This represents a real life situation. You are selecting lumber at a lumber yard for a 1st year woodworking member to build a solid wood outdoor patio table with an oil finish. The table is to be used for serving food and beverages. The woodworking shop has a table saw, jointer, sliding compound mitre saw, sander, drill, router, plus other required tools. Select the top 4 boards for the top and shelf of the table using these criteria and place the top 4 you have selected. Note: do not consider the thickness of the boards. The project can be made from whatever thickness boards you chose.

**The purpose of this class is to select 4 boards from the class of 8 and than judge the 4 selected pieces of wood.**

1 - Eastern White Cedar

2 - Recycled Plastic

3 - Pressure Treated Wood

4 - Black Cherry

5 - Plywood

6 - Western Red Cedar

7 - Rough Cut Pine

8 - Elm

Judging Criteria


  • The table will be exposed to weather.
  • Rain, snow and sun all contribute to rot in outdoor furniture.
  • Woods differ in their resistence.
  • You want your project to last.


  • Soft wood is less expensive than hard woods
  • Exotic woods or hard to find woods tend to be the most expensive
  • Rough cut is cheaper than planed.


  • Soft wood is easier to work with
  • Warp flaws are difficult to work with
  • Pine and cedars are among the easiest types to work with.


  • Exotic woods or hard to find woods tend to be the most expensive
  • For a first year project it is advisable to stick to readily available woods.


  • Big knots, rotten spots, worm holes, checks, nail and screw holes and prior finishes.
  • Also look to trueness of the boards - edge-finished is better than rough cut and flat boards with straight edges are better than crooks, twists, bows or cups.

Additional Info

Characteristics of Wood

Pressure treated: very good longevity; Impregnated with toxic compounds so not suitable for food or beverages. Does not take an oil finish.
Recycled Pastic boards: good way to recycle plastics and the best for durability and longevity and does not require a finish but it is not solid wood.
Western Red Cedar: a soft wood; excellent durability and longevity;beautiful with an oil finish; difficult to find during the pandemic; somewhat expensive.
Eastern Red Cedar: a soft wood; excellent durability and longevity;beautiful with an oil finish; readily available at local mills in Ontario; moderately priced.
Black Cherry: a hard wood; slight resistence to rot. Beautiful with an oil finish; readily available at good lumber yards; expensive.
Elm: a hard wood; takes an oil finish but not as sightly as the cedars or black cherry; slight resistence to rot; subject to warping; very hard to find; expensive.
Plywood: Can be soft or hard; not a solid wood.
Pine: a soft wood; moderate resistence to rot; takes oil but often left to weather; readily available; reasonably priced; boards available for this class are rough sawn so require work to smooth.

Warp Flaws

Flat: no warp flaws; always try to get flat boards.
Cup: Curved from edge to across the board; usually boards from the outside of a tree; difficult to correct with the avalable tools.
Bow: curved from end to end; usually from a tree that is leaning; cannot be straightened easily.
Crook: Curved along the edges; can correct but wastes a lot of wood; try to avoid.
Twist: the worst type of warp; difficult to correct.

Official Placings & Reasons

Official Placing: 1 - 6 - 7 - 4

Cuts: 1 - 3 - 4

I place this woodworking class, selecting lumber: Eastern White Cedar (1), Western Red Cedar (6), rough cut Pine (7), Black Cherry (4).

I place the eastern white cedar on top of this class. It is a very close placing between the 1st and 2nd place woods because they both have exceptional longevity and are both beautiful with an oil finish. It is readily available at most local lumber mills and yards and is less expensive than the western red cedar which gives the eastern white cedar the advantage over the number 2 wood.

I place the western red cedar second and over the rough cut pine for its exceptional longevity for outdoor use and the beautiful look it has when finished with oil.

I place the rough sawn pine 3rd and over the black cherry because it is slightly more resistant to rot outdoors, is readily available at most lumber stores and is the cheaper of the final woods in the class, although rough cut lumber will require extra work to smooth.

I place the black cherry on the bottom as it has poorer longevity in outdoor conditions than the other 3 woods and is the most expensive board in the class. I acknowledge that black cherry is one of the most beautiful woods with an oil finish.

For these reasons the official placing of this class is: Eastern White Cedar (1), Western Red Cedar (6), Pine (7) and Black Cherry (4).

Note: the rationale for eliminating the 4 boards in random order is as follows:
- Recycled plastic is not solid wood.(2)
- Plywood is not solid wood. (5)
- Elm board had a severe crook which would make it difficult to work with and there would be considerable waste (8)
- Pressure treated wood is impregnated with toxic compounds and is not suitable for using with food and beverages.(3)