Texas Antique Mall

11 Common Woods Used in Furniture

The following is some basic information on a few of the more 'common' woods you are likely to see in the manufacture of antique furniture . . . and reproductions. In some cases the wood may have variations such as birds-eye maple and knotty pine. Most of the time the more expensive woods are used as veneers or for decorations only.

Wood is defined by being either soft or hard. An old 'rule of thumb' was that soft wood trees have cones while hard wood trees have leaves. However, as with everything you're likely to find exceptions. Nonetheless, we've broken our wood into these two categories. We've also included the general areas where a particular wood may be found, however, that is not to say those are the only places it may be found. If you don't see your wood in the list or if you would like more information on other furniture woods used, we recommend the following guides and references available on Amazon.

Pine (Northern Hemisphere) - used for furniture. It has a straight grain and is white or pale yellow in color. It is lightweight and resistant to shrinking and swelling. Knotty pine is used for decorative furniture or cabinets. Many grain painted pieces of furniture use pine. [1]Pine

Cedar (Southern US, Central & South America) - knotty softwood that is red-brown in color with light streaks. It is know for its aromatic and moth repellent qualities making it popular for chests, boxes and lining drawers. [2]Cedary
Beech (Eastern US) - similar to maple, beech is hard, strong and heavy. It has reddish-brown heart wood with light sapwood. Most often used for frames, variety of bent items. [3] Beech
Ebony (India, Sri Lanka, Africa, Indonesia) - dense black wood with a fine texture that results in a very smooth finish when polished. Used for ornamental wood items. [4] Ebony

Mahogany (Central American, Africa, Hondurus, South America) - there are many different grades and types sold under the umbrella of 'mahogany'. Real mahogany is reddish-brown in color and may show disruptions to the poorly defined rings in the designs of stripes, ribbons, rope, ripples, etc. [5]

Three types you generally hear of are:
  1. Caribbean - hardest, strongest and best quality
  2. African - slightly lesser quality
  3. Phillippine - not mahogany but similar in color.

Mahogany is typically found in Georgian, Empire and Federal reproduction furniture as well as Victorian to Contemporary.
Maple (North American, Asia, Europe, Africa) - two well known species are hard rock maple, and sugar maple. The birds-eye maple you hear about is a veneer. Solid maple is very hard wood with a fine texture and even grain. Typically found in American colonial furniture. It is sometimes stained to imitate cherry wood. [6] Maple
Cherry (Eastern US) - cherry is moderately hard, close grain, light to red-brown in color, resists warping and is easy to carve and polish.

Both solid cherry and cherry veneers are used in many different styles of furniture including 18th century Colonial and French Provincial types.
Oak (US) - the most widely used wood for furniture it comes in two basic varieties - white and red. It is known for being heavy and strong with a distinctive grain. Often used for American and English country styles as well as for Gothic and William & Mary reproductions. [7] Oak
Rosewood (Tropical America, SE Asia, Madagascar) - is very hard with a dark-reddish brown color. Its close grain results in a high polish in spite of the fact that it is hard to work with. Often used for musical instruments, piano cases, tool handles, art projects and veneers. [8] Rosewood
Teak (SE Asia) - comes in yellow to dark brown colors. Teak is heavy, strong and durable with a straight grain. Due to its value, often used only as veneer. However, Scandinavian modern, and oriental furniture styles are often constructed of teak. [9] Teak
Walnut - (American, Europe, Asia) is one of the most popular woods due to its properties of being strong, hard and durable without the weight (of oak). Color ranges from light to dark chocolate brown with a straight. Walnut veneer is often obtained from the lower trunk section near the roots where a wavy grain is present including burls, mottles, crotches and curls. Note that the European walnut is lighter in color and has a finer grain that the American black walnut. Walnut
To see our picks for reference guide on all types of wood, visit Amazon.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedar
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beech
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebony
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahogany
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maple
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oak
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosewood
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teak

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