Oftentimes when I'm seeking advice from friends who are authorities in different areas of life I’m less interested in options and more interested in concrete recommendations. With that in mind, I'm offering my favorite woods that I use along with my reasons why.
First off, I use primarily hardwoods. Softwoods like pine are great for construction but they lack the stability needed for cutting boards, utensils, etc. My “go to” woods are maple, cherry and walnut because of their hardness and contrast with each other; oftentimes I will substitute mahogany or padauk for the walnut while keeping similar characteristics.
Of these my favorite wood to use (perhaps surprisingly) is maple. It is a clean, light colored wood that shows its grain nicely. Maple comes in a variety of options including soft maple and hard maple; but don't be fooled, even soft maple is a hardwood that is rated in hardness equal to cherrywood.
When I say maple is clean I’m referring to it's lack of cracks or imperfections. I’ve found both walnut and cherry to sometimes have hidden blemishes (cracks, pores, etc) within the wood that even a seasoned woodworker can’t always spot. By comparison I’ve found maple to be pretty consistent. It is also relatively easy to dye and to finish, and it’s availability along with lower price tag make it my ideal wood for cutting boards and other kitchen utensils.
Spoons, Spatulas and Pot Strainers
French Rolling Pins
Just like most woods hard maple does present some challenges. It is very dense and thus blotching can occur when staining, so consider using a pre-conditioner or gel stain. Last of all, hard maple is very hard, so it may dull your saw blades and certainly needs care when using a router.
TIP: Making smaller, incremental cuts in wood like hard maple is preferable to making deeper cuts whether on the router or the table saw. This will help avoid the wood from burning while also giving your blades and your machinery a break.
Overall however, the look, price and workability of maple makes it my number 1.
Local places like Peach State Lumber in Kennesaw have a great selection.