The Block 2015: How to select the right timber for your DIY project

Belinda Punshon 24 September 2015 NEWS

The block 2015 how to select the right timber

Unlike the Blockheads, not all of us have the opportunity to create a bespoke bedhead in Christian Cole’s The Factory. If you can’t see the wood for the trees for a DIY furniture project, it pays to know a thing or two about timber.

As they woke to Scott Cam’s 6am text message, the terms of the first challenge were revealed: to construct and style their own bedhead. Inside the factory of cabinetry guru Christian Cole, contestants compete to have $10,000 worth of joinery cabinet paid for, plus a custom-built piece of furniture for their apartment crafted by Cole himself.

Contestants have to select the perfect timber, dream up their bedhead design, sand down and oil the timber in just seven hours. With "Block royalty" Lysandra on the judging panel, the contestants have to think very carefully about their choice of timber – and it’s first in, best dressed.

If you’re creating a piece of furniture for your home, how can you be savvy when narrowing down your timber selection? And how do you know what finish will complement your project?

Main timber types


Often used for furniture and interior wall finishes, veneer is a type of timber that’s sliced finely. Veneer typically comes as a thin layer attached to a base, or as a thin sheet that can be attached to a timber surface.

From floating floors to DIY cabinetry, timber veneers are a cost-effective option for any DIY project and add natural warmth to your furniture. Not only is veneer a versatile product that can be moulded to different shapes, it is also ecologically sustainable.



Cheap and flexible, plywood is a popular option for DIY projects due to its strength from grains running in opposite directions. With a range of thicknesses, strengths and water resistant options, plywood is versatile for home furniture structures.

With its cross laminated construction, plywood offers stability when exposed to temperature changes and moisture which could be suitable if placing a piece of wooden furniture in wet rooms.

Reconstituted wood products

From Masonite to oriented strand board to medium and high density fiberboard (MDF), there are several reconstituted wood products on the market to suit your home furniture project.

Make sure you speak to your supplier about which reconstituted timber will suit your project.

Treated and untreated

Solid timber is typically divided into two categories: treated and untreated.

Softwood is easy to work with but may not provide the strength, durability or aesthetics that hardwood offers. When choosing a treated or untreated timber, consider the grade and quality of the wood to ensure that it suits the style of your individual project.

Different types of finishes

Once you’ve sanded the timber, a number of finishes can be applied. Some of the most commonly used timber finishes include wax, shellac, lacquer and paint.

Timber Finish

The overall aesthetics and practical considerations of your project will guide your choice of finish. For instance, if you’re looking for a low-maintenance timber you may opt for treated timber.

Oil finishes enhance the natural colour and grain of the wood and offer protection from dirt particles. Lacquer, on the other hand offers a durable finish which is available in a range of sheens.

Another popular finish is waxing which is suitable for indoor furniture pieces, however, keep in mind that waxed surfaces may require ongoing maintenance every six months.

A stained or coloured finish is generally used to promote the natural colour and grain of the timber.

Results from the first competition

As Suzi and Voni were close to being bankrupt, this win could not have come at a better time. The remaining contestants were clearly relieved to see Shay and Dean being knocked off their pedestal.

The judges, Scott Cam and Lysandra (part of the winning duo from The Block: Sky High, offered their two cents about construction and styling. While Scott Cam generously gave all contestants 10/10 for construction, Lysandra wasn’t quite as forgiving when it came to design.

Contestants Design feedback
Kingi and Caro (Scandustrial) Scott Cam said that the construction was “magnificent” and that the pair chose a great timber selection.
As far as design goes, Lysandra said “It kind looks like a Tetris game...Although the bed is dressed differently, I really like the feel to it. You’ve definitely nailed it with how you’ve styled the bed.”
Andrew and Whitney (Scandi Mountain Ash) Once again, Scott Cam was blown away by the construction of the bed head: “Construction is unbelievable, I can’t fault it."
For design, Lysandra praised the choice of timber, but she wasn’t as thrilled with the styling “The cover’s not really doing it for me.. the floral is a little bit grandma” .
However, Whitney pointed out that the cover had skulls imprinted: “Unless they’re grandma punk.”
Voni and Suzi (American Oak Shadowlines) Winners
Scott Cam was impressed with the construction element: “Construction-wise, the floating shelves are fantastic..the way it’s been oiled, it looks clean and neat and nice... it’s been beautifully done”, he said.
Lysandra thought the styling was masculine and said that the contestants could soften up the design with their cushions.
Luke and Ebony (Ironbark Art Deco) It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for Luke and Ebony. Although Scott Cam mentioned that Luke did a fantastic job with the construction, once again the contestants struggled with the design aspect.
While Ebony insisted on staining their timber a dark brown, the judges weren’t impressed.
“Can I be completely honest? I feel by staining it, you’ve taken away from the beautiful timber that it was… I feel that maybe you’ve done an injustice to the timber, and the bed linen and everything it’s just not there”, Lysandra said.
Dean and Shay (Herringbone Parquetry) For the construction, Scott Cam said Dean and Shay had done an “outstanding job”.
In terms of styling, Lysandra praised the use of texture but said the dimensions and originality were a setback: “I’m feeling maybe it needed to be a little bit taller and a little bit wider… the proportions for me are maybe a little bit off. For some reason, I feel like I’ve seen it before.”

The next episode of The Block: Blocktagon airs on Sunday night, September 27, on Nine.

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