Oak Tough, hard wood with a pronounced grain. If you apply a finish without first putting on a wood filler, you can feel the grain with your fingers. In older furniture it usually is filled: modern furniture often is finished without filler. Oak doesn't absorb water easily, has good bending qualities, and finishes well.
Walnut American (black) walnut is one of the premier furniture woods in this country. Strong, with a fine texture and pleasing grain, it takes finishes nicely and wears well. It doesn't warp or shrink easily. The raw wood has a gray-brown look that turns to a rich brown on the application of a clear finish. Furniture makers often apply stain to get a warmer or darker color. If you must strip the finish from a walnut piece and want to refinish in the same color as the original, be sure to identify the color of the stain before stripping. Otherwise, you may not be able to duplicate it.
Cherry Another widely used furniture wood, cherry resists warping and shrinking. Initially a warm red-brown, it develops a richer red color as it ages, especially when exposed to sunlight. Cherry has a close, tight grain, and it doesn't need wood filler.
Maple This very strong wood is so hard that it will dull a saw used to cut it. The furniture variety comes from the sugar maple tree and is white, off-white, or amber in color. The red maple look in furniture is achieved through staining. Curly and birdseye patterns found in some maple make lovely veneered cabinet doors and tabletops. Maple has a fine grain, so it needs 110 filler. Its toughness makes it suitable for flooring and for wooden bowls.
Mahogany Mahogany is a very important furniture wood. It comes in three major types: West Indian, Tropical American and African. The Philippine mahoganies and iauan. sometimes incorrectly called a Philippine mahogany, are not of the same family as the others and are much softer. Mahogany is fine grained and durable, sherry brown in color. This wood doesn't absorb moisture easily, so it resists swelling, shrinking and warping. In older furniture, mahogany was frequently stained to a dark red brown: in modern furniture, the wood is used more often in natural color, or close to it.
Rosewood Most often used as a veneer. rosewood has a lovely rose red and black color, and its surface patterns create unusual configurations. Very hard and difficult to work, rosewood is close grained and can be given a very smooth finish. The wood has a lovely odor. It is a choice wood for musical instruments because its hardness apparently affects the resonance of the sound. No fillers are ever used with rosewood.
Teak Teak is another fragrant wood. It is often used for decking and rails on ships
WOOD GRAIN SAMPLES
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because it resists moisture and doesn't rot or decay. It is hard, doesn l crack easily, and takes a good finish. Teak is not easy to work.
Other Hardwoods In addition to the "fine" hardwoods just listed, there are a number of utilitarian hardwoods. These have good hardwood characteristics as far as strength and durability are concerned, but are plain and uncolorful in appearance. and so are not rated with the others. Such woods include birch, elm, beech, poplar, cottonwood and gum. You'll find these woods used in frames for upholstered furniture, cabinet frames, or other locations where they are useful but cannot be seen. Utilitarian woods can, of course, be stained and finished to look something like the fine hardwoods; this is what happens quite often in less expensive furniture. These woods also are "veneered" with plastic laminates to make table and countertops resistant to nearly everything from water to alcohol.
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