Wood is extensively used in making furniture around the world. Wood can be molded in any shape or size and it offers durability and reliability. There are many types of wood; each type has its distinct advantages and disadvantages and is used in furniture-making according to its particular features.
By the end of this article, you will know about all the popular wood types and their use in crafting furniture. So let us get started on it;
Kinds of wood for furniture
The different types of wood used in furniture-making can be divided into three main categories;
Let’s take a look at each type briefly;
Hardwood, as the name implies is generally solid. But that is not always the case. There is softer hardwood too like Poplar and Basswood.
Hardwood generally grows on trees that have slow growth. They also do not produce needles and cones. They just grow leaves and seeds. They have thick foliage and grow tall. Scientifically they are known as angiosperms.
Hardwood trees are generally more expensive thanks to their sturdy reputation and slow growth. They are also known for their beautiful and distinct wood patterns.
Some common examples of hardwood trees are oak, maple, teak, walnut, cherry, mahogany, ash, hickory, birch, etc.
The name softwood is a misnomer. It does not mean at all that this is a softwood that is easily broken or folded. Some softwood may be harder than your typical hardwood. The name was so given just to give it a separate distinction from hardwood.
Softwood is generally taken from trees that grow cones and needles. Botanically they are known as gymnosperms. They grow faster and are usually evergreen.
Softwood is obtained from trees like pine, fir, spruce, cedar, redwood, etc.
Softwood is used in making windows, door frames, the exterior of the house, and of course in making furniture too.
Manufactured wood is also called engineered or man-made wood. Manufactured wood is not 100 percent organic. It is made by mixing wood with other materials. It is composite wood.
Sawdust and waste wood from sawmills are popular materials used in the manufacture of this wood. These materials are treated with chemicals, heat, etc. to produce manufactured wood. It retains some of the good qualities of wood while reducing the overall cost.
Plywood, fiberboard, composite board, and oriental strand board are some examples of manufactured woods.
There are many characteristics of wood, for example, taste, luster, odor, weight, hardness, grain, color, texture, weight, etc. But here we will talk about the three most important characteristics as follows;
Hardness: It is one of the defining characteristics of wood. Wood is supposed to be hard. The hardness is checked by pressing it with a hand, especially a thumbnail.
Grain: A wood grain can imply so many things. It can mean the texture of the wood. Whether it be hard, fine, smooth, rough, grainy, etc. It can also mean the design of the wood elements like it is wavy, spiral, straight, curvy, etc. Grain can also mean the natural patterns formed on the wood’s surface. It is usually either radial or tangential.
Color: The color of the wood depends on the tree species that it came from. Discoloration in wood may mean some diseases or other impurities of the wood. A freshly cut wood would have a different color than an aged piece of wood this is because wood changes colors with time. Experts judge the quality of the wood by looking at its color.
Different types of wood furniture materials
We had earlier discussed three main types of wood; hardwood or solid wood, softwood, and manufactured wood. Let us explore them further and see which varieties of wood fall under hardwood, softwood, etc. What are they good for and their advantages and disadvantages? We will start with the solid wood first.
Solid wood furniture
Solid wood is acquired from the following trees for making furniture:
Oak is a very popular and durable type of wood. It comes in two varieties; red and white oak. Of the two white is a harder variety.
What wooden furniture can oak make?
Oak can make several types of furniture. It is ideal for both vintage and modern types of furniture. Its desks are very popular. It is also very good for kitchen furniture as it can withstand harsh temperatures. Due to its hardness, it is also used for flooring purposes.
Can be easily molded
Easy to paint and stain
Prone to swelling and shrinkage
Requires climate acclimatization
Walnut is another hardwood variety that is used for many purposes. It has a rich to dark brown appearance. Sometimes low-quality wood is also given a finish to give it a walnut wood-like appearance.
What wooden furniture can walnut make?
Walnut is easy to work with. So it is used for carvings and is ideal for ornate furniture. Walnut cabinets are also very popular because of their hardness and durability.
Easy to carve and chisel
Hard and durable
Can be shaped in different forms
Easy to polish and paint
Difficult to source and often requires booking in advance
Cherry is another good quality hardwood. It is acquired from the Cherry fruit tree. It has a pinkish color at the beginning that darkens to red with time. This quality makes it very dear among furniture lovers.
What wooden furniture can cherry make?
Cherry is strong wood and is also flexible. With proper care, its furniture can last for generations. It is ideal for making antique furniture, doors, chairs, and any piece of specialized furniture that you want to keep for longevity.
It is a very strong and long-lasting wood.
It is resistant to scratches and dents.
Has a rich ebony-like appearance.
It is easy to work with.
Can be molded into different shapes.
It is costly.
It is available in specialty stores only.
Maple is an extremely popular choice for furniture making. It is found in two varieties of hard and soft maple. It has a pale brown color with natural spirals and swirls in its grain.
