The difference between Hardwood vs. Softwood (important if you will be working with wood)

I think a lot of people mistake the difference between hardwood and softwood and what that label actually means. I’ve almost attempted to explain it before, but then I found this video that does a much better job:


Haven’t looked at the video but understand the technical difference. Still, woods like Poplar and Balsa are pretty darn soft compared to most Hardwoods. And softer than many soft woods.


I kind of see this as the fruit vegetable debate. To a scientist a tomato is a fruit, but to a chef it is a vegetable. A wood worker might refer to balsa as a soft wood and would be scientifically incorrect but would be understood in the shop.


I was thinking of it from the perspective of: Glowforge is an entry level laser for makers of all levels (including noob), and I can see more people walking into wood retailers (or online) and asking for hardwoods not knowing that some of the “hardwoods” are soft and some “softwoods” are pretty hard.


Informative video !! I guess it comes down to whether someone means hardwood or hard wood. (It really is interesting that balsa is technically a “hardwood” despite being a soft wood).


@hansena sorry if I came off negative, that wasn’t my intent. It’s an informative video and I agree knowledge is key! know the rule so you can break them:grinning:

@PlGHEADED “means hardwood or hard wood” RIGHT!!!


Yeah, I made sure to Like the video before commenting. I just remember having the “discussion” (insert the word “argument” as you see fit) with someone years ago on the subject. Both of us were correct and bought the other a beer.


No worries @tom, totally agree I just had to wait to get more likes :heart:


Really interesting!!
Whoda thunk?? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Interesting. Had always thought of hardwood in terms of toughness, and will always - but it is good to know the reason for the classification.
The difference being a sure source of disagreement, but is actually a difference of Understanding.
Contained, or housed as opposed to naked being called hard or soft is puzzling use of the terms in my mind.

A reflection of my ignorance - that at times has out shown the sun. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Great Video!! I “wood” of never guessed that was how these woods were classified. But I really want to know which of the PG hard woods here are the hardest or most dense. Is there a list some where?

If you’re interested in the properties of various species of wood (or is it trees??) you can go here:

If you want to know about the proofgrade woods specifically, load a file that has a cut in it into the GFUI. Your glowforge can be offline. Then choose each proofgrade hardwood in turn from the material list. Select manual settings for the cut. The power, speed and number of passes settings will give you an idea of how much energy is needed to get through the material. Note this will be a relative thing as the settings are dialed in not just for how fast can it cut, but also how much char is left.