Cell density is the main reason some woods are harder than others. There are several types of cells which form this density, and the dominant type of cell determines whether the tree is categorized as a “hardwood” or a “softwood.” However, these classifications can be misleading as some softwoods are actually harder than some hardwoods. Woods composed primarily of wood fiber cells are classified hardwoods and those composed of primarily water-conducting cells are softwoods. The density of the cell type combined with the percentage of airspace and lignin in cell walls causes some woods to be harder than others.
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