Wood Species

Here are a few species of wood that are common in my area - the Northeastern US.


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cherry bandsaw box

Cherry

is a great wood for making boxes. It is easy to work with, readily available and looks "friendly." By that I mean that it's elegant without being formal. Its color ranges from salmon pink to dark red-brown.

Cherry darkens as it ages. The deep richness of aged cherry is gorgeous (in my humble opinion). However, you have to watch for uneven shading. If you have a tabletop with a runner on it, for instance, before long you will see a difference in the color of the wood when you remove the runner. If the wood is in the sun it happens even more quickly.


Walnut

is more formal than cherry. It is a dark-brown wood with light sapwood. Sometimes walnut will have streaks of an almost purplish color.

Walnut will lighten and yellow just slightly as it ages. Because walnut is dark it tends to look heavier and have the feel of taking up more space. It looks great with orange shellac.


If you can find figured walnut it can be spectacular.

Red oak

is homey and country. It is less formal than either cherry or walnut. Quartersawn oak is traditionally used for things made in the Craftsman style. It can be splintery to work with, but takes a finish nicely.

Hard maple

is a modern looking wood. It is light in color (and heavy in weight). Because of the color it tends to make things look smaller in size.

Maple often has beautifully figured grain, such as spaulted or bird's eye. It can be chippy to work with. If your blades aren't sharp you can get a lot of chip-out.

Birch

is similar to maple but has darker streaks throughout. It is a strong, utilitarian, wood. It's often used in plywood.

Book matched red birch above and curling birch bark on the right.


Don't ever peel the bark all the way around a birch tree (or any other wood species for that matter) as "girdling" as it's called will kill the tree.

Apple:

I've used apple a few times for turning and it is smooth as butter on a lathe. It's color isn't particularly interesting, mostly cream with occasional mineral streaks.

The box to the left is apple with a cherry top.

Poplar

is a light wood with a slight green tint. It can be just beautiful. Although it's often used for painted projects and parts that won't be seen, I think it's been given a bad rap. Often poplar boards have beautiful green and/or purple-brown streaks through them.


Cedar

smells wonderful.  It can also be somewhat splintery, but the patterns made by the contrasting heartwood and sapwood can be incredible. The heart wood is deep purple and the sapwood is light cream.  It's great for book matching.


Ash

is heavy, flexible and strong. It's traditionally used for making baseball bats. It looks somewhat like oak. It's a good choice for bending.

Alder

is similar in looks to cherry, but isn't as rich in color (or as expensive). It is also lighter and softer than cherry. However, it works easily and is a good alternative to cherry if your wallet is feeling a tad on the light side.

Ash box top with carved rose above.

Hickory


I find hickory to be terribly uncooperative to work with. It dulls tools nearly instantly. However, it is strong and has a straight grain. The box to the right has a hickory top (alternating sapwood and heartwood).

hickory board


Butternut

is light as a feather and works easily. It isn't very strong, but is a good choice if you want something light. It tends to have a relatively straight grain pattern and is gray-brown in color.


Of course there are hundreds of other wood species (I didn't even mention the softwoods). I like to explore new woