Species: the 12 most popular woods

Ash (Fraxinus)
wood Heavy, stiff, strong, hard. Good bending properties and shock resistance, lower decay resistance. Kiln dries well, retains shape. Nails and screws moderately well.

Grain & Color: Softly shaded straight open grain. White dots or lines in darker zones. Light brown, tan, off white color - sands smooth, finishes well.

Uses: Furniture - especially bent wood chairs. Paneling, cabinets, sporting goods (bats, oars, water skis). Tool handles (rakes, hoes, shovels, etc.)


Basswood (Tillia)
wood Light, soft, weak. Stable after seasoning. Lower nail holding property, but resists splitting. Easily worked, glues and holds paint well.

Grain & Color: Favored by wood carvers as it is easy to work and has clear, open, even grain pattern. Heartwood, light reddish brown; sapwood, white.

Uses: Core stock for high grade veneer panels for furniture, interior trim (doors, sashes, etc.) Luggage, piano keys, honey boxes, crates, pulpwood.


Beech (Fagus Grandifolia)
wood Heavy, strong, shock resistant, readily bent under steam. Holds nails well, has tendency to split. Heavier than most hardwoods, it requires care in kiln drying and working.

Grain & Color: Feathery, diffuse rays. Porous, interlocking grain. Heartwood, golden brown; sapwood, nearly white.

Uses: Furniture - especially unfinished, bent stock, chair backs and rungs. Paneling, flooring, toys, novelties, food containers, boxes, handles, millwork, ties, cooperage, pulpwood.


Birch (Betula)
wood Hard, heavy, strong, high shock resistance.

Grain & Color: Diffuse, porous, close indistinct grain pattern. Heartwood, golden brown; sapwood, light tan or off-white.

Uses: Furniture, paneling, interior trim, toys, novelties, woodwork, cabinets.


Cherry (Prunus Serotina)
wood Stiff, strong, stable, resistant to shock. Moderately hard and heavy. Bends and glues well. Great stability makes it popular for carpentry levels, pattern making and backing for print plates.

Grain & Color: Long prized by wood workers for its vibrant swirling grain character and light to red-brown color, resulting in rich finishes. Diffuse, porous. Heartwood, light to dark red; sapwood, white.

Uses: Fine furniture, fine veneer, interior trim, paneling, cabinets, instrument cases.


Hickory (Carya)
wood Very hard, very heavy, very strong. Appalachian Hickory easier to work than that from other regions.

Grain & Color: Fine grain, uniform texture. Sometimes bird pecks lend character and interest. Sands, finishes well.

Uses: Furniture, handles, cabinetry, sporting goods (gymnastic parallel bars, skis).


Hard Maple or Sugar Maple (Acer Saccharum)
wood Heavy, strong, stiff, high resistance to shock and abrasive wear. Holds nails well. Glues, stains, turns, carves and polishes well.

Grain & Color: Straight grained, sometimes has curly, wavy, or "bird's eye" pattern. Diffuse, porous, springwood readily evident. Heartwood, brown to light tan; sapwood, white. Sands and finishes well.

Uses: Furniture (especially Early American styles), interior trim, millwork, handles, paneling, cabinets, woodenwear, toys, bowling pins, shoe heels, flooring (truck beds, ballrooms, skating rinks, bowling alleys, textile plants and other industrial floors).


Soft Maple or Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)
wood Strong, stiff, staple. Softer, lighter in weight. Readily worked, holds nails well. Glues, finishes satisfactorily.

Grain & Color: Indistinct grain pattern. Heartwood, gray; sapwood, white.

Uses: Furniture, veneers, unfinished furniture, interior finishing, cabinets, novelties, boxes, crates, ties, pulpwood. Distilled to make acetic acid and wood alcohol.


Red Oak (Quercus Rubra)
wood Very heavy, hard and stiff. High wear and shock resistance. Ring porous - one can blow through wood endwise. Pores grow smaller from spring to summer wood.

Grain & Color: Robust grain pattern and texture, interesting knots and character marks in some cases. Reddish brown to golden tan and white in color. Sands and finishes well.

Uses: Fine furniture, unfinished furniture, flooring, paneling, interior trim, cabinets, truck bodies and floors. Extremely porous, it is not suitable for tight cooperage. Excellent for crossties, mine timbers, posts.


White Oak (Quercus Alba)
wood Very heavy, hard and strong. Ring porous. Abrupt variation in pore size from springwood to distinctly smaller in summerwood. Extra care required in seasoning.

Grain & Color: Vigorous grain design and texture. Heartwood decay resistant and impervious to liquids making it the only wood used for tight cooperage. Golden brown to tan and white in color.

Uses: Fine furniture, unfinished furniture, flooring, subflooring, interior trim, cabinets, handles, boxes, farm implements, boats, ships, barrels, kegs, casks.


Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron Tulipifera)
wood Diffuse, porous, lightweight. Moderately stiff, relatively stable, easily worked.

Grain & Color: Open clear grain texture. Heartwood, greenish yellow; sapwood, white. Takes and hold paints and stains better than any other wood. Especially suitable for stained interior wood trim and furniture.

Uses: Furniture, veneer, cores, paneling, cabinets, pattern stock, weatherboard, siding, interior trim (window sashes, door frames, woodwork, molding).


Walnut (Juglans Nigra)
wood Heavy, hard, strong, stiff, stable and has good shock resistance. Easily worked with hand or machine tools, readily carved, turned, glued and polished.

Grain & Color: Extremely handsome grain pattern, sand and finishes beautifully. Takes and holds paints and stains very well. Heartwood, deep chocolate brown, sometimes with purplish streaks; sapwood, white to light tan.

Uses: High quality furniture, fine veneers, custom cabinets and paneling. Gunstocks, interior trim, special flooring, woodwork.


Sources: Lessons in Appalachian Forestry, Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers, Inc., 1997; Your Wood Fact Book, Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers, Inc.


Subject Area: Hardwood Lumber



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