The Best Wood for Turning

The Best Wood for Turning

When it comes to woodworking, the type of wood you use is just as important as your skill level and tools. A dry, high-quality wood will always give you the best results. However, many kinds of wood on the market are great for wood turning so it can be overwhelming to decide which one to settle on. Regardless of the options you have, it’s best to make an informed decision.

Six of the Best Options

In this product buying guide, we compare the six kinds of wood that you can use for wood turning. They have been carefully selected, are loved by many, and come at a great value. If you are looking for the best wood for turning, this is where to look.

1. Maple Lumber Square Turning Blanks

Barrington Hardwoods offers excellent wood made of hard maple with beautiful grain. It has been kiln-dried to ensure that excess moisture has been removed.

The cut guarantee is noteworthy, with Barrington Hardwoods ensuring a clean cut with tools measuring up to 1 inch.

Product information

  • Size: 6 options
  • Product weight: starts at 3.44 pounds


  • Easy to make clean cuts
  • Made of hard maple
  • Beautiful grain
  • Great piece to work on
  • Kiln-dried


  • Some pieces have reported shipped warped

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2. Black Walnut Lumber Turning Squares

Barrington Hardwoods also offers black walnut option that’s specially made to ensure that it is excellent for wood turning. It’s characterized by a beautiful grain and has been entirely kiln-dried.

Barrington Hardwoods makes the same guarantee in regards to a clean cut using cutting tools up to 1 inch. It has been surfaced to hit or miss at 1-15/16 inches.

Product information

  • Product size: 6 options
  • Product weight: starts at 2.29 pounds


  • Easy to cut with clean cut guarantee
  • Beautiful grain and an amazing feel
  • Kiln-dried


  • Some pieces may be rough
  • Some pieces have been made of different type of walnut wood

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3. Exotic Wood Pen Blanks 12-Pack

Earlywood’s variety pack comes with 12 pieces of four different types of wood. You will find three pieces each of bloodwood, Mexican ebony, jatoba, and hard maples. Each piece is ensured to be high quality with a crack free guarantee. The ends and sides have been expertly precut with a table saw.

Makes for a great gift for a woodworker as the different types of wood offer many different potential projects. All of the pieces are an appropriate size for wood turning.

For those who want more, Earlywood also sells a 24 pack.

Product information

  • Product dimensions: 4.5 x 5 x 1.5 inches
  • Product weight: 1.14 pounds


  • Comes with four different types of wood
  • Precut with a crack-free guarantee
  • Great for crafting gifts
  • Perfect for wood turning


  • Customers have reported receiving different measurements
  • Some buyers have complained that the quality is not as good as advertised

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4. Sapele Bowl Blank – 2″x6″x6.”

White’s Woods offers several wood options including this beautiful Sapele that takes on a reddish hue. The exact size is actually 1.8 x 6 x 6 inches, though which may frustrate some craftsmen with specific requirements.

Sapele is perfect for bowl blanks or any other small woodworking projects.

Product information

  • Product size: 1.8 x6 x 6 inches
  • Product weight: 1.75 pounds


  • Offers a clean cut
  • Pre-dried and cut
  • Pleasant aroma
  • Great for making bowls
  • Beautiful grain


  • Not actually 2 inches tall
  • Some buyers have complained that the color is off

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5. Exotic Wood Cut-Offs 10-Pound Box

As the name suggests, the bundle offered by Woodcraft is literally a bundle of exotic wood species. This option is better suited for projects that either need scrap wood or users that want to practice before they move on to bigger projects. Despite the random assortment, Woodcraft is committed to giving its users superior products and expert advice.

Regardless of the type, the wood has been made to meet the highest set standards. Exotic wood types that may come in this bundle may include ebony, cocobolo, zebrawood, lignum vitae, and more. Each box has 10 pounds of the different sizes and species of wood.

Product Information

  • Product dimensions: 12.3 x 9.4 x 6.6 inches (generally)
  • Product weight: 10.5 pounds (generally)


  • Perfect for scrap wood needs
  • Manufacturer is well respected in the industry
  • Though random, each piece is high quality
  • Great bargain deal


  • Random assortment
  • Not ideal for professional projects

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6. Purpleheart Lumber 3/4″x4″x 12.”

The casual woodworker may be surprised to see this option sold by White’s Woods. This is lumber made of pure purpleheart hardwood, which offers a unique appearance. It makes for an excellent material for unique projects, though purpleheart is perfectly suitable for most applications. Each order comes with two decent-sized cuts.

