AskDefine | Define softwood

Dictionary Definition

softwood adj : made of the easy-to-cut wood of a coniferous tree, as e.g. pine; "softwood lumber" [ant: hardwood] n : wood that is easy to saw (from conifers such as pine or fir) [syn: deal]

User Contributed Dictionary



softwood (countable and uncountable)
  1. (mostly in botany) The wood from any conifer (or from Ginkgo), without regarding how soft this wood is: "SYP is a softwood, but it is harder than many hardwoods".
  2. (in more general use) As the preceding but limited to those that are commercial timbers.
  3. (forestry) The tree or tree species that yields the preceding: "This softwood has been planted extensively throughout Scotland."
  4. A joint term for the commercial timbers, without distinguishing which: "You should have used softwood for the frame of this shed, instead of overbuilding it like this."


See also

Extensive Definition

Softwood is a generic term used in woodworking and the lumber industries for wood from conifers (needle-bearing trees from the order Pinales). Softwood-producing trees include pine, spruce, cedar, fir, larch, douglas-fir, hemlock, cypress, redwood and yew.
Contrary to the name, softwood trees can often be harder than hardwood trees. Douglas fir, a softwood, is harder and stronger than many hardwoods, while balsa, technically a hardwood, is much softer than even most softwoods.
The difference between softwood and hardwood is found in the microscopic structure of the wood. Softwood contains only two types of cells, longitudinal wood fibres (or tracheids) and transverse ray cells. Softwoods lack vessel elements for water transport that hardwoods have; these vessels manifest in hardwoods as pores. In softwood water transport within the tree is via the tracheids only. Some softwoods, such as pine, spruce, larch, and Douglas fir, have resin canals, which provide transport of resin as a defense against injury.
In general softwood is easy to work: it forms the bulk of wood used by humans. Softwood has a huge range of uses: it is a prime material for structural building components, but is also found in furniture and other products such as millwork (mouldings, doors, windows). Softwood is also harvested for use in the production of paper, and for various types of board such as MDF. The finer softwoods find many specialty uses.


softwood in German: Weichholz
softwood in Macedonian: Меко дрво
softwood in Dutch: Zachthout
softwood in Chinese: 軟木

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