This is a huge topic and I have several links in the text. Each leads you to more details about a particular topic on wood or the characteristics of wood (or a related subject), so make sure and check them out. Each link, and more, can also be found on the wood info page.
I need to get out into the woods, to feel the leaves crunching underfoot and to smell the air. While I'm out and about I notice trees, ones that have odd shapes or beautiful leaves.
In some ways it's hard to reconcile loving the woods and using lumber that requires cutting down trees. However, wood is a renewable resource if we treat our forests with care. I'm a strong believer in being a good steward of our
For instance, I have found some beautiful cedar, as well as oak and cherry. I also have a bad habit of pulling cord wood (firewood) out of the stack - "this is much to nice to burn, I'll leave it in the shop until I think of something to use it for." Yes, I confess, I have a wood addiction.
Now, I'd like to put in a good word for "blemished wood." This is wood with some sort of imperfection that makes a particular board less desirable (at least to the masses). Often, it's because the board has sapwood of a different color.
Some people dislike it. I think it's great. If I have a piece with odd grain I will often book-match the wood.
(Book-matching is when you cut a board in half along it's thickness and lay it open like the pages in a book. It can have great effects.)
Sometimes the wood has a knot that can be used for decoration. In this box I book-matched the knot.
If you use your imagination when thinking about wood, you can find uses for all sorts of discards. Take those interesting wood characteristics and use them to your advantage.
For instance, the bench in my shop includes several cast-offs.The door panels are cherry with mineral streaks running through them.
On the drawer front, on the lower left, you can see where a branch divided the heartwood and sapwood of the walnut (the solid light band is maple I laminated for further contrast).
Lumber yards often toss this sort of thing into the mark-down bin, or even the burn pile.
So, next time you're out in the woods take a look around and enjoy the fresh air, then trot over to your local lumber yard and see if they have any good discards. You never know what you'll find.