Selecting a Fab Lab Material

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Hard Wood vs Soft Wood

Read this Guide.

Hard Wood

Authentic hardwood timber is praised for its unprecedented style and performance. Hardwood comes from angiosperm trees, which have elements that distribute water and nutrients throughout the wood. The pores in the wood grain handle all the distribution, allowing the remaining timber grain to become denser. Hardwood trees are deciduous, and species include Eucalyptus, Balsa, Mahogany, Blackbutt and Spotted Gum.


  • Longevity: Hardwood produces a very high quality product that offers great durability over time.

  • Easy maintenance: Hardwood is easy to clean, and scratches and dents can be fixed.

  • Strength: The trees’ dense cellular structure gives the timber incredible strength.

  • Appearance: Hardwood timber is available in a range of colours and finishes, and will suit almost any contemporary style setting.

  • Fire resistance: Hardwood timber offers a higher fire resistance than softwood.


  • Slow growth rate: Hardwood forests take longer to replenish due to the tree’s slower growth rate.

  • Workability: Due to its density, hardwood tends to be a lot harder to work with during construction.

  • Cost: Hardwoods are generally more expensive, however in saying this, you get what you pay for.

  • Refinishing: Hardwood floors in high traffic areas will require refinishing down the track, which can also be quite costly.

Soft Wood

Softwood is a versatile timber option that offers a stunning, seamless finish. Softwood comes from gymnosperm trees, which do not have pores, but instead rely on medullary rays and tracheids to transport water and produce sap. This characteristic gives softwood a lower density.

Softwood trees are evergreen, and species include Cedar, Douglas fir, Pine and Hemlock.


  • Workability: Softwood is easier to work with and can be used across a broad range of applications.

  • Sustainability: Softwood trees grow much faster than hardwood, and are considered a very renewable source.

  • Cost: These timbers tend to be cheaper, as they’re easier to source.


  • Density: The lower density of softwood timber means it’s weaker and less durable, however there are some ‘hard’ softwood options with a higher density like Juniper and Yew.

  • Longevity: Softwood is less suitable for high traffic areas as it does not wear as well as hardwood over time.

  • Fire resistance: Softwoods tend to have poor fire resistance unless treated.


When we process CNC Jobs that use timber, the lengths, widths, thicknesses and quality of the stock material given are usually inconsistent and require adaptable approaches hold the work down and be able to mill the job successfully.

Here are some key notes on workholding:

  • Length is too long for the bed:

    • Cut the length down into smaller manageable pieces. this is dependent on the geometry that needs to be cut. By doing this you will reduce vibrations which will affect the final cut quality.

  • Stock is not completely square:

    • This is common as workshop tools can have inconsistencies in their accuracy and also there is human error involved in the process. If you are able to place the stock timber in a jig that has a tight enough fit where 3 of the 4 corners are lodged and not moving this will suffice.

  • Multiple stock pieces that are all different:

    • If the stock doesn't need to be flipped and you are able to hold it down securely using off cut blocks to press it against the bed, this will be the quickest method. If the pieces of material are not secure through this method you must create custom jigs for all the pieces.

  • Stock is 'Cupping' as the job is being processed:

    • It is important to avoid cupping as much as possible as it can lead to inconsistent cut depths and also possible damage to the job or CNC is not picked up. Cupping refers to the stock flexing in on itself as it is being milled due to the removal of material. The wood fibres begin to contract on themselves as a result and cupping forms. On large site models it is important to try and place a workholding clamp on the areas that will most likely cup whilst avoiding collisions to maintain the stock's original integrity. If you start noticing this happening and you can't place a clamp there, use a hold down stick to press the stock down.

  • Best way to laminate timber:

    • It is best to cut the widths down to around 80 - 90mm and then to also laminate the timber together in alternating end grain directions. This way when the timber naturally wants to contract as it ages it will use the other timber planks in alternating directions to pull against it. This will maintain a generally flat timber surface.

  • The stock is not Dressed:

    • You do not need to dress all the sides but there must be a flat base to the material so that there is good suction from the bed. But also so that there is even down force applied to the material and it doesn't move due to an uneven base face.

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