Is Juniper a Hardwood or Softwood?

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Juniper wood, with its elaborate natural patterns and captivating swirls, holds a prestigious position in the realm of high-end furniture crafting, adding a layer of sophistication to any wooden item within a household setting. However, the question arises: Does juniper qualify as a hardwood capable of withstanding the rigors of outdoor environments?

In this article, let me enumerate the characteristics of Juniper wood to help you decide if it’s suitable for your projects.

How Hard Is Juniper Wood?

Juniper wood is relatively softer wood compared to other commonly used hardwoods in woodworking such as oak, maple, or cherry. It has a Janka hardness rating of 2,780 N (626 lbf), which is lower than some hardwoods.

However, juniper wood can still be used in various woodworking projects, especially for items that don’t require a lot of structural support or heavy use.

Juniper wood is available in different varieties that are commonly used in woodworking. Each type of Juniper wood has its own unique characteristics, including hardness that is suitable for specific purposes.

Juniper

Below are some of the most popular species of Juniper wood and their corresponding Janka hardness ratings:

Type of Juniper Wood 

Hardness Value

Alligator Juniper

5,160 N (1,160 lbf)

Western Juniper

2,780 N (626 lbf)

African Juniper

3,960 N (890 lbf)

The Janka hardness value measures the resistance of wood to indentation and abrasion. It is important in determining the durability and suitability of wood for different applications.

By understanding the different species of Juniper wood and their respective hardness ratings, you can choose the best type of Juniper for your project.

Although Juniper is generally softer than some other common hardwoods, you can use it in your projects effectively, especially those that emphasize the unique color and grain pattern of the wood.

Juniper log on sawmill

While Juniper wood is considered softwood, it even has a higher Janka hardness score than some popular hardwoods. Let’s take a closer look at how Juniper Janka’s rating compares to that of popular hardwoods.

Type of Wood

Hardness Value

Brazilian Walnut

16,390 N (3,684 lbf)

Turpentine, Red Mahogany

12,000 N (2,697 lbf)

Jatoba, Brazilian Cherry

10,500 N (2,350 lbf)

Golden Teak

10,400 N (2,330 lbf)

Satinwood, Hickory, Pecan

8,100 N (1,820 lbf)

Sugar Maple, Hard Maple

6,400 N (1,450 lbf)

White Ash

5,900 N (1,320 lbf)

White Oak

6,000 N (1,360 lbf)

American Beech

5,800 N (1,300 lbf)

Northern Red Oak

5,700 N (1,290 lbf)

Baltic Birch, Yellow Birch

5,600 N (1,260 lbf)

Teak

5,140 N (1,155 lbf)

North American / Black Walnut

4,500 N (1,010 lbf)

Imbuia, Black Cherry

4,200 N (950 lbf)

Red Maple

4,200 N (950 lbf)

Cherry

4,430 N (995 lbf)

Sweet Gum

3,780 N (850 lbf)

Silver Maple 

3,100 N (700 lbf)

Douglas Fir

3,158 N (710 lbf)

Juniper

2,780 N (626 lbf)

Black Spruce

2,313 N (520 lbf)

Hemlock

2,402 N (540 lbf)

Cypress

2,269 N (510 lbf)

Redwood

1,868 N (420 lbf)

Cottonwood

1,913 N (430 lbf)

Basswood

1,823 N (410 lbf)

Sugar Pine

1,690 N (380 lbf)

Engelmann Spruce

1,735 N (390 lbf)

White Pine

1,690 N (380 lbf)

White Cedar

1,423 N (320 lbf)

Aspen

1,557 N (350 lbf)

As shown in the table above, although Juniper wood is not the hardest wood available, it is still a relatively hard softwood that can be more durable than some popular hardwoods. This means that Juniper wood can be a viable alternative to these hardwoods for certain projects.

However, it is important to carefully evaluate all aspects of the wood, including its Janka rating, durability, and other physical properties, before deciding on the best wood for a particular application.

Key Characteristics of Juniper

Juniper’s heartwood has a striking light pinkish-orange to rich reddish-brown color, which gives it an upscale appearance.

Cutting juniper log

Generally, Juniper is a versatile wood, which makes it suitable for a wide range of projects. Since it’s a softwood, it has a fine texture, making it easy to cut, shape, sand, and finish.

Also, it has a remarkable ability to dry without warping or cracking due to its excellent resistance to high temperatures.

Essentially, it is easy to work with using basic tools and techniques, even for those without advanced woodworking skills. Its ease of workability makes it an excellent choice for crafting indoor furniture, cabinetry, and decorative woodcrafts.

Additionally, Juniper wood is relatively denser and tougher than other softwoods, which makes it more durable and lasts longer. In fact, it is highly resistant to decay, rot, and moisture.

However, it is vulnerable to insects and prolonged exposure to water, and may not withstand extreme weather variations. Fortunately, by applying an appropriate finish or protective coating, Juniper wood can also be utilized for outdoor projects that are exposed to harsh elements.

