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Wood Selections in Furniture

by Terry Canup

(Portions reprinted with permission from museumfurniture.com)

Different Types of Hard Woods PFBB Furniture Forum

Some examples of common hard woods used in furniture
ACACIA Acacia
            wood used in furniture

Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia) is extremely hard and dense.  It is resistant to rot and very durable, making it ideal for furniture. (Density is 540 kg/m³)

ALDER Alder
            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.
(Density 500-680 kg/m³)
 

ALMOND Almondwood used in furniture manufacturing

Almond wood is closely related to Cherry. It is reddish. The timber is highly prized for high-grade cabinetwork. (Density 700 kg/m³) 

APPLE  WOOD Applewood used in Furniture

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.
(Density 650-850 kg/m³)

BEECH Beechwood used in furniture construction

Beech (Fagus) is a genus of ten species of deciduous trees in the family Fagaceae. It is frequently selected when a piece needs to have a curved shape. It is malleable when used in a steam bending process and also is very workable on a lathe. Used quite often for chair and table legs.
Its grain is straight and fine. There is a reddish tint to the wood. (Density 800 kg/m³)

BIRCH Birch
            used in furniture

Birch wood is fine-grained and pale in color. The wood of yellow birch is heavy, hard and strong with good crushing strength and shock resistance. (Density 670 kg/m³)


BOXWOOD Boxwood
            used in furniture

A whitish-yellow color, without any figure. Used mainly as an inlay or for stringing lines starting in the sixteenth century. (Density is 975
kg/m³)

CEDAR cedar
            used in furniture construction

Cedrus, or cedar, is a genus of coniferous trees in the plant family Pinaceae insect-repellent and light-weight. There is a red tone to the wood. Its native ability to deter insects, makes it ideal for use in lining chest and dresser drawers. This helps to keep cloth eating insects (like silverfish and moths) from destroying stored clothes and blankets. While excellent for deterring moths, it has exhibited no effectiveness in dissuading Mothra. (Density is 380 kg/m³)


CHERRY Cherrywood used in furniture construction

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 is 600-900 kg/m³, moderately hard, stiff and strong, fine, closed grain)


CHESTNUT Chestnut used in furniture

Chestnut exists 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. (Density is 560 kg/m³)


CYPRESS cypruswood usewd in furniture construction

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. (Density is 510 kg/m³)


EBONY Ebony
            used in furniture

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. (Density is up to 1330 kg/m³)

Ebony is so dense that both major political parties in the U.S. have attempted to convince it to run for a spot in Congress.



ELM Elm used
            in furniture

Elm, Ulmus Rubra,  is moderately heavy, hard and stiff with excellent bending and shock resistance.  (Density 680 - 810 kg/m³)


FIR Fir used
            in furniture construction

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 for particle board, or for the manufacture of plywood and rough timber. (Density is 400-500 kg/m³)


HICKORY Hickory used in furniture construction

Hickory is in the genus Carya. Hickory wood is very hard, very stiff, very dense and very shock resistant. (Density 650-900 kg/m³)


HOLLY Holly
            used in furniture

Holly is a white wood type, fine-grained and nearly devoid of figure. It has been used for inlay and marquetry work, starting in the sixteenth century. (Density is 760 kg/m³)

IRONWOOD 
Ironwood
          used in furniture

Ironwood (Olynatesota), a unique species that is a staple for the carving trade Difficult to dry properly, this beautiful and very dense hardwood has a great deal of luster, which gives great depth and color. Colors range from black & brown to warm honey gold with a tinge of red. Used for inlay. (Density up to 900 kg/m³)


KINGWOOD Kingwood
            used in furniture

Kingwood is a 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. (Density is 800 kg/m³)


KOA Koa wood
            in furniture construction

It is an excellent tone wood which produces a rich, warm sound. Supply of Koa is scarce. It only grows in Hawaii. Koa is renowned for its iridescent shimmer and luscious color which ranges from tan to warm gold with brown and black accents. The iridescence in this wood is particularly exceptional on the quarter sawn grain. Workability of Hawaiian Koa is similar to Genuine Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). It has open grain and works well. It has also been called Hawaiian Mahogany. (Density is 800 kg/m³)

LIME Lime
            used in furniture construction


Lime is a white wood type, fine-grained and nearly devoid of figure, used for inlay and marquetry work starting in the sixteenth century. (Density is 560 kg/m³)


MAPLE Maplewood in funiture construction

Some maple wood has a highly decorative wood grain, creamy white to off white sapwood-tinged occasionally with slight red brown heartwood. (Density 600-750 kg/m³, heavy and strong, very resistant to shock and abrasive wear. Grain: closed grain, uniform texture)