What wooden furniture can maple make?
Maple can make almost any type of furniture. But due to its hardness, it is popular in making dining sets, desks, and other heavyset furniture. It also makes for a good flooring option.
It is affordable compared to other hardwood varieties.
It is resistant to moisture.
It ages very well
It does not decay easily.
It is easier to paint and polish
Maple is heavier in weight so it is difficult to carry.
Hard maple is difficult to cut and work with.
Mahogany is almost an exotic form of hardwood. It is native to Mexico, Central, and South America. Its color ranges from pinkish to deep red. It ages well and looks more beautiful with the passing of time. It is sturdy and durable and has a long life.
What wooden furniture can mahogany make?
Mahogany is popular with furniture that requires intricate designs and carvings. It can also be used to make upright furniture like office chairs, desks, etc.
It is considered a soft hardwood and is very easy to work with.
It is resistant to rot.
You can use it to make just about anything.
Long-lasting and durable
Thanks to its smooth texture, it requires one or two coats of paint or polish.
Due to its exotic nature, it is difficult to find
It also encourages deforestation as it is not grown in sustainable forests
It is costly.
Hickory is a very solid type of hardwood. Its color range from tan to reddish-brown. It has a straight and coarse grain and a sturdy character.
What wooden furniture can Hickory make?
Hickory is good for solid pieces of furniture like cabinetry, large desks, dining tables, etc. It takes paint easily so you can use it for decorative furniture as well.
Hardness and durability.
Not that difficult to find
Makes strong and long-lasting furniture items
It has a dry character and tends to split. Care has to be taken while storing and cutting it.
Due to its hardness, it is difficult to cut through and may require specialized tools and machines for the job.
Beech is another popular hardwood used in furniture-making. It has a light, cream-toned color with a yellow tint to it. It has a grainy pattern that is usually straight and tight.
What wooden furniture can Beech make?
Beech is used mainly to make interior furniture like chairs, sofas, etc. It is flexible so any furniture that requires curves can be produced using beech wood.
It is affordable.
It is easy to bend and mold.
Easy to paint and polish too.
It is not suitable for places with high humidity and moisture in the air.
May swell or shrink
Birch is native to North America and is an easily found hardwood. It has a golden-brownish color. Some breeds are white as well. The grain is smooth and straight and it is regarded highly for its strength.
What wooden furniture can birch make?
Birch has a beautiful natural color so it is used in modern, minimalist, and simplistic furniture designs. Any furniture design that requires a detailed design outlook can be made with birch wood.
Abundant and easy availability.
Easy to work with
Difficult to stain
Teak is native to Asian forests and is also a very strong variety of solid wood. It has a golden-brown color and a somewhat oily texture. Its tree is very slow-growing. It takes almost 60 years before it is ready to harvest organically. Now more sustainable forestry practices are in place but it is still a slow-growing tree.
What wooden furniture can teak make?
Teak is ideal for outdoor furniture because it is very hard and able to withstand weather adversities.
Very durable wood
Hard to source
Difficult to work with due to its hardness
Oily texture may be off-putting for some people
People with allergy-prone or sensitive health may develop allergies from it. The use of masks and gloves is also recommended while working with it.
Ash is also a popular solid wood. It is pale brown to white in appearance with a straight grain. Recently it got attacked by a pest that destroyed its trees. This has affected its availability negatively.
What wooden furniture can ash make?
Ash is a strong yet flexible type of hardwood. You can easily bend it so any type of furniture that has a curvy design can be produced using ash.
Easy to work with
Strong, hard, yet flexible
Affordable alternative to white oak
Easy to stain
Not easily available
The last in our list of solid woods is Elmwood. Its color ranges from light to dark brown with traces of red. It has a distinct grain. It also got destroyed by a recent pest attack impacting its supply.
What wooden furniture can Elmwood make?
Elmwood is easy to steam-bent so it is ideal for supportive furniture parts. This includes arms, legs, chair backs, etc.
Strong yet flexible
Easy to stain and finishes well
Easy to hold together with glue etc.
Common softwoods used in wooden furniture
We will now discuss some of the common softwood varieties that are used in furniture.
Pine is probably the most popular type of softwood available for furniture making. It has many different species. The color ranges from white to pale yellow to brown. It is lightweight wood with a straight grain.
What wooden furniture can pine to make?
Pine can make almost any type of wooden furniture that you can use indoors. It is suited more for indoor furniture.
Easy to stain and paint
Lightweight, so easy to carry
Strong yet flexible
It has a dry disposition so it tends to break off
Outdoor use may require special treatment
Spruce is another popular form of lightwood. It has a pale almost white color. It has a straight grain with hints of streaks.
What wooden furniture can spruce make?
Spruce is easy to work with and you can make pretty much any kind of furniture from it. But it is suitable for indoor use only as it is vulnerable to weather changes.
Not weather-resistant so may shrink or swell in a hot climate
Cedar is an aromatic lightwood variety. It is available in many different types with colors ranging from red to light brown to even white. Cedar has a distinct grain that sets it apart from other woods. It has a soft character even for a softwood.
What wooden furniture can cedar make?
Cedar can absorb heat and adverse weather. Therefore, it is used in making garden furniture, patio furniture, decking, fencing, etc. Its unique smell works as a natural bug-repellent so it is also used to make closets, storage cabinets, chests, etc.
Easy to work with
Cannot be stained, only painted or finished
The smell and oil texture may require precautionary measures when working with it
Slightly more expensive than other softwood varieties
Fir is another popular variety of softwood. It is also called Douglas Fir. It has a reddish-brown color and a straight grain.
What wooden furniture can fir make?
Fir is mostly used outside in the exterior of buildings but it is also used for making some furniture too. A common type of furniture like a chair, desk, etc. can be easily made with fir.
Not ideal for staining. Good for pain jobs only.
Redwood or California redwood has a soft character and a straight grain. As the name suggests it is red and its tree grows very tall.
What wooden furniture can redwood make?
Redwood is a soft variety and it also decays slowly. It is mostly used in outside building projects. In furniture, you can see them in outdoor furniture, decking, etc. It is also used to make tables and cabinets.
Flexible and soft
A little too soft
The price is somewhat high
Requires use of high-quality and expensive stainless steel fasteners
Manufactured wood types
Let’s now talk about the manufactured wood types and see what are they good at.
It is also known as chipboard. The main ingredient in its production is wood chips-hence the name chipboard. These chips are compressed and bound together using glue to form these boards. It has no grain direction.
What wooden furniture can particleboard make?
Particleboards are used in the construction of closets, drawers, cabinets, etc. They are also used in making tables.
Eco-friendly as it is made from waste products
Easy to paint, polish, stain, etc.
Vulnerable to moisture and humidity
Not durable and cannot hold heavy loads
Plywood is probably the most popular type of manufactured wood. It is made by combining 3-4 thin layers of lumber with an adhesive and compressing them to form the board. Plywood can be made with several thickness options from quarter-inches to three-quarters of an inch. Plywood has a rough and smooth side.
What wooden furniture can plywood make?
You can use plywood to make cabinets, drawers, sofa frames, tables, etc.
Stronger than particleboard
Easy to work with
You can give any type of finish to it
Able to absorb impacts
Expensive than particleboard
Water may damage it
Edges of a plywood board need to be covered
Longer pieces of plywood may bend or droop
May need reinforcements for increasing its strength
MDF or medium-density fiberboard
MDF is formed by combining residues of different softwood and hardwood, mixing them with an adhesive, and pressing and treating them with heat and chemicals to form the board. It is a very durable type of manufactured wood.
What wooden furniture can an MDF make?
You can use MDF to make lightweight beds, tables, closets, shelves, etc.
Consistent and smooth texture
Easy to cut
Perfect for paint jobs
Prone to swelling as it absorbs water
It is heavy because it is dense
Cannot be stained
The smooth surface is not good to hold screws etc.
The volatile organic compounds contained in it require special handling.
Blackwood is a kind of plywood. It is made with different layers of lumber with softwood strips at the edges. These layers and strips are joined together using an adhesive.
What wooden furniture can blackwood make?
Blackwoods are used to make bookshelves, tables, beds, benches, settees, etc.
Easy to work with
Able to withstand shocks and impacts
Easy to paint, polish, varnish, etc.
Lightweight so easy to transport
Water and humidity resistant
Can hold screws, nails, etc.
Not very durable and long-lasting
Tends to crack
Prone to pest attacks
May depreciate quickly
Solid wood vs veneer
A veneer is thin slices of wood taken from a tree trunk or wooden blocks.
Solid wood on the other hand is a hundred percent organic block of wood. Many people mistakenly think that veneer is cheap or inferior in quality. In reality, neither is true.
A veneer is used extensively to produce some very fine-quality pieces of furniture that are both expensive and durable. What matters is what type of wood veneer is being taken.
Both types have their in-built advantages and disadvantages. Solid wood furniture is more durable, requires less maintenance, and is more solid. A veneer is easier to work with, can be used to create more designs, is eco-friendly too, and can be used with plywood, particleboards, etc. to create the wooden effect.
Buying either is a subjective decision better left to the whims and preferences of the customer.
Types of wooden furniture finish
Wooden furniture finishes help the furniture retain a glossy and lustrous look. It also protects the furniture from wear and tear. The popular types of wooden furniture finishes are;
Paint is commonly used to coat just about anything. You can also use paints on your wooden furniture. Although it is better you use only those paints (wood primer) that are recommended for this job.
