Oak, walnut, and cherry wood are the top picks for wood desks. However, hardwood lumber can be rather expensive. Fortunately, other types of wood in the market can cater to your needs.
To know all your options, here is a guide compiled by our woodworking experts to help you choose the best wood for a desk.
Recommended Wood Types for a Desk
#1: Maple Wood
Maple wood is one of the top choices to use for a desk top. It is known for its high density, which makes it tough and sturdy.
Maple can also last long as a wooden desk top since it is moisture-resistant and does not split easily. Moreover, it is affordable and relatively easy to maintain. It’s a good choice if you want to install some drawer runners to create a keyboard shelf too.
#2: Cherry Wood
Natural Cherry Wood is among the most sought hardwood furniture in the US because of its smooth-grained, reddish-brown feature. The dark color of cherry wood provides a dramatic effect in a room.
It is a high-quality wood that requires thorough maintenance as it is not resistant to scratches and wears and tear.
Pine wood is popular for its pronounced wood grain features, but it requires careful handling as it is prone to dents and scratches.
Frequent maintenance is also required upon project completion. This material is used for its premium grain and texture for wooden office desks.
Solid oak wood is the usual pick for common woodworkers. It is sturdy and can easily be enhanced by finishes.
However, oak wood can be expensive because it is imported in most US regions. Despite it being pricey, this type of wood is known to last long, making it a worthwhile investment.
Depending on your preference and needs, white oak and red oak are both popular options for wood desks in general.
#5: Quarter Sawn Oak
Quarter sawn oak wood is cut in a specific method, so the lumber is rotated after each cut, and growth rings intersect to face the board at a 90-degree angle.
The logs are then cut into quarters, turned, and cut again. The process is repeated until the desired size is reached. This improves the aesthetic as well as the oak wood’s overall performance.
Birch is usually mistaken for hardwood because of its dense texture. However, it is a hardwood sprung from deciduous trees  and has a layered outer bark that peels easily.
Its fine grains give you a stable, visually appealing desk and are among the most popular choices for a tabletop. Also, staining plywood made from birch is easy and it goes well with many colors.
Walnut has a premium appeal with its rather heavy build, straight, open grains, and rich color. Its solid build makes for stable wooden desks.
It also has a variety of shades depending on one’s preference. Moreover, it can withstand a heavy beating and are ideal for busy workstations.
#8: Black Walnut Wood
Black Walnut Wood is among the trendy picks with its deluxe rich color. This type of wood is rare yet highly demanded, so having a wood desk purely made with it can be rather expensive.
Commercial manufacturers usually mix it with engineered wood like plywood or MDF to make it more affordable for consumers.
#9: Ash Wood
Ash wood is a light-colored hardwood that is tough yet highly workable with a machine. Wooden furniture made from this yields a clean, modern look.
It is also sustainable, making it an economical choice. Unfortunately, ash is not repellent to insects, and an emerald ash borer beetle infestation has been compromising ash wood production in the US.
Substitutes for Solid Wood
Plywood is often used as a solid wood substitute because it is less prone to warping and is lighter. It imitates the natural appearance of wood and is more affordable.
Additionally, plywood may be waterproofed, so even if something spills on the desk you created with plywood, it won’t be a problem.
Medium Density Fiberboard or MDF is engineered wood even cheaper than plywood. It is denser and heavier but easy to cut and manage.
How to Choose the Best Wood Type for Desks
Different types of wood have different types of quality. These wood slabs are rated based on their harness, density, and durability.
The higher quality of the material, the higher its demand and price will be.
The Janka Hardness Test measures a lumber’s toughness. This calculates the wood’s longevity and resistance to scratch and dents.
Hardwoods usually have a higher Janka Score, but that does not always mean softer lumber is less tough for use.
Color and Grain
Softwood and hardwood lumber vary in color and grain depending on the species. These differences create a depth to their character, and everyone will have their own preferences. Look into these types to select the one that you prefer most.
Durability and toughness are often interchanged, but that should not be the case. Durability measures how well a wood can withstand natural decay, while toughness measures its hardness through the Janka scale.
|Very Durable||25+ years|
|Moderately durable||10-15 years|
Budget + Use
An affordable wood desk is good, but maximizing its usage is better. Plan out your budget and what you will use the desk for, and you will be good to go.
Reasons to Choose Wood as a Material
Since you are likely to put several things atop your desk, they must be durable to take a beating.
Easy to maintain
Most wood types are generally low maintenance. Adding treatment like a stain or polish will make it easier to tend to.
A wood surface can arguably improve any furniture. Its distinctive grain and texture make it a top choice for table tops alone.
Resists electricity and heat
Wood resists heat and electricity and cools faster than other materials like cement or metal.
Wood is often used in music studios as it can absorb and amplify easily. Its acoustic nature makes it a top pick for an office desk that requires a divide between noise and peace.
Wood’s high tensile strength provides better support and ensures your desk’s durability.
Science claims that wood provides a visually calming effect by reducing blood pressure and stress levels.
Black or White Desk?
Minimalist desk designs are trendy and are pleasing to the eyes. Neutral colors such as black and white are the usual favorites, and our experts recommend going for whichever works best for your needs.
A black desk has a savvy look that looks premium and formal. Its dark color makes it more resilient to dust, dirt, or stain. It also prevents your office space from looking grimy, and you may adjust your furniture around it to give your space more depth and integrity.
Meanwhile, a white wood desk top makes your workstation more open and inviting. It is bright and gives space for creativity and ideas. White also works well with almost every color. It has a crisp and executive vibe that makes your space calmer yet professional.
But aside from the color, you may also consider the desk’s height. If you don’t want a shorter, table, here’s a guide on how you can raise your desk’s height.
Quick Tips for Finishing a Desk
Woodworkers usually make their own work desks to ensure that it is tailor-fit to their needs. However, not everyone has time to DIY their furniture. Plan and strategize—whether you are purchasing or renting your own desk, make sure it works to cater to your needs.
We hope this guide equipped you with the information you need to choose the best wood for a desk.
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