Reclaimed Wood Furniture - Wood Types and Uses July 30 2013, 0 Comments

Each species of wood shares common characteristics, but the wonderful thing about wood is that every single piece that is harvested is totally unique!  Just like snowflakes, no two pieces will be exactly alike.  The more you know about the unique qualities of each wood species, the more you will be able to appreciate its beauty and potential!  This fact holds true whether or not we are talking about reclaimed wood or wood that has just been purchased from the lumberyard.

I am going to give you the most common uses and advantages of some of the more popular woods.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a jumping off point.  There are some really fascinating and rare species of wood in this world.  The subject is definitely worth delving deeper into!

Wood Classifications:

Hardwood – these woods come from trees that are leaf bearing.

Softwood – these woods come from trees that are cone bearing.

Wood Grades:

Select Lumber – one would use select lumber when the finishing and appearance of the wood is important to the project – such as furniture building.  The scale is for measuring the physical appearance of the wood and ranges from B (wood that has very little imperfection) to D (wood blemishes that are obvious).

Common Lumber – this grade of lumber is generally used in construction where it is not necessarily visible when the project is complete, such as the shell of a house, or when the project is to be painted, perhaps a door.

The scale of common lumber ranges from 1 (being the best) to 5 (being the most obviously blemished).

Hardwood Varieties:


Properties: light colored and extremely strong variety of hard wood.  It has a course texture and prominent grain due to it growth pattern.  There are over 60 varieties grown in the U.S.

Uses:  This wood is very popular in furniture production and flooring.


Properties:  reddish brown in color and extremely strong, this wood comes mainly from South and Central America and Africa.  It is a highly figured wood that is easily carved and finishes well.

Uses: Mahogany is used many furniture styles because of its strength and finished beauty.


Properties:  Out of 115 species of Maple, only 5 are grown commercially in the US.  It is light in color and incredibly hard and shock resistant.  Maple has a fine texture and even grain and light in color.

Uses:  Due to its hardness, Maple is often used in flooring (even bowling alleys!).  It is used widely I furniture and cuts that have what is called fiddle back figure are often used for violin backs.  Maple is also often stained to simulate cherry wood because their appearance is similar.


Properties:  Cherry is referred to as a fruitwood and is grown in the Eastern portion of the US.  Cherry can range from light (almost light) to a reddish brown color depending upon the portion of tree is harvested from.  It has a close grain and considered to be a moderately hard wood. 

Uses:  Because cherry does not warp easily it is used as veneers and as solids for a variety of furniture styles.  It finishes and carves well.


Properties:  This wood is dark reddish brown in color.  It is extremely hard and therefore hard to work with but it can take a high polish.

Uses:  This wood is used in furniture as well as for musical instruments.  Tool handles are often made out of rosewood because of its hardness.


Properties:  Teak is found in Southeast Asia.  The color will vary from a dark brown to yellow.  Teak is extremely durable because it is hard, heavy and strong.  Its grain configuration can range from straight to fiddle back.

Uses:  Teak is often used in veneer form because of its high value.  This wood is used extensively in oriental and Scandinavian Modern style furnishings.


Properties:  There are numerous varieties of Walnut and it is found in the US, Asia, and Europe.  The color can range from extremely light to a very dark brown.  It is very versatile because it is hard and durable, but not too heavy.  Its grain can vary widely depending upon the part of the tree from which it is harvested.

Uses:  Walnut is used to extensively in cabinetry, veneers and furniture due to its widely varying characteristics.

Softwood Varieties:


Properties:  Pine is a soft yellow wood that is light in weight.  It has a straight figureless grain.  It is swell and shrink resistant.  It is commonly found in the Northern Hemisphere and there are over 100 species of pine trees.

Uses:  Pine is often used in traditional rustic furnishings.  It is often painted, whitewashed or pickled.  The knots are a desirable characteristic of those using pine.


Properties:  Ash grows in the eastern part of the US.  There are 16 species, but the most commonly and commercially used species of Ash is White Ash.

Uses:  Ash is one of the “harder” softwoods.  It resembles Oak with a prominent grain and light color.  It resembles hickory as well.

Uses:  It is often used for bent furniture pieces and structural frame members because it is less expensive than its “comparable hardwoods”.


Properties:  there are several different species of Cedar and they can be found in Central and South America and in the southern US.  Cedar is moth resistant and very aromatic.  It is a softwood and is reddish brown in color.

Uses:  Because if its repellant qualities, cedar is a popular wood that is used to line closets and drawers.


Properties:  This wood is indigenous to the Pacific US.  The redwood tree can grow to heights of more than 300 feet and can live as long as 2500 years!  Redwood is insect and moisture resistant.

Uses:  Due to its inherent insect and moisture resistant qualities, redwood is most commonly used in outdoor furnishings.


Properties:  Hemlock is non-resinous.  It is light in weight, machines well and is uniform in texture.

Uses:  Primarily, Hemlock is used as construction lumber – for subflooring, doors and crates. 


Properties:  Birch has several species.  The yellow birch is the species that is used most extensively for commercial purposes.  It is a hard and heavy wood.

Uses:  Birch can be stained to resemble walnut or mahogany.  It is used for several different types of furnishings and cabinetry.


Properties and Uses:  Fir is easy to work with and is non-resinous.  Fir is most often used in general millwork, doors, windows and furniture.

Well that should be enough info for now on different wood types to fill up your brain for a while!  Next we will tackle wood joints!!!