Wood has been an integral part of furniture design since time immemorial. Even today where the market is afloat with furniture made out of novo-materials like plastic, glass, metals etc., wood remains evergreen. The type of wood used, determines the quality, durability, beauty and strength of the finished product. Different types of woods have different applications in furniture. A broad classification of wood is as follows:
Softwood usually comes from coniferous trees. Conifer trees have needles and produce cones. Unlike its name, softwood is not actually soft. There are some hardwoods which are softer than softwood. Softwood usually has a yellow or reddish tint. Conifer trees grow faster than hardwood trees and thus, softwood is cheaper as compared to hardwood. Softwood is also harvested in tree farms because of this very reason. This ensures that deforestation is minimized, and environmental balance is maintained. Some of the coniferous trees that ensure a continuous supply of softwood are Pine, Cedar and Fir
Pine is usually grown in plantations. Its relatively soft and very easy to work with. It is easy to carve, and stains faster as compared to any other wood. It is usually used in building utility structures, windows and flooring.
Fir is one of the hardest softwoods. It does not stain easily and is more often used for buildings rather than furniture.
Cedar is one of the woods which is actually soft. It has a great aroma. It is generally used in making decks and building exteriors as it is quite durable and not susceptible to rot even in moist environments.
Hardwoods are generally milled from deciduous trees. As mentioned earlier, Hardwoods are not necessarily harder than softwoods. Famous for their unique texture, color and distinct grain pattern, hardwoods are a favorite for furniture making. Most common hardwood trees include teak, oak, ash, mahogany, and walnut.
Burma Teak Tree
Teak is an exotic hardwood native to the Asian rainforests. It takes a very long growing cycle, with the average tree needing 60 years before it reaches maturity to be harvested and hence it comes at a premium price. Teak was originally used most commonly for boat building and is still a favorite amongst nautical crafters and artisans. It is also very popular to use in premium outdoor furniture, decking, and other outdoor applications.
Oak has been cultivated and used in furniture making for over a thousand years. It is one of the best quality woods available for furniture making. Due to its high tannin content, it does not fall prey to fungal attacks. It is very durable and stays put even in moist conditions. Nowadays, it is commonly used in flooring and timber frame buildings.
Ash Wood Veneer
Ash mimics the same strength and characteristics of white oak. The wood takes stain easily and is lightweight. It is one of the most durable varieties and has an extensive history in American furniture making. Its characteristics as a lightweight and shock-resistant wood have made it a favorite for baseball bats, tool handles, and restaurant furniture
Mahogany is one of the best woods for furniture making. It stains easily, has a straight grain and medium texture. However, it is not grown in plantations and hence difficult to come by.
Walnut Veneer Cabinet
Walnut is known for its wonderful grain patterns. It is rich brown in color. It is a slightly expensive wood as it is not grown in sustainable forests and difficult to find in larger quantities for big projects.
As the name suggests, engineered woods are not natural woods. These are manufactured as per the requirement of application and quality. Use of chemical and heat along with waste from sawmills is common in preparing it. Some of the common examples of engineered wood are Plywood, Oriented Strand Board, Medium Density Fiber Board, and Composite Board. Engineered wood has become an important part of furniture making today. Veneers (Thin slices of wood) can also be categorized as engineered wood.
Plywood is an engineered wood product, though it is made with real wood. It is made by adhering multiple layers of veneer together and compressing them. Plywood can come in a variety of different wood finishes, and most plywood has a “good side” and a “rough side”. It is available in a variety of different thicknesses, with quarter-inch, half-inch, and three-quarter inch sizes being the ones you will most likely encounter at home
improvement stores. Most plywood used in construction is made of fir, pine, or spruce.
Hard Density Fibre Board (HDF) is an engineered wood product which is made from highly compressed wood fibers. This board can be made using a wet or dry process, and the process used will determine whether the wood has two “good sides” or only one “good side”. Hardboard has a distinguishable texture and no grain pattern, so it is usually paired with a wood veneer that can be stained. While hardboard is not a first choice for building premium furniture, it can help add support and strength to economically build many furniture pieces, such as the backs of television stands and entertainment centers. It is also often used as a backing for dressers and cabinets, especially since these parts are usually against a wall and will not be visible.
Fiber cement board is made primarily from cement and cellulose fibers. While it is an engineered board, it is not typically classified as “wood” and is not used as a substitute for wood in most applications. Fiber cement board is most frequently used as a substrate for tile flooring and walls.
Medium density fiber board, more commonly known as MDF is another engineered wood product that is similar to HDF, but with a lesser overall density. The application of HDF and MDF vary because of the density. For example, MDF is not a great for woodworking MDF but because of its greater acoustic and insulating properties, can be used for insulation. It can be slightly difficult to work with.