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Wood Selections in Furniture

by Terry Canup

(Portions reprinted with permission from

Different Types of Hard Woods PFBB Furniture Forum

Some examples of common hard woods used in furniture

Alder is the common name of a genus of flowering plants (Alnus) belonging to the birch family (Family Betulaceae). Alder is appreciated for its bright tone, and has been adopted by many electric guitar manufacturers.Works very well with both hand and machine tools.


Almond wood is reddish. The timber is highly prized for high-grade cabinetwork,,


Apple wood (Malus sylvestris, Malus pumila) ranges in color from yellow to pink to orange. It usually has an irregular grain, which gives it a very interesting patterns for furniture, as inlays and for marquetry designs.


Beech (Fagus) is a genus of ten species of deciduous trees in the family Fagaceae


Birch wood is fine-grained and pale in colour. The wood of yellow birch is heavy, hard and strong with good crushing strength and shock resistance.
density 0.67


A whitish-yellow color, without any figure. Used mainly as an inlay or for stringing lines from the sixteenth century.


Cedrus or cedar, a genus of coniferous trees in the plant family Pinaceae insect-repellent and light-weight.


The heartwood of cherry varies from rich red to reddish brown and will darken with age and on exposure to light. In contrast, the sapwood is creamy white. The wood has a fine uniform, straight grain, satiny, smooth texture, and may naturally contain brown pith flecks and small gum pockets.
family Rosaceae, genus Prunus,
Density 600 kg/m3, moderately hard, stiff and strong, fine, closed grain


Chestnut exist in a wide variety of reddish brown colors.
Chestnut (Castanea), some species called chinkapin or chinquapin, is a genus of eight or nine species of deciduous trees and shrubs in the beech family Fagaceae
It seasons well and is easy to work with tools but splits easily.


Cypress heartwood is extremely decay and insect resistant due to the naturally occurring preservative known as cypressine.
Cypress is the name applied to many plants in the cypress family Cupressaceae, which is a conifer of northern temperate regions
It is an ideal choice for house construction, docks, beams, decks, flooring, paneling and siding.


Ebony is very strong, hard, and dense with irregular grain and fine texture. There is a huge variation in this wood as to how much light color there is.


Elm, Ulmus Rubra,  is moderately heavy, hard and stiff with excellent bending and shock resistance.  
density 0.68 - 0.81


Firs (Abies) are a genus of 48–55 species of evergreen conifers in the family Pinaceae. Firs are most closely related to the cedars (Cedrus); Douglas-firs are not true firs, being of the genus Pseudotsuga
The wood of most firs is considered unsuitable for general timber use, and is often used as pulp or for the manufacture of plywood and rough timber


Trees in the genus Carya Hickory wood is very hard, very stiff, very dense and very shock resistant.


White wood type, fine-grained and nearly devoid of figureused, used for inlay and marquetry work from sixteenth century


Kingwood: Brazilian wood of a rich violet-brown shading into black and showing distinct streaky markings. The name "kingwood" derives from the fact that a couple of hundred years ago, this was the favored wood of French kings for their furniture.


White wood type, fine-grained and nearly devoid of figureused, used for inlay and marquetry work from sixteenth century


Some maple wood has a highly decorative wood grain, creamy white to off white sapwood-tinged occasionally with slight red brown heartwood
Density 600 kg/m3, heavy and strong, very resistant to shock and abrasive wear
Grain: closed grain, uniform texture.


Mahogany wood has a fine grain with interlocking parallel runs at times (ribbon) the color is
 blood red to reddish brown, sometimes lighter in color with pale red to grayish tinge .


Mesquite (from Nahuatl mizquitl) is a leguminous plant of the Prosopis genus found in northern Mexico and south US in dry areas.
Mesquite wood is hard, allowing it to be used for furniture.


Oak(Quercus) wood has a density of about 750 kg/m³, great strength and hardness, and is very resistant to insect and fungal attack because of its high tannin content. It also has very attractive grain markings.


The peach tree (Prunus persica) is a species of Prunus.


Yellowish-brown wood type. Used for country furniture and for carving


Yellowish wood type. Has a relatively low density. Very plentiful. Used for economical furniture, doors, and building construction


This plentiful and inexpensive common hardwood is very light and easy to work, with an even texture.
Color is generally white to brown
Poplar refers to trees in the genus Populus.


Rosewood is used in solid and veneer form for very high quality furniture and cabinetmaking because of it's attractiveness.


Rubberwood is a hardwood belonging to the Euphorbiaceae family. Rubberwood is one of the more durable lumbers used in the manufacturing of furniture. It has a dense grain character that is easily controlled in the kiln drying process and very little shrinkage making it one of the more stable construction materials. Like maple, rubberwood is a sap producing species. In the case of maple, it is sap; in the case of rubberwood, it is latex. Rubberwood produces all the latex used in the world for all rubber based products.


Satinwood can be polished to a high gloss. Satinwood is hard, fine-grained and durable with a satinlike sheen, much used in cabinetmaking, especially in marquetry.


White with fleck. Used from the late seventeenth century as a veneer. Often found on sides or banding of marquetry furniture of the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. There are two woods that are commonly called sycamore: 1. Platanus occidentalis i has rays. It is what we mean in the USA when we say "sycamore" 2. Acer pseudoplatanus It does NOT have the ray flakes associated with American sycamore.


Tectona Grandis of the family Verbenaceae Heavy and dense wood, oily nature with good carving properties used for shipbuilding, out-door building and furniture


Tulipwood is the yellowish greenish wood yielded from the tuliptree
The wood is very light, but very strong. It is often used as a low-cost alternative to walnut and cherry.
Most commonly, Tulipwood is the yellowish greenish wood yielded from the tuliptree.
Brazilian tulipwood is a different species. A classic high-quality wood, it is very dense with a lovely figure. It is used for inlays in furniture and for small turned items.


Walnut (genus Juglans)is tough, medium dense, tight-grained and polishes to a very smooth finish. The colour ranges from creamy white in the sapwood to a dark chocolate colour in the heartwood. Because of its colour and grain it is a prized furniture and carving wood.


White wood type, fine-grained and nearly devoid of figureused, used for inlay and marquetry work from sixteenth century


Zebrawood is a yellow brown heartwood, light sapwood with a dark contrasting grain which gives this wood its Zebra-like appearance. Easy to work with both hand and machine tools, can be sanded pretty easily. The color does not darken over time.

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