The Beauty and Variety of Wood

Wood is a natural material. Its appearance should not be confused with the wood grain laminates. We see these in kitchen flooring or plastic photo overlays used in low-cost furniture. All real wood species vary in natural color, graining, and how they take stain color. The same species can also look very different depending on how the wood is cut from the tree. Wood finishes can look very different from one species to the next. Consider these brief descriptions as you evaluate which wood finishes and specie fits your vision.

Wood SamplesNorthern Red Oak – Plain-sawn: The wood most commonly used for pews. It has excellent strength and is open grained with some variation in color. This depends on mineral content in the soil where it grew.  Oak will include a wide variety of figures as the graining changes from board to board.

Northern White Oak – Plain-sawn: Somewhat less color variation than red oak, and more costly due to supply. Both red and white oak finish well.

Rift-cut Oak: This cut produces a straight grained appearance that is much more consistent throughout than other cuts.  Some color variation should be expected.

Cherry: Fine-grained material that finishes to a smoother surface than oak. Although close-grained, cherry still displays several figures that create interest.  Occasional pitch pockets will show as small “dots” in the grain. Light and dark color variation is a natural occurrence in cherry. This type of wood has beautiful finishing qualities.

Hard Maple: Very hard wood that tends not to take darker stains in a consistent manner. A natural finish is best, because color variation in the wood itself can be expected.

Black Walnut: The natural wood is light to dark brown. Significant color variations are often present. Finished furniture will always be in darker hues.

African Mahogany: Wood from the khaya tree is part of the mahogany family. Although somewhat lighter in color than its Honduran cousin.  This is a strong wood. And is characterized by subtle striping with some color variation.