Product information

  • Product size: 3/4″ x 4″ x 12″
  • Product weight: 1 pound


  • Beautiful and unique grain and color
  • Solid hardwood that is evenly cut and sanded
  • Decent amount of wood for the price


  • Some buyers complained of cracks
  • Some buyers have accused White’s Woods of actually selling dyed wood rather than actual purpleheart wood

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Buyer’s Guide

Each option above offers a variety of applications, all for a relatively similar price. However, sometimes it can be confusing to decide which type of wood is the best wood for turning. In this part of the guide, we focus on the specifics to help you make a great informed choice.

Aside from the exotic wood cuts offered by Woodcraft, any of the options above will be great for wood cutting or turning. However, if you only want to practice then this option may actually be the best as you can learn how different types of wood handle.

The Largest Bundle

If you are only looking for quantity, then we recommend the Exotic Wood Pen Blanks 12 Pack.

Most Budget Friendly

When we compare the price of each bundle, the cheapest option is the Black Walnut Lumber Turning Squares pack, which retails at $15.78. However, the Exotic Wood Pen Blanks is still a good choice as it comes with twelve pieces and retails at $22.49.

Our Overall Recommendation:

Unsurprisingly our favorite choice is the Exotic Wood Pen Blanks pack. It comes with a variety of woods and is great for both beginners and professionals.

Although we have already made it easy for you by suggesting the best woods for turning, it is good to know what main factors to look at when choosing one. Some of the factors to keep in mind when looking for the best wood for turning include:

Your Needs

Above all, you should define your needs first before setting off to look for wood for turning. What do you plan to use the wood for? What size do you need? Those are some of the questions you should ask yourself. All woods are perfect for specific applications, and your project will always turn out better if you use the right wood.


Many woodworkers are very particular about the color. However, you can always stain the wood to achieve the color you want. It’s good to remember that some shades may look different in pictures than in real life. Hence, it may help to shop physically if you are very particular about the color you are looking for. Usually, it’s easier to darken wood than to lighten it.

If you are not sure what color you want, it’s better to go for a lighter shade that can easily be stained later.


You can determine the durability of a piece of wood by checking its hardness/density and resistance. Just to make it clear, your wood doesn’t have to be hardwood. Some “softwoods” are still very hard, such as the balsa wood.

Most of the time, when you enquire about the hardness of a piece of wood, you will be given the hardness and density. The higher the numbers, the stronger it will be.

When we talk about resistance, this usually refers to rot and insect resistance. Some woods are more resistant than others. Resilience is especially important to look at if you are planning to make something to be used outdoors.


Wood can have a wide price variation depending on its type. Generally, the better quality the wood the more expensive it will be per piece.


Harder woods are usually more challenging to work with. They are hard to turn and may make tools dull faster. Softwoods are easier to turn but may be easier to break.

Frequently Asked Questions

For your convenience we have also provided answers to some of the most common questions.

Can Any Type of Wood be Used for Turning?

The short answer, yes. It is, however, better to avoid anything that has been pressure-treated for projects. There are also some tropical woods such as the rosewood and cocobolo that can irritate your skin, especially if you are prone to allergies. It is essential to remember that any type of wood that you use for turning can cause respiratory problems if you are not wearing a mask.

Do Different Woods Turn Differently?

Yes, each species of wood will have a slightly different response to your tools. Hardwoods such as maple tend to be tougher.

Which is Better to Turn, Dry or Wet Wood?

This all depends on how you plan to use the wood. Wet woods tend to shrink when they are dry. That means that you should use wet wood when you are planning to have more processing before your end product. For example, most of the time, when making bowls, you use wet wood, then let the bowl dry before it’s finely tuned. Dry wood is better if you are finishing a project.

As mentioned earlier, when we compare wet and dry wood, damp wood is easier to turn as it’s comparatively softer.

What Do You Need for Wood Turning?

In short, you need something that will spin the wood to create what you want. If you are a beginner, a small beginner’s lathe will be an excellent option. A big and heavy lathe will be cumbersome and maybe too powerful.

If you are experienced, you can also make a lathe by using a drill or drill press.

When you need the best wood for turning, research is very important. Apart from looking at the product descriptions, reviews will also help a great deal in guiding you. We hope this review helps you make the best choice.