Kinds of Wood

There are two basic kinds of wood - softwood and hardwood. However, the names are somewhat deceiving, since hardwoods are not necessarily harder than softwoods, and softwoods are not always softer than hardwoods. The terms refer to the species of the tree rather than to the physical properties of the wood. Softwoods are conifers, or needle bearing trees. They are composed of simple cell structures, and grow faster than hardwoods. The wood produced from them is generally less expensive than hardwood. Softwoods are generally light in color, being shades of pale yellow or reddish brown, and show more contrast between earlywood and latewood. They are used primarily for secondary pieces such as joinery, turning and marquetry.

Hardwoods are deciduous, or leaf bearing trees and have a more complex cell structure. They are generally stronger and have a more interesting texture and figure. They exhibit less contrast in grain between earlywood and latewood, and exhibit a wider range of color being light yellow to dark brown or black, and are also used as veneers. Hardwoods are generally used as the primary pieces of furniture such as cabinets, tables and chairs.

Listed below are some of the most common hardwoods and softwood used in furnituremaking and some of their attributes.

Alder
Hardwood that has good strength, straight grain and even texture. Ranges in color from yellow to light brown. Easily carved and finished. Used in turnery and primary pieces.

Ash
Hardwood that is very strong and ranges in color from white to light brown. Straight grain and medium to coarse texture. Used on secondary pieces such as bentwood furniture and frames, and veneers.

Amaranth
Hardwood that is very strong, color ranges from red softwood to purple heartwood. Fine to medium texture. Finishes and polishes well. Used for inlays, carved panels and small tables.

Basswood
Hardwood that has a straight grain and even texture. White in color. Finishes well and is used in marquetry, turning, and joinery.

Beech
Hardwood that is very strong and has a straight grain and coarse texture. Finishes well. Color is reddish brown. Used for bentwood furniture, frames, interior joinery in furniture.

Birch
Hardwood with exceptional strength and fine grain and even texture. Easy to work and finishes well. Used for frames, joinery and turning.

Blackwood
Hardwood with straight to wavy grain and fine to medium texture. Ranges in color from dark yellow to dark brown. Used in joinery.

Boxwood
Hardwood that is heavy and strong with straight to wavy grain. Even textured and finishes well. Used for carving and inlays.

Brazilwood
Hardwood that is hard and strong with straight grain and fine texture. Color ranges from orange to reddish brown. Used for tables, chairs, turning, joinery and veneers.

Bubinga
Hardwood with straight or irregular grain, ranges in color from reddish brown to purple. Easy to work and finishes well. Used for primary pieces and veneer.

Butternut
Hardwood that is not very strong. Has straight grain and medium to coarse texture. Color is yellow to grey sapwood and brown heartwood. Used for marquetry, inlay, joinery and veneer.

Cedar
Softwood that is not very strong. Red cedar and yellow cedar are most frequently used. Strainght grained with even texture. Used for interior pieces of furniture and joinery.

Cherry
Hardwod that is strong and hard with straight grain and fine texture. Color ranges from red brown to red. Easy to work and is used on primary pieces and turnery.

Chestnut
Hardwood that is fairly strong. Has wide grain and coarse texture. Color is grey to white. Not widely used due to insect infectation which has depleted the availablity.

Ebony
Hardwood that is heavy and strong with straight or wavy grain and has fine even texture. Finishes well and has dark yellow sapwood and dark brown to black heartwood. Used for some primary pieces and inlay.

Elm
Hardwood that has straight or interlocked grain and coarse texture. Color is light reddish brown. Used mainly for furniture frames and secondary pieces.

Fir
Softwood that is farily strong and resists warping. Has straight, wide grain and fine texture. Does not finish well and is used mainly for secondary pieces such as drawers and joinery.

Hemlock
Softwood that is moderately strong with conspicuous straight grain and even texture. Easy to work and finishes well. Color is light brown. Used for joinery.

Hickory
Hardwood that is very hard and strong with straight to wavy grain and coarse texture. Sapwood is yellow white and heartwood is red brown. Difficult to work with, and has average finishing qualities. Used for bentwood furniture and rustic furniture.

Kingwood
Hardwood with striped figure and fine texture. Color ranges from brownish purple to

Lauan
Hardwood with interlocked grain and coarse texture with reddish brown color. Easy to work and finishes well. Used for joinery, small pieces and veneers.

Mahogany
Hardwood with excellent strength, and figured, wavy grain, and medium texture. Color is reddish brown to dark red. Easy to work and has excellent finishing qualities. Used for tables, chairs, carved pieces, joinery and veneers.

Maple
Hardwood that is very strong and hard, with straight grain and fine texture and bird's eye figure. Color ranges from white to reddish yellow. Sometimes difficult to work, but finishes well. Use for primary pieces such as tables and chairs, frames, turning and veneer.

Oak
Hardwood that is heavy and strong with straight grain and medium to coarse texture. Color is white to light brown. Difficult to work but finishes well. Used for primary pieces which are not carved, joinery, turning and veneer.

Olive
Hardwood that has irregular or wavy grain and fine grain. Color is yellow brown. Easy to work and finish. Used for inlays.

Padauk
Hardwood that is strong and hard with straight to interlocked grain and coarse texture. Color ranges from pink to cherry red. Easy to work and finishes well. Used for primary pieces, joinery and turnery.

Pine
Softwood that is is soft and has a straight grain and occasional knots, and fine even texture. Easy to work and finishes well. Used for doors on primary pieces, joinery, and turning.

Redwood
Softwood that is very strong and has a straight grain and even, coarse texture. Easy to work and finishes well. Used for secondary furnitrue pieces such as frames, joinery, drawers.

Rosewood
Hardwood that is very strong and hard with straight grain, medium texture and streaked figure. Color ranges from brown to purplet to black. Average to work and finishes well and is easy to polish. Used for tables, chairs, turnery, joinery and carved members.

Satinwood
Hardwood that is very hard and strong with striped or interlocked grain and fine texture. Color ranges from orange to golden brown. Average to work but finishes well. Used for cabinets, inlay, joinery, turning and inlay.

Spruce
Softwood that is strong and has a straight grain and even texture. Color ranges from white to yellow brown. Easy to work and finish. Used for joinery and frames.

Sycamore
Hardwood that is very hard and has straight to irregular grain with even texture. Color is light to reddish brown with rays. Easy to work and finish. Used for turning and veneers.

Teak
Hardwood that is strong and has straight to wavy grain with coarse, uneven texture and rich figureing. Yellow brown to dark brown in color. Easy to work and finish. Used for primary pieces, joinery, turning, and veneer.

Tulipwood
Hardwood that is strong and hard with irregular grain and medium to fine texture. Ranges in color from pinkish yellow to reddish purple. Difficult to work but finishes well. Used for pirmary pieces, turning and veneer.

Walnut
Hardwood that is strong and durable with straight grain and medium to coarse texture. Color ranges from dark brown to purple and black. Easy to work and finish. Used for primary pieces, tables, chairs, cabinets, drawers, joinery, turning, carved members, and veneer.

Yellow Poplar
Hardwood that is soft and light, has a straight grain and fine texture. Sapwood is white, heartwood is greenish brown. Easy to work and finish. Used for carved memebers, joinery and smaller pieces.

Yew
Softwood that is very hard and durable, with close grain and fine texture. Color is reddish orange. Difficult to work, but finishes well. Used for cabinetwork, joinery, turning and veneer.

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