Types of Wood
The more one knows about the unique characteristics of wood and its source, the better one can understand the degree of warmth and beauty that it brings to our everyday décor. Furniture made of wood is one of the few things in the world that all people can own and know that they are the only person in the world who owns that particular grain pattern and its inherent beauty. Each grain pattern is a unique masterpiece of design, texture and splendor. Even what some may view as a defect, like a knot or other natural blemishes, can add more beauty and character to any given piece of furniture.
Oak is the most widely used hardwood. There are more than 60 species of oak grown in the U.S., which can be separated into two basic varieties; white and red. The vast majority of our furniture is all built with White Oak.
Properties: White Oak is a heavy, strong, light colored hardwood. It is ring porous, due to the fact that more and larger conductive vessels are laid down early in the summer, rather than later. Prominent rings and large pores give oak a course texture and prominent grain. Oak also has conspicuous medullary rays which can be seen as “flakes” in quarter sawed oak lumber.
Uses: Oak is the most popular wood used to craft American and English country designs. It is also used for Gothic and William & Mary reproductions, as well as many transitional and contemporary pieces.
QUARTER SAWN WHITE OAK
A method of sawing oak so the cut is made parallel to the wood’s medullary rays instead of across. This cut yields a limited quantity of top grade boards featuring ray flake, and it binds the perpendicular fibers together, giving the oak its amazing strength.
Quartersawn White Oak is much less likely to crack, check or warp than when it is flat sawn. Very similiar to red oak but slightly harder and when 1/4 sawn, provides more “ray flake”. Ray flake is the distinctive striping which is seen in antique wood pieces. 1/4 Sawn White Oak is primarily used on Shaker and Mission style pieces to more accurately represent the look of antique furniture.
Grown from the Great Lakes to Canada. Hard Rock Maple is excellent for high ‘impact resistant’ applications or where a uniform light creamy yellowish/white color is sought. Northern Maple is naturally 50% harder than Red Oak lumber, Maple has a strong, uniform physical grain structure. The luster or visual texture of Maple offers a changing panorama of beauty as light strikes the wood from various angles. Maple is growing in it’s popularity due to its natural coloration.
Brown Maple is the “heart wood” (wood towards the center of a tree) of various soft maple trees and not a specific species of tree. As it’s from the center of the tree, it tends to run a range of colors from light to beige to medium brown. Brown Maple is a smooth wood often used for painting or for darker dye stains such as Onyx. Brown Maple hardness varies, but it is in the same range as Cherry (2 on a scale of 1 to 5).
Brown Maple is a great alternative to achieve results similar in appearance to Cherry but without the added Cherry cost.
Cherry is grown in the Eastern half of the U.S. It is sometimes called fruitwood. The term fruitwood is also used to describe a light brown finish on other woods. Cherry wood is moderately heavy, hard, and strong, and it also machines and sands to glass-like smoothness. Because of this, Cherry finishes beautifully. The heartwood in Cherry is red in color, and the sapwood is light pink. Components made of Cherry generally consist of approximately 25% sapwood and 75% heartwood.
Properties: A moderately hard, strong, closed grain, light to red-brown wood, cherry resists warping and checking. It is easy to carve and polish.
Uses: Cherry veneers and solids are used in a variety of styles. Cherry has been called New England mahogany and is often used to craft 18th century, Colonial and French Provincial designs.
Walnut is one of the most versatile and popular cabinet making woods. It grows in Europe, America and Asia. There are many different varieties.
Properties: Walnut is strong, hard and durable, without being excessively heavy. It has excellent woodworking qualities, and takes finishes well. The wood is light to dark chocolate brown in color with a straight grain in the trunk. Wavy grain is present toward the roots, and walnut stumps are often dug out and used as a source of highly figured veneer. Large burls are common. Walnut solids and veneers show a wide range of figures, including strips, burls, mottles, crotches, curls and butts. European walnut is lighter in color and slightly finer in texture than American black walnut, but otherwise comparable.
Uses: Walnut is used in all types of fine cabinet work, especially 18th century reproductions.
There are 15 species of hickory in the eastern United States, eight of which are commercially important.
Properties: Hickory is one of the heaviest and hardest woods available. Pecan is a species of hickory sometimes used in furniture. It has a close grain without much figure.
Uses: Wood from the hickory is used for structural parts, especially where strength and thinness are required. Decorative hickory veneers are also commonly used.