A Comprehensive Guide to Wood Types for Your Furniture

red cedar softwood bed
Hardwood vs Softwood

Trees have been with humans since the revolution, playing a pivotal role in their survival and providing shelter and food. They provide not only clean oxygen to breathe but also several other benefits. In addition, things have now changed further when humans have started using trees to create different things for their day-to-day use, e.g., furniture. 

Several wood types have various utilities and qualities and can be used to sculpt different furniture pieces. If you want to build a woodworking project, it’s essential to choose one wood type with the specific characteristics you want before proceeding. This guide to wood types will introduce all the kinds, their features, and uses; read it and learn.

Hardwood vs Softwood

You may think that a hardwood is hard while a softwood is soft, but this is not the accurate definition. These terms, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’, are more like a biological description instead of representing wood density or strength. Although a few hardwoods are harder and more challenging to work on, a few are even less soft than their softwood counterparts.

The following are the primary differences between hardwood and softwood.

 

Hardwood

Softwood

Growing Pace

Slow

Fast

Leaves/needles

Broad-leaved flowering species

Has hands instead of leaves

Seeds

Produced inside a shell

Seeds are either in a cone or uncovered

Pricing

Expensive

Cost-effective

Colours

Darker

Lighter

Sap content

Low

High

Grain

Close grain

Loose grain

Weight

Higher

Lower

Density

Lesser

Lesser

Fire resistance

Good

Poor

Table of Contents

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mahogany hardwood bed
red oak hardwood bed

Types of Hardwood

The following are the different types of hardwood.

Mahogany

Mahogany is a well-reputed hardwood that has been used for centuries to sculpt eye-catching furniture pieces. Its wood is known for its durability, beauty, and easy workability since it’s softer than other hardwoods. Moreover, it gives an impressive reddish-brown to blood-red colour that becomes darker over time.

  • Colour: Reddish-brown to blood-red colour.
  • Density: Medium density of its wood with moderate-heavy weight, making it ideal for high-end furniture.
  • Grain: Straight grain.
  • Uses: Used to create musical instruments such as guitars and violins, interior millwork, exterior doors, and high-end furniture.

Walnut

Walnut is another renowned wood solution for carving high-class furniture pieces. It has excellent strength, dimensional stability, and several colours with straight grain. Although it mostly has a dark brown shade, you can find it with lighter and other brown shades.

  • Colour: Comes in several colours, lighter-pale brown to dark chocolate brown, with dark-brown streaks.
  • Density: Medium density but relatively lightweight.
  • Grain: Open grains.
  • Uses: Used to create musical instruments, high-end furniture, carving, and flooring accents.

Red Oak

Oak trees are evergreen and give harder wood that is easy to work on. It has red and white colours, where red is the most famous, while white is widely used for furniture-making. Although both oak wood types are attractive and famous, red oak is softer and easier to find.

  • Colour: Pinkish-red to blonde in colour.
  • Density: Tough and strong.
  • Grain: Mostly openly-porous grain patterns, but they can vary.
  • Uses: Furniture, moulding, cabinets, trim, flooring, etc.

Ash

Ash wood is moderately expensive but not as expensive as mahogany, walnut, or red oak. It is an excellent hardwood type for its durability, flexibility, and toughness while having impressive capabilities to hold screws, nails, and glue. Although it produces an unpleasant smell, carpenters love to work with it.

  • Colour: Greyish light brown colour to a reddish hue.
  • Density: Tough and flexible
  • Grain: Open grains with brown streaks, but it’s occasional.
  • Uses: Millwork, flooring, baseball bats, furniture, and other turning objects.

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cherry hardwood bed
maple hardwood bed

Birch

Birch trees are primarily present in the Northern Hemisphere and are widely used because they are affordable, hard, stable, and readily available. It’s much harder than the oakwood, although both are closely related.

  • Colour: It’s light reddish brown while having almost white sapwood.
  • Density: Medium weight with a hard structure.
  • Grain: Straight or a bit wavy, with tiny pores.
  • Uses: The birch is commonly used to create seatings, cabinets, tuned objects, plywood, interior doors, and furniture.

Maple

Maple trees are present in Asia, Europe, North America, and North Africa. These are known for having heavy and dense wood, ideal for furniture and butcher blocks, with excellent durability and moisture-resistant capabilities. Interestingly, it’s also available in a wide variety, but hard maple is commonly used.

  • Colour: It has several colours, ranging from almost white to off-white cream, while the heartwood is in darker reddish brown.
  • Density: Strong but moderately hard
  • Grain: Grains are primarily straight but can be wavy.
  • Uses: Used for flooring, millwork, and creating furniture.

