However, if you want to stain or clear-coat the project, you'll have a number of choices to look through. Since your local home center megamart will probably only carry a couple of hardwood species (poplar and red oak are common) spend time at a fine wood supplier and look through the vareties available. They should be able to help you determine how each species will look when finished, which will go a long way toward refining your decision.

This small coffee table is ideal for a side table or end table. The table is designed with the home handyman in mind. It is both easy to build and is very sturdy. The minimum tools required to construct this coffee table are... Pencil; square; measuring tape; handsaw; hammer; chisel; a couple of clamps and lots of sandpaper. Most handymen are likely to have those tools in their arsenal. Of course... it would make life easier if you also happened to have a drop-saw and a belt sander. The wood used for this coffee table was 90mm x 45mm (1 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches) dressed/surfaced cedar. Cedar is reddish in color, light and easy to work with. Other wood can be used. Virtually any wood can be used for this project, just allow for different widths and thicknesses, and also take into account, the finish. Is the table to be painted, stained and/or coated with polyurethane? Obviously, if the table is to be painted, then an inferior and less expensive wood can be used, as imperfections (within reason) can be filled and painted over.

Loveland, CO (population: 68,614) has four carpentry schools within a 100-mile radius of its city center. Emily Griffith Opportunity School, the highest ranked school in this group with a carpentry program, has a total student population of 2,230. It is the 2063rd highest ranked school in the USA and the 22nd highest in the state of Colorado (#1 is Colorado College).

The lumber industry uses the “Janka hardness test” to test and rate common woods for hardness. The test involves pressing a steel ball to gauge how much pressure each wood species takes to push the ball half way into the wood. You can download my free PDF of the Janka chart here. {If you can’t open a PDF then install the free Adobe PDF Reader here.}
I have used a Workmate successfully for years and I am in the process of building an upgraded replacement for the work surfaces. My replacement bench top will be a little longer, much thicker and it will have and extended apron between the two halves to greatly improve holding wood vertically for dovetailing. With this simple upgrade it turns the little Workmate into a very capable portable woodworking bench.