Wood has been used to make toys for a very long time. A variety of different woods are used to make toys. According to Accent Woodworking, woodworkers classify woods either as hardwood (coming from deciduous trees) or softwood (coming from evergreen trees). These two classifications are not always precise--some evergreen trees have wood that is very hard, and some "hardwood" trees produce extremely soft wood. Several varieties each of hardwoods and softwoods are used for making toys.
According to wooden toymaker John Michael Linck, hickory is a slow-growing wood that is highly prized for its strength and ability to absorb heavy blows. This makes it ideal for making axe handles and other sturdy components. Linck says he uses hickory for dowels and axles in his toys where "the need for strength is paramount."
Linck says that black cherry is his favorite wood for a number of reasons, including its pleasant scent and the ease with which it can be worked. Black cherry wood has a light red color initially, but that light color begins to take on darker hues as the wood ages. Also, according to Linck, this wood is extremely smooth, making it a good choice for toys.
Maine Toys, a wooden toy-making company, uses softwood to produce toys. According to the company's website: "the primary material is white pine, and every board of wood is carefully selected to show off its natural beauty and grain. The completed wooden toy is finely sanded to a satin smooth natural finish." White pine, the website goes on to say, is known for its durability and toys made from it may last long enough to be passed down through several generations.