Cherry

As the name suggests, cherry wood comes from the cherry tree. It means that you will find a rich colour, flexibility, and smoother grain in this wood with excellent flexibility. You can easily mould it into different shapes and curved designs with steaming.

  • Colour: Colours vary from light pinkish brown to medium reddish brown with time.
  • Density: Strong, stiff, moderately hard, and has a medium weight.
  • Grain: Straight and closed grains.
  • Uses: Excellent for flooring, panelling, interior millwork, furniture, musical instruments, turned objects, and cabinetry.

Beech

Beechwood is a durable wood type that is excellent for resisting shock and abrasion. Moreover, the carpenters can easily bend it to create curved objects, making it one of their favourite woods to work on. But it has a few cons as well. You can’t use it in coastal regions since it isn’t ideal for humid conditions.

  • Colour: Creamy-to-pink sapwood while reddish brown heartwood.
  • Density: Heavy and tough.
  • Grain: Straight but with a fine-to-medium uniform texture.
  • Uses: Best for musical instruments, woodenware, food containers, flooring, and chair legs and backs.

Teak

Teak is known as the ‘King of Wood’ because of its hardest, most durable, and most versatile biological structure. Its naturally high oil content makes it ideal for resisting water, rotting, sunlight, snow, frost, and rain. Therefore, you must consider teak to build furniture for outdoor uses and outdoor construction. 

  • Colour: Heartwood is medium brown or golden, which becomes even darker with age.
  • Density: Strong and Heavy.
  • Grain: Straight grains that can be interlocked or wavy.
  • Uses: Furniture, exterior construction, carving, and turnings.

East Indian Rosewood

The rosewood trees grow in tropical environments and are extremely durable once they dry up. Rosewood is one of the toughest woods in the hardwood category.  

  • Colour: Sapwood can be creamy to pink, while the heartwood is pickled to reddish.
  • Density: Heavy and tough.
  • Grain: Straight grains.
  • Uses: Musical instruments, chair legs and backs, woodenware, food containers, etc.
pine softwood bed
red cedar softwood bed

Types of Softwood

The following are the types of softwood.

Pine

Pine is one of the most commonly available softwood types with so many applications in the real world. It’s affordable, durable, and sustainable for woodworkers and project use. There are many pine wood types, so each sometimes has different properties. It’s known as the best wood type for beginner woodworkers.

  • Colour: There are many types of pine, so the colour can vary from one type to another; it can vary from light reddish to yellowish to white.
  • Density: Moderately strong with lightweight material.
  • Grain: Mostly straight.
  • Uses: Used for crafting windows, doors, furniture, panelling, plywood, etc.

Red Cedar

Cedar (Red Cedar in our case) is an excellent, highly aromatic lightweight wood type that can be used for various woodwork. It is remarkable to resist insect attacks and decay. Although it’s not ideal for screw and nail holding, you can easily mould it into curvy shapes.

  • Colour: Sapwood is a whitish or pale yellow, while heartwood is violet-brown or red.
  • Density: Lightweight with a hard texture.
  • Grain: Straight grain with knots.
  • Uses: Outdoor furniture, closet interiors, bows, carvings, pencils, etc.

Redwood

Redwood comes from redwood trees and has a straight grain with a reasonably soft structure. It’s easy to cut and mould and ideal for outdoor projects. You can even use it to build indoor utilities like cabinets, veneers, and tables.

  • Colour: Reddish tint
  • Density: Lightweight with a relatively soft structure.
  • Grain: Straight grain
  • Uses: Build decks, retaining walls, garden borders, cabinets, tables, veneers, etc.

Fir

Fir is an inexpensive softwood type with relatively good strength, adequate stability, and low shrinkage. It’s also elastic, making it easy to mould into different shapes. The fir wood doesn’t have an attractive grain pattern, so it is painted to hide it and give a stunning look.

  • Colour: Fresh heartwood is in yellowish-brown to reddish-yellow colour, quickly turning brown-red to dark-red with time. Sapwood remains yellowish to reddish-white.
  • Density: Fairly hard and medium-weight.
  • Grain: Straight or wavy grains.
  • Uses: Construction lumber, plywood, veneer, etc.

White Spruce

Spruce wood is as soft as soft pine wood with more subtle and straight grain. It’s inappropriate to use for the outdoors since it swells quickly unless it’s treated with a few particular processes.

  • Colour: Red-brown or creamy white to light yellow.
  • Density: Moderately hard
  • Grain: Subtle and straight grains.
  • Uses: Musical instruments like guitars, pianos, string instruments, pulpwood, lumber, crates, millwork, joinery, etc.

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