

What is special about softwood trees

Softwood trees are synonymous with evergreens, as they are the primary type of tree in that family. The needles of these trees are specially adapted to help the tree retain water and prevent evaporation. This is why evergreens are often used as Christmas trees – they can stay green and healthy for weeks without being watered.

How to tell if wood is softwood?

There are a few ways to tell if wood is softwood. The first is to look at the leaves. If the leaves are needles, then it’s likely that the tree is a softwood. The second way is to look at the cones. If the tree produces cones, it’s probably a softwood. The third way is to look at the bark. If the bark is thin and scaly, the tree is likely a softwood.

What burns hotter softwood or hardwood?

Softwood burns hotter than hardwood. This is because softwood is easier to ignite and has a higher ignition temperature. Hardwood, however, is more difficult to ignite and has a lower ignition temperature.

Is softwood more sustainable than hardwood?

Softwood is more sustainable than hardwood. This is because softwood trees grow faster and are easier to replant than hardwood trees. Hardwood trees take longer to grow and are more difficult to replant, making them less sustainable.

What climate does softwood grow in?

Softwood grows in a variety of climates. However, it is most commonly found in temperate and boreal forests.

Is softwood suitable for outside use?

Yes, softwood is suitable for outside use. It is often used for construction purposes because it is strong and durable. However, it is also susceptible to rot and decay if it is not properly treated.

David D. Hughes

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