Both soft and hardwoods are used in the construction of modern furniture. Contrary to popular belief, many softwoods are actually harder then some hardwoods. The term softwood is applied only to ever-green or cone-bearing trees such as pine, fir or spruce. Trees which shed leaves are considered hardwood. Having a knowledge base of the most common types of wood used in furniture construction will help you to determine what will best suit your needs not only aesthetically but functionally as well.
Alder is a crucial wood in the furniture making industry. It is typically grown and harvested from the Pacific coast of the U.S. It is characterized by a straight grain and an even texture. This type of wood is usually under six inches wide due to the small size of these trees. Alder is most commonly used in rustic style furniture and cabinetry and finishes beautifully with a light color and tight grain structure. These beautiful cabinets (Left) are crafted from Solid Knotty Alder.
Pine is one of the most important softwoods in modern furniture making and is typically harvested from Canada and the U.S. It is characterized by a straight and uneven grain. The white variety is easily worked, has firm knots, and is commonly seen in Colonial or early American designs. Pine is aesthetically pleasing, unique and much sought after in rustic decor. The gorgeous Normandie Manor Bookcase (Left) features stained Pine veneers.
Oak is the most important of all hardwoods in furniture construction. Oak is typically found in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada. White Oak features a beige or creamy tan color with a beautiful, even grain and a fine texture. Red Oak is a reddish-tan color with a straight grain and coarse texture. Oak is very durable and decay resistant which makes it perfect for outdoor furniture. The Belgian Oak Dining Table by Bernhardt Furniture (Right) features beautiful White Oak veneers.
Mahogany is a very sought after tropical wood. It is a dark reddish-brown color with a straight grain that is typically free of imperfections. Mahogany is commonly used as a decorative veneer in cabinets, furniture and flooring. Mahogany is a beautiful copper color and its stunning grain make it a favorite in the furniture crafting industry. It is easy to work with, takes a high polish and is very stable. The Vestige Console by Bernhardt Furniture (Left) features a gorgeous, Mahogany veneer.
Walnut is famous for its wavy, curly, spotted grain pattern and its blackish-brown color. Walnut is slow growing, beautifully figured and creates stunning decorative veneers. Walnut is a very common and durable choice in furniture construction. The Haven Round Dining Table by Bernhardt Furniture (Right) features a gorgeous Walnut veneer.
Bird's Eye Maple
Bird's Eye Maple is a beautiful form of the white and sugar maple varieties. It contains small bud-like formations that are seen when the wood is cut at right angles. Because the bird's eye effect can not be duplicated, this type of wood is very expensive and difficult to find. Bird's Eye Maple is typically used as veneer and is one of the most beautiful and sought after woods. You can see the stunning detail of the Bird's Eye Maple wood in this gorgeous swatch (Left).
Ash is a blond, porous hardwood that features a beautiful texture. It is characterized by a pale brown to pale yellowish brown color and has a bold, contrasting grain pattern. It takes stain well and is often seen in highly figured veneers. It is easily steamed and formed into different shapes making it great for shaped furniture. Ash is strong and durable making it a good choice for high-use wooden construction. The Mercer Dining Table by Bernhardt Furniture (Right) features gorgeous Ash veneers.
Beech wood is characterized by a clean, smooth surface with tiny specks and is close grained with a silvery sheen. Beech is extremely durable and strong making it a popular hardwood. The Baron Table by Calligaris (Left) is crafted of natural Beech.
Poplar is a soft hardwood that is fast-growing and relatively low-priced. It is characterized by a straight grain and has distinguishable contrasting, green sections. Aspens are a common Poplar. Poplar is common in furniture construction and is abundant and easily stained.
The straight-grain variety is one of the most attractive woods for interior finishes. Maple is light in color, smooth and wears evenly, making it a popular choice for home furnishings.
The gorgeous, Chittern Buffet by Bernhardt Furniture (Above) is crafted from Poplar solids and features stunning Maple veneers.
Cherry is a durable hardwood with a straight or wavy grain of reddish-brown color that grows wild in the Northeastern U.S. Cherry is often used to imitate Mahogany and is used for inlay and decorative veneers. The Cleo Armoire by Hickory Chair (Left) features beautiful Cherry veneered doors.
Birch is a common, fine-grained wood that is durable and hard. It is typically light in color and is described as the most "featureless" hardwood in America. Birch requires no filler, takes paints and stains very well and can easily be stained to imitate other woods. The Carmel Highlands Collection by Bernhardt Furniture (Right) is crafted from Birch and Maple veneers and features a stunning black copper finish.
Teak is a tropical hardwood that is highly valued in the furniture construction industry, mainly for outdoor furniture. It is characterized by its golden-brown color and has a straight grain with an oily, rough texture. Teak is weather resistant, strong and heavy. This beautiful patio furniture (Left) is made of Teak.
Bamboo comes from a strong, single-stalk bush found in tropical areas and is cheaper and more workable than traditional lumber. It can grow as much as 24 inches per day. Bamboo makes beautiful, durable furniture. This stunning dining table and chairs (Right) is crafted from Bamboo.
Red Cedar is another crucial softwood in furniture construction. It is harvested from both Canada and the U.S. and is often used to craft chests, drawers and bedroom furniture. It is characterized by a fine, uneven grain and is normally a reddish-brown to light tan color. The gorgeous patio chair (Left) is made of Cedar.
One of the largest trees in the world, Douglas Firs are most known for their use as Christmas trees. They are typically harvested from Canada and the Northeastern and Western U.S. It is a strong, light softwood that is free of knots and imperfections. It is characterized by a straight, uneven grain with some flame-shaped patterns. Douglas Fir is commonly used for panels and plywood in furniture construction. The one-of-a-kind cabinet display (Right) is made of reclaimed Douglas Fir.
Plywood comes in many varieties. It is a strong wood that is formed by gluing and pressing multiple, thin sheets of wood together. Hardwood Plywood is great for high-impact use and is typically covered with a beautiful veneer in decorative applications. You can easily see the layers in the sample photo (Left).
Particleboard is created by taking small fragments of wood and, using resin and high pressure, pressing them into a solid piece. Particleboard is often covered with a veneer. It is inexpensive and stable and makes use of pieces of wood that would otherwise be wasted. You can see the fragments within the board in the sample photo (Right).