Hardwood and softwood are the two classifications of wood, but here’s a little Wood 101 for you: hardwood doesn’t mean it’s more durable or stronger than softwood, it just lets you know what kind of tree the wood comes from. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees, or the ones that drop leaves in autumn. Softwoods come from conifer trees, which have needles that typically don’t fall. Both types are used for fine furniture production and each have specific woods that fall under them with their own characteristics. Read on for a list of popular woods and some characteristics of each.
Ash– A very light colored wood that takes applied stains well and is often used as a substitute for white oak, ash is getting harder and harder to come by and can only be found through larger or specialty lumber yards.
Oak– Coming in the a red or white variety, oak is one of the most popular wood choices for furniture. While it’s strong, it’s easy to work with and oak can be quarter-sawn to increase its lifespan strength.
Birch– Birch is very easy to come by and less expensive than other hardwoods. Despite how readily available birch is, it’s a beautiful wood characterized by a near white to light beige color and is a great choice for fine furniture.
Maple– Tan to light beige in color, maple is such a hard wood that it’s often used for bowling alley floors and for musical instruments. When used for furniture many people choose to stain it to resemble it’s more expensive counterpart, cherry.
Mahogany– Defined by its inherent red tint that has a nice sheen when polished, mahogany is one of the best woods for furniture. Because of its fine grain, mahogany is also widely used in the making of guitars.
Cherry– This reddish brown wood is highly recommended for a piece of furniture that you’d like to withstand the test of time. While cherry is more expensive than oak and maple, it’s easy to work with and finishes well.
Walnut– A rich brown color, walnut is a popular choice for accents on larger pieces of furniture thanks to the moderately expensive price tag associated with it. Good quality can be hard to come by, so if walnut is part of a design for a larger project be sure to order the wood in advance.
Rosewood– One of the most coveted woods thanks to its deep red coloring with black graining, rosewood is often used as a veneer since it’s so expensive. While it is incredibly gorgeous, rosewood is notoriously hard to work with.
Teak– Most well-known for outdoor use, teak is weather-resistant and has a gorgeous golden tint. Teak is rarer than most hardwoods and one of the more expensive options, typically coming in at over $20 per board foot.
Douglas Fir– A reddish brown tinted wood that’s often painted when used for furniture as it stains easily. Fir is incredibly inexpensive, making it a tempting choice, but its quality is not too impressive.
Pine– There are many different species of pine, but most are highly used as timber and wood pulp. Because it’s easy to work with and relatively soft, pine is a popular choice for carved furniture, but be aware of where it comes from as home centers offer poor quality compared to lumberyards.
Cedar– Used mainly for decks and exteriors, cedar is an orangey red wood that’s great for outdoor use since it resists rotting. Cedar is readily available and moderately priced.
Redwood– Native to California, this relatively soft wood has a straight grain and, as the name suggests, a red tint. Redwood is relatively easy to work with when the grain is not wavy.
*ordered from least to most expensive per board foot