Also, while standing do not go very hard on the furniture especially if it is a veneer that you are sanding.
The varnish is a very popular finish for furniture. It is mainly an oil-based substance but resin and solvents are also added to it. Varnish gives the furniture a glossy look. It protects them against UV rays and excessive heat. If you do not want a glossy look you can mix varnish with other substances to achieve your desired look. Varnish takes time to dry and gives protection to your furniture.
A dye is used to change the color of the wooden surface completely or marginally. Sometimes the same color is used to enhance the existing color. A dye is both waters and oil-based. You have to mix the dye with other solvents, alcohol, or mineral spirit before applying. Dye does not affect the natural grain of the wood. A dye can be easily applied using a sponge, brush, spray gun, etc.
Shellac is a wax obtained from an insect. It is mixed with alcohol and other solvents to use as a wood finish. It is effective in controlling the decay of the wood but water can adversely affect shellac. It quickly dries up and is easy to apply to leave your furniture with a shiny look.
Oil finish does the same function in wooden furniture that a lotion or cream does to our skin during the cold season. The natural oils of wood dry up with time and the oil finish makes up for that. It moisturizes the wood and revives its natural sheen. Oil can be both drying and non-drying types. You can choose either depending on what treatment you want for your furniture.
Lacquer is a very popular type of wood finish. It dries up instantly and leaves your furniture shiny as new. It has a very thin profile and seeps beneath the wood to give it a lustrous look and improve its grain. Lacquer can get scratched off the surface especially when the furniture gets wet.
A coat of resin would bring back the ravishing look of your wooden furniture. It is very simple to apply and use. It also takes care of the bubbles that get formed on the wooden furniture.
Wax is made from animal, plant, and mineral sources. It is available in solid, liquid, and stick forms. It is not difficult to use but you might have to apply it more than once to achieve that perfect look. It is also a temporary fix and may come off sooner than you might think it would. These qualities do not make it a popular choice for wood finish.
Whitewash is usually meant for raw wood. But you can use it on furniture too. It gives a white look without hiding the natural wood grain. Often woodworkers mix white paint with a lot of water to whitewash wood. The lime and calcium carbonate paint is also very popular for this purpose.
Q: What wood is best for furniture?
A: The answer to this question would depend on several factors. The most important factor is what type of furniture you want to make and where would it be used. Depending on the functionality, budget, design, form, etc. the choice of wood would be finalized.
Q: How to identify types of wood furniture?
A: It is difficult to judge the type of wood used in a ready-to-use piece of furniture. The wood finish, color, etc. can be manipulated to achieve any type of look for wooden furniture. Still, you may check the wood grain, color (if it’s kept natural) hardness, texture, smell, etc. to identify the kind of wood used in the furniture.
Q: What are some cheap types of wood for furniture?
A: Pine, spruce, and fir are some of the cheapest types of wood for furniture.
Q: What is the best wood for making chairs?
A: Ash, mahogany, teak, walnut, poplar, beech, cherry, birch, maple, cedar, pine, and redwood are perfectly ideal for making chairs.
Q: What is the best wood for making tables?
A: Cherry, walnut, hickory, and pinewood is some of the best woods available for making tables.
Q: What is the strongest wood for furniture?
A: Any hardwood can be up for this challenge. You can pick from oak, walnut, maple, cherry, mahogany, etc. The level of craftsmanship also makes the wood strong, stable, and durable.
Q: What is the best kind of wood for use in the bedroom?
A: You can use any hardwood or softwood variety for this. But the main thing is it should not have any aroma associated with it as this might disturb your senses and sleep.
Q: What is the best wood for tabletops?
A: Oak is best for tabletops if you have a good budget, otherwise go for ash.
Q: What is the best wood for making a coffee table?
A: If you are using softwood go for pine. In the case of hardwood, oak is the best choice.
Q: What is the best wood for making a dining table?
A: Oak is hands down the best choice for making dining tables.
Q: What is the best wood for making a sofa?
A: Hardwood would be best for a sofa. So, you can choose from oak, ash, walnut, maple, etc.
Q: What is the best wood for making desks?
A: Cherry wood, rosewood, maple, walnut, cedar, and elm all would be great for making a desk.
Q: What is the best wood for making a wood dresser?
A: A wood dresser would require heavy wood so any variety of hardwood like oak, maple, and beech would be fine for it.
Q: What is the best wood for making furniture legs?
A: Go for any variety of hardwood as you would need strength to hold the weight of the object.
Q: What is the best wood for making outdoor furniture?
A: Teak, oak, and cedar are good choices of wood for outdoor furniture.
That is all about wood, its different kinds, and other details. If you think you cannot handle all this information and would require professional help to source the right wood for your furniture in China.
then look no further than huntersourcing. It is a professional organization that will find the best timber for your woodworking jobs at the best available price.