Which woods are worthy?Ever wonder which type of wood is best? Many factors go into deciding which ones make the grade, so our panel of wood experts cut each style down to size and Reading a story of the top 15 list.
Reading a story of the top 15 anything, one might be tempted to ask, "Says who?" Our list of the top furniture, cabinetry and architectural woods is a subjective one, determined by a variety of factors. The first seven - cherry, red oak, white oak, hickory, ash, mahogany, and walnut - would probably make anyone's list. They deserve recognition based on their unique combination of properties such as hardness, strength and beauty. These qualities make them ideally suited for use in furniture and cabinetry. We judged a wood worthy of the top 15 after polling a variety of wood experts. Our apologies to wenge, satinwood satinwood, name for a hard and durable wood with a satinlike sheen, much used in cabinetmaking, especially in marquetry. It comes from two tropical trees of the family Rutaceae (rue family). , ebony, poplar and butternut butternut: see walnut.
Deciduous nut-producing tree (Juglans cinerea) of the walnut family, native to eastern North America. A mature tree has gray, deeply furrowed bark. . The truth is there is a wealth of fine furniture woods from which to choose.
Popular Furniture Styles and Their Corresponding Woods
Woods historically have gone in and out of style, influenced by fashion, history and just plain availability. One can point to almost any time period in our history and see that furniture and wood usage could be just as trendy as fashion. Celia Jackson Otto, author of the book "American Furniture of the Nineteenth Century," wrote about the various popular furniture styles, woods and influences of the era. "The French Restoration Period from 1815 to 1830 featured furniture that was simple and in good taste. Light woods were favored, chiefly figured ash, maple, burr elm, and lemonwood n. 1. hard tough elastic wood of the lemonwood tree; used for making bows and fishing rods.
2. A South African evergreen having hard tough wood.
Noun 1. , with attenuated Attenuated
Alive but weakened; an attenuated microorganism can no longer produce disease.
Mentioned in: Tuberculin Skin Test
having undergone a process of attenuation. mouldings and delicate marquetry marquetry (mär`kətrē), branch of cabinetwork in which a decorative surface of wood or other substance is glued to an object on a single plane. in dark amaranth amaranth (ăm`ərănth') [Gr.,=unfading], common name for the Amaranthaceae (also commonly known as the pigweed family), a family of herbs, trees, and vines of warm regions, especially in the Americas and Africa. or palisander," she wrote.
Otto explained that American styles were heavily influenced by English and French styles. People like Thomas Jefferson brought furnishings to America from their French homes.
Famous cabinetmakers established businesses here: "Charles Honore Lannuier, C.A. Baoudoiune, and Alexander Roux Alexander Roux (1813–1886) was a French-trained ébéniste, or cabinetmaker, who emigrated to the United States in the 1830s. He opened a shop in New York City in 1837. of New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of . A. Eliaers of Boston, A.G. Quervelle of Philadelphia, Michal Bouvier Bouvier refers to several things:
Abundant “wild duck” (Anas platyrhynchos, family Anatidae) of the Northern Hemisphere, ancestor of most domestic ducks. The mallard is a typical dabbling duck in its general habits and courtship display. , and Francois Seignouret of New Orleans New Orleans (ôr`lēənz –lənz, ôrlēnz`), city (2006 pop. 187,525), coextensive with Orleans parish, SE La., between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, 107 mi (172 km) by water from the river mouth; founded . Later in the century, Charles Grohe and Leon Marcotte arrived. All left their mark on American furniture styles. However, there were characteristic differences between the work of the Old World and that of the New; among the fine established cabinetmakers were such strong individualists as Duncan Phyfe Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854) was one of 19th century America’s leading furniture makers.
Born Duncan Fife near Loch Fannich in Ross and Cromarty, Scotland, he immigrated to Albany, New York at age 16 and served as a cabinetmaker’s apprentice. and John Seymour John Seymour has been the name of more than one person of note:
Otto's research showed that tastes in woods were affected by the location of the craftsmen. "The work in Salem, for instance, was distinguished not only by first-class design and craftsmanship, but also by the use of much light woods on dark mahogany. In Baltimore, the frames of Hepplewhite-type chairs were painted and in the West domestic cherry and walnut were favored over mahogany."