Juniper wood with coat

This treatment can help to enhance Juniper wood’s natural resistance to moisture and protect it from damage caused by weather, insects [1], or other environmental factors. Here are Juniper wood’s main qualities:

Meanwhile, below are Juniper wood’s main characteristics:

Pros & Cons of Juniper

Like other types of softwood, Juniper wood has its own advantages and disadvantages. Below are the important benefits and challenges you must consider when using Juniper wood for your project:

Juniper wood

What i like

What I Don't Like

Uses of Juniper Wood

Many woodworkers often used Juniper wood in creating natural-looking furniture designs, where the unique appearance of the wood is valued more than its hardness. 

But it may not be suitable for more traditional or formal furniture designs, as its rustic look may not fit that aesthetic. Meanwhile, Juniper wood can be used in many other woodworking projects, such as the following:

Although Juniper wood is very versatile, working with it can also pose some challenges. One of the main challenges is that juniper wood tends to split, especially when drilling or screwing near the ends or edges of boards.

To prevent splitting, it is crucial to employ sharp tools and adhere to the proper procedure when fastening or cutting Juniper wood.

Juniper on the sawmill

Additionally, Juniper wood requires finishing or coating to make it more durable and withstand extreme weather. 

So, ensure to use high-quality products on your Juniper wood pieces, especially for the outdoors to prolong their lifespan and keep them looking great for many years.

Strength of Juniper Wood

Compared to most softwoods and other hardwoods, Juniper wood is stronger and more durable. But there are other factors that you should consider when determining the strength of the wood appropriate for your project, such as compressive and bending strength.

Generally, compressive strength is a measure of the wood’s ability to withstand compression or squeezing forces along its grain.

The higher the compressive strength of wood, the more it can resist compression. This makes the wood more suitable for applications where it will be subjected to heavy loads or pressure.

Meanwhile, bending strength is a measure of a wood’s ability to withstand bending or flexural stresses, which occur when a load is applied perpendicular to the grain of the wood.

Juniper wood texture

The higher the bending strength of wood, the more it can resist bending. This makes it more suitable for applications where it will be subjected to bending stresses, such as in furniture, construction, and exterior applications.

Here are the compressive and bending strengths of Juniper wood:

Juniper wood has excellent compressive strength. Therefore, it can withstand a significant amount of force or weight pushing down on it without crushing or collapsing. 

Additionally, it has good bending strength. This makes Juniper wood resists bending or flexing without breaking or snapping.

More wood guides here

The Hardness of Juniper vs Pine

pine wood texture

Juniper wood is significantly harder than Sugar Pine and White Pine. However, Yellow Pine is harder than Juniper wood. Here is a comparison of the Janka hardness rating between Juniper wood and Pine.

Type of Wood 

Hardness Value

Juniper

2,780 N (626 lbf)

Sugar Pine

1,690 N (380 lbf)

White Pine

1,690 N (380 lbf)

Yellow Pine

3,870 N (870 lbf)

It is also important to note that Juniper wood has a denser and closer fiber structure than Pine, making it stronger. In addition, it exhibits higher resistance to decay and rot than Pine, which makes it more suitable for applications that are exposed to environmental factors.

Therefore, Juniper wood is a superior option to Pine in terms of durability and suitability for such conditions.

Juniper vs Birch Wood: Which is Harder?

oak wood log

Birch is indeed harder and more durable than Juniper wood, attributed to its status as a hardwood with a substantially higher Janka hardness score. 

The Janka hardness test measures the resistance of a sample of wood to denting and wear, providing a clear comparison between different types of wood.

While Juniper wood does possess a commendable density, it doesn’t quite reach the levels of hardness and durability exhibited by Birch. Consequently, for applications requiring a higher degree of strength and longevity, Birch proves to be the more suitable choice over Juniper.

Let’s take a look at the comparison of the Janka hardness rating between Juniper wood and Pine below:

Type of Wood 

Hardness Value

Birch

5,600 N (1,260 lbf)

Juniper

2,780 N (626 lbf)

Juniper vs Oak’s Hardness

Cutting juniper log using sawmill

Both White Oak and Red Oak are significantly harder than Juniper wood. As hardwoods, Oak has a much higher Janka rating, making it one of the hardest and strongest woods widely used in woodworking.

Additionally, Oak is denser than Juniper wood, providing superior durability and longevity. Here is a comparison of the Janka hardness rating between Oak and Juniper wood.

Type of Wood 

Hardness Value

Juniper

2,780 N (626 lbf)

White Oak

6,000 N (1,360 lbf)

Red Oak

5,700 N (1,290 lbf)

Conclusion

While Juniper is classified as a softwood, it stands out as one of the sturdiest options within its category, even surpassing several renowned hardwoods in terms of durability. Its impressive density lends it a resilient nature, making it less susceptible to wear and tear and ensuring its longevity.

As a result of these characteristics, Juniper wood emerges as a viable candidate for outdoor projects, potentially outperforming certain hardwoods in such applications. Its robust nature makes it a practical choice, capable of enduring the challenges posed by external environments.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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