MAHOGANY Mahogony in furniture construction

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. (Density is 800 kg/m³)


MANGO Mangowood used in furniture construction

Mango is a fine grain hardwood that has a natural multi-tone pallet. It offers unique character and depth in its variations. Some have said that
the wood can have a kaleidoscope of colors. (Density is 675 kg/m³)

MESQUITE Mesquite wood in furniture construction


Mesquite (from Nahuatl mizquitl) is a leguminous plant of the Prosopis genus found in northern Mexico and southwest US in dry areas. Mesquite wood is hard, allowing it to be used for furniture. (Density is 820
kg/m³)

OAK Oak in
            furniture construction

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.


PAROTA Parota
            wood in furniture construction

Parota wood is known for its bold, striking wood grain, similar to Acacia or Koa wood. But it grows much faster, so its texture is in between redwood and mahogany. 
A very durable wood it is more sustainable than other hardwoods. (Density is 500 kg/m³)

PEACH Peachwood in furniture construction


Peach is a high end fruitwood. Principally used for inlay. The peach tree (Prunus persica) is a species of Prunus. (Density is 700 kg/m³)


PEAR Pearwood
            in furniture construction

Pear is a yellowish-brown wood type. Used for country furniture and for carving. (Density is 610-730 kg/m³)


PINE Pine in
            furniture constuction

Pine is a yellowish wood type, has a relatively low density. Very plentiful. Used for economical furniture, doors, and building construction. (Density is 350-500 kg/m³)


POPLAR poplar
            wood in furniture construction

Poplar is a plentiful and inexpensive. It is a common hardwood and is very light and easy to work. It has an even texture. Color is generally white to brown. Poplar refers to trees in the genus Populus. (Density is 350-500 kg/m³)


ROSEWOOD Rosewood
            in furniture construction

Rosewood is used in solid and veneer form for very high quality furniture and cabinetmaking. It is prized because of it's attractiveness, and scarcity. (Density is 800-900 kg/m³)


RUBBERWOOD Rubberwood in furniture construction


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. There is 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. (Density is 595
kg/m³)


SATINWOOD Satinwood used in furniture


Satinwood can be polished to a high gloss. Satinwood is hard, fine-grained and durable with a satin like sheen, much used in cabinetmaking, especially in marquetry. (Density is 950 kg/m³)


SYCAMORE Sycamore wood used in furniture

Sycamore is 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 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. (Density is 400-600 kg/m³)


TEAK teakwood
            in furniture

Teak is in the Tectona Grandis of the family Verbenaceae. Heavy and dense wood, oily by nature with good carving properties. Used for shipbuilding, outdoor building and furniture. (Density is 980 kg/m³)


TULIPWOOD Tulipwood decorative wood used in 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. (Density is 970
kg/m³)

WALNUT Walnut
            wood used in furniture construction

Walnut (genus Juglans) is tough, medium dense, tight-grained, and polishes to a very smooth finish. The color ranges from creamy white in the sapwood to a dark chocolate color in the heartwood. Because of its color and grain it is a prized furniture and carving wood. (Density is 630 kg/m³)


WILLOW Willow
            Wood for furniture construction

Willow is a white wood type, fine-grained and nearly devoid of figure, used for inlay and marquetry work, starting in the sixteenth century. (Density is 400-600 kg/m³)


ZEBRAWOOD Zebrawood makes beautiful furniture

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. (Density is 790 kg/m³)

Woods
          grouped by type

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For you engineers out there -technical information on Wood density calculations (reprinted from Mendel University Brno)

Density of wood

Density (ρ) is defined as the mass (m) contained in a unit volume (V) of the material, both measured at the same moisture content.

\rho=\frac{m}{V} ;      \rho_{0}=\frac{m_{0}}{V_{0}}  ;             \rho_{k}=\frac{m_{0}}{V_{max}}               (g.cm-3; kg.m-3)

Wood is a hygroscopic material, it has the property to attract and retain moisture. Adsorption of moisture increases weight and volume of wood. Volume of wood increases only bellow the saturation point (about 30 % moisture). Another related term is basic density k) defined as the oven-dry weight (m0) / fully swollen volume (Vmax). In the range of 0 and 25 % moisture content, density may be calculated from the relationship:

\rho_{w}=\rho_{0}\cdot\frac{1+w}{1+0.84\rho_{0}\cdot w}

(kg.m-3)

where

ρw – density at w moisture content

ρ0 – oven-dry density

w – moisture content