Over the years, some woods have been closely linked with various styles of furniture. Mahogany was a first choice for American Chippendale, although walnut and cherry were also used for this style. Curly maple is often used in Hepplewhite and Sheraton style Sheraton is a late 18th century neoclassical English furniture style, in vogue ca 1785 - 1800, that was coined by 19th century collectors and dealers to credit furniture designer Thomas Sheraton, born in Stockton-on-Tees, England in 1751 and whose books, "The Cabinet pieces. Beech was also "turned" to resemble bamboo in various designs, such as chairs made by Sheraton in 1803. Chestnut straight-backed chairs made in the early 1800s were an example of the switch from mahogany to the domestic woods, which were in abundant supply. Shaker furniture Shaker furniture
Furniture designed for the religious colonies of Shakers founded in the U.S. in the last quarter of the 18th century. The Shakers' designs reflected their beliefs that good craftsmanship was in itself an act of prayer and that form should follow function, an , with its distinctive clean lines and simplicity of style, was made of beech, maple, hickory and cherry. Oak was the wood of choice for the Mission and Arts and Crafts arts and crafts, term for that general field of applied design in which hand fabrication is dominant. The term was coined in England in the late 19th cent. as a label for the then-current movement directed toward the revivifying of the decorative arts. styles. Pine, which had humble beginnings Humble Beginnings was an American pop punk band from New Jersey. While never gaining large-scale success, many of the band's members went on to mainstream success with other outfits. , is a very collectible wood.
Some of the woods featured here are not as popular as they once were. Walnut, while still an important furniture wood, has changed in status. "Cherry and walnut are classic furniture woods," said custom furniture maker Charles Radtke. He estimated cherry accounts for 30 percent of his commissioned pieces. "Cherry and walnut are both stable, easy to work with by hand or machine tools and have a consistent grain pattern and color." While walnut was once a top used furniture wood ("Seventy to 80 percent of antiques easily feature either walnut, mahogany or butternut," said Radtke.), it has been affected by the trend toward lighter woods. Cherry has been less affected, many feel, because it is not as dark as the walnuts and mahoganies.
At one time, American black walnut black walnut
see juglans nigra. was the darling of the furniture woods. Larry Frye, executive director of the American Walnut/Fine Hardwoods Assn., estimated that walnut was used in almost 30 percent of wood household furniture some 30 years ago. Studies show its use has declined to about 1 to 2 percent of wood household furniture production. Why the drop? Frye said "current fashion plays a major role in determining species acceptance by furniture buyers. Lighter colored finishes and woods have been in vogue recently and continue to grow in popularity." Frye's association polled five major furniture manufacturers for their views on woods usage. Walnut had been dropped, they said, because of the demand for light-colored woods and finishes, the shrinking demand for high-end furniture, the cost competitiveness for mid-priced furniture, the high cost of walnut lumber and the lack of availability of adequate lengths and widths in walnut lumber.
Frye said mahogany is a direct substitute for walnut in furniture products, and its use has grown slightly in traditional styles furniture. "That said, walnut and mahogany continue to have a place as woods that go very well in traditional styles," said Frye. "When all is said and done, walnut continues to sell on a steady basis for those in lumber and veneer sales in walnut's traditional markets."
The Mighty Oaks
The mighty oaks have been mighty popular for the past 15 years. Oaks, especially red oak, have dominated the furniture and cabinetry industries for the past 10 to 15 years. Oak "burst onto" the American furniture scene in a big way at the turn of the century and it was unusual to find a home without at least one piece of sturdy oak furniture. Oak was more affordable than other woods. A roll-top desk roll-top desk or roll·top desk
A desk fitted with a flexible sliding top made of parallel slats. made at the turn of the century in mahogany would cost 10 to 20 percent more than one made of oak. Oak is a wood that translates very well into the country and casual looks, both of which are popular today. Quarter sawn white oak is the wood of choice for Mission and Arts and Crafts styles, and their resurgence has also added to its popularity. Oak is also a great kitchen cabinet wood, and what goes in the kitchen goes well in the dining room.
Mark Polich, director of design for Richardson Brothers Inc. of Sheboygan, WI, said his company has used red oak throughout its 100-plus years. "In the beginning, our company manufactured dining room furniture. Oak has traditionally been a popular species for cabinets and people like the furniture to match."
Polich said he believes that oak is one of those woods that is beloved in middle America Middle America 1
A region of southern North America comprising Mexico, Central America, and sometimes the West Indies.
Middle American adj. & n. . "It is a wood with a tremendous amount of grain character. Some woods have a bland grain character and you work hard to introduce it by shaping and playing with the wood. With oak, the grain character is already there."
American Black Cherry black cherry,
n See wild cherry.
American black cherry is nicknamed cabinet cherry, and for good reason. Cherry is a rich-looking red wood that has a beautiful figure and color and has been a popular furniture wood since the days of the first settlers. American cherry has been used at times as a substitute for mahogany. In fact, another of its nicknames was American mahogany. Cherry was considered the favorite for use in Shaker furniture, although maple was used more often.
Cherry is a popular wood for kitchen cabinetry and dining room furniture. Of all the fruitwoods, cherry is the most popular because it grows taller than pear, apple, or plum. American black cherry, at 90 feet, is the tallest of all the cherry trees and fruitwoods. It is a wood that works well with machine or hand tools.
Hard Maple hard maple
See sugar maple. an All-Around Wood
Maple is enjoying a popularity in woodworking due to its light color and ready availability. The wood is hard and durable and perfect for a host of woodworking applications including fine furniture, cabinetry, paneling and flooring. Maples exhibit a variety of figures that make them popular for custom work and also high-end architectural applications. Maple is used in butcher block Noun 1. butcher block - a thick wooden slab formed by bonding together thick laminated strips of unpainted hardwood
slab - block consisting of a thick piece of something and also for cutting boards. There are two main sources of maple in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . Maples are often referred to as hard or soft maples. Maple has a small pore structure, allowing it to be sanded to a beautiful high polish. Exotics include curly maple, bird's-eye maple bird's-eye maple
A form of wood, chiefly of the sugar maple, that is patterned with small rounded figures and is especially popular for making musical instruments.
Noun 1. , quilted maple, blistered maple and maple hurl. Important species include hard, white and sugar maple (Acer saccharum); black maple (Acer rubrum); silver maple (Acer sacchariunum); Manitoba maple (Acer negundo); and Bigleaf or Western maple (Acer macrophyllum).
Mahogany the Famous Tropical Lumber
Mahogany's use in America dates back to the days of Sir Walter Raleigh. It was used occasionally by Continental cabinetmakers, but it really became a wood of importance in 172.5. In his book, "The Story of American Furniture," Thomas Hamilton Ormsbee writes that mahogany, the "tropical lumber," was accepted by Americans with enthusiasm. "Much of the best furniture of Chippendale and succeeding periods was made of it, either entirely or in combination with light-colored woods used as inlays or veneers for contrast." Ormsbee said it was a perfect choice for cabinetmakers since it took a high degree of polish, had an attractive grain and was ideal for carving. When mahogany was introduced, ornamentation ornamentation
In music, the addition of notes for expressive and aesthetic purposes. For example, a long note may be ornamented by repetition or by alternation with a neighboring note (“trill”); a skip to a nonadjacent note can be filled in with the intervening began to be a popular part of furniture designs of the day. Cuban mahogany was once the source of choice, but supplies are impossible to get. Today, Honduran mahogany is the one used most often.
Ash a Good Choice for Steam Bending
Ash has many American species, but the commercially important ones include black ash, brown ash, green ash, Oregon ash and white ash. White ash is sometimes cut into veneers for furniture grades but it is particularly valued in the lumber form for making the bent parts of chairs because of its excellent bending qualities. White ash is a light-colored wood and is heavy, hard, strong and stiff. Aside from its furniture uses, this wood is prized for sports equipment and the handles of tools and implements.
American Beech: 'Poor Man's Walnut'
American beech (Fagus grandifolia) is a reddish brown hardwood slightly more coarse in texture than European beech, although both are comparable in strength. The wood has excellent wood-bending properties, high crushing strength, medium stiffness and resistance to shock loads. Beech and oak are two of the most used hardwoods, but beech was once considered a lesser wood in American furniture history. During the 17th century, beech was known as a "poor man's walnut or mahogany" and suitably stained according to writer Jane Struthers in the book "Decorating With Wood." Beech, like ash, gained respect with the development of bentwood furniture. Beech is well-suited to bending and steaming and was used in bentwood chair designs, rockers and anything that required a curved piece.
Pine - Most Common Softwood
The pine family is a huge one with several important varieties around the world and some 35 different species in the United States. In North America, the more famous pines include yellow pine, radiata pine radiata pine
see pinusradiata. , pitch pine, ponderosa pine ponderosa pine
pinusponderosa. and western white pine. In the past, pine furniture was used for the country styles and rustic furniture because pine grew quickly and the wood was cheap and plentiful. Today, pine furniture is very popular. The older pine furnishings are now collectibles, and the new styles are popular because of the light color of pine. Several of the pine species are important in furniture and cabinetry uses as well as paneling. Yellow pine, for example, has low shrinkage and extreme stability. In addition to its furniture applications, the wood is used for sculpture, carving and high-class joinery joinery, craft of assembling exposed woodwork in the interiors of buildings. Where carpentry refers to the rougher, simpler, and primarily structural elements of wood assembling, joinery has to do with difficult surfaces and curvatures, such as those of spiral .
Birch: A Good Wood for Steam Bending
Birch is a light-colored wood from Canada and the United States The United States and Canada share a unique legal relationship. U.S. law looks northward with a mixture of optimism and cooperation, viewing Canada as an integral part of U.S. economic and environmental policy. . Its uses include furniture, high-grade joinery and flooring, as well as upholstery frames and high-grade plywood. Selected logs are sliced into decorative veneers which are used for cabinets, paneling and marquetry. Various names for the yellow birch trees include hard birch, betula wood, Canadian yellow birch, Quebec birch, grey birch and silver birch.
Sapele Sapele (səpā`lē), city (1991 est. pop. 123,000), S Nigeria, a port in the Niger delta. The center of the Nigerian timber industry, Sapele has sawmills and a large plywood and veneer factory; rubber is processed there, and plastics, Wins the Beauty Contest
Sapele is a very attractive wood that is used for fine furniture in the veneer form. Frye calls it the prettiest of the mahogany substitutes, and Radtke praises it for its great workability and good looks. Sapele works well with machine and hand tools. The wood, when filled, can be finished to a fine luster. Freshly cut, the heartwood heartwood, the central, woody core of a tree, no longer serving for the conduction of water and dissolved minerals; heartwood is usually denser and darker in color than the outer sapwood. is a salmon pink, but the wood matures to a beautiful red-brown color. Its grain is closely interlocked, and the wood can have a pencil-stripe figure when the wood is quarter sawn. Some logs have a wavy grain which will yield a very attractive fiddleback figure.
Anigre a Great Architectural Wood
Anigre, also known as agnegre or aningeria, is an African wood that has been very popular in architectural woodworking. Species of anigre are widespread in tropical Africa, particularly in parts of East Africa. The wood is very attractive with a heartwood that varies from a yellow-white, a pink-brown or a pale brown. Anigre is used in the veneer form almost exclusively. Anigre saws and machines well but it can have a blunting effect on cutting surfaces.
Hickory and Pecan pecan: see hickory.
Nut and tree (Carya illinoinensis) of the walnut family, native to temperate North America. Occasionally reaching a height of about 160 ft (50 m), the tree has deeply furrowed bark and feather-shaped leaves.
More than 20 species of hickory grow in North American North American
named after North America.
North American blastomycosis
see North American blastomycosis.
North American cattle tick
see boophilusannulatus. forests, but only four are commercially important. The prominent "true" hickories include shagbark hickory, shellbark hickory, pignut hickory and mockernut hickory. In some markets, the white sapwood sapwood, relatively thin, youngest, outer part of the woody stem of a tree, the part that conducts water and dissolved materials. In the cross section of a tree, the sapwood is recognizable by its texture and color; it is softer and lighter than the inner heartwood. yields a lumber sold as white hickory while the heartwood is called red hickory. Hickory is a strong wood with many utilitarian uses such as hammer, pick and axe handles and wheel spokes and ladder rungs plus a wide variety of uses in sporting goods. But hickory is also prized for sculpture and carving. Hickory can be difficult to work because of its moderate blunting effect, but it finishes beautifully. Hickory has traditionally been a popular choice for chairs and cabinetry and is also cut into decorative veneers.
Pecan is a species of the hickory tree that flourishes in the southern United States The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive region in the southeastern and south-central United States. . It is distinct from hickory or walnut in that its pores are larger. All three species belong to the same family. In addition to yielding wonderful fruit, the pecan nut, the trees are a source of valuable lumber. Wood from pecan is close-grained hard, heavy and strong. Furniture made of pecan includes office furniture, desks and chairs. The wood is an attractive brown with darker streaks. Pecan is used for architectural paneling.
Walnut: An Aristocratic Hardwood
American black walnut (Juglans nigra Juglans nigra
shavings of the wood of this North American tree in the family Juglandaceae contain a toxin juglone; used as bedding, have caused edema of the lower limbs and laminitis in horses. Called also black walnut. ) is called the "aristocrat of fine hardwoods" and has been a popular furniture, cabinetry and specialty item wood since the 16th century. American black walnut trees have historically been some of the largest of the hardwoods in American forests with clear boles at 60 feet and crowns of 150 feet or taller. While use of walnut in furniture has dropped, the wood is still an important species here and abroad. Traditional markets for walnut include furniture, musical instruments, cabinetry, gunstocks, picture frames and specialty items. Frye said he sees walnut gaining in use in office furniture.
"There are rumblings that walnut will move back up in prominence," Frye said. The slack in demand has allowed Eastern forests to replenish supplies of walnut. The industry for walnut production now is centered in Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi, southern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Kentucky, said Frye. "Walnut is one of those species that loves the sun and grows well in the open. Our present inventory of walnut is plentiful," he said.
Teak teak, tall deciduous tree (Tectona grandis) of the family Verbenaceae (verbena family), native to India and Malaysia but now widely cultivated in other tropical areas. Stands for Durability
Teak used today is the plantation-grown variety found in Burma, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Java, Malaysia, Borneo, the Philipines, tropical Africa and Central America. The old teak forests of the world were destroyed, many believe, by a complete lack of forest management. Teak remains a durable wood due to its innate oiliness. It is particularly popular for outdoor furniture because the wood weathers beautifully turning from a reddish color to a silvery gray. Teak has been used extensively for Scandinavian, Danish and Modern styles of furniture. In addition to its use in furniture and cabinetry it is famous for use in ship and boat building where it is exposed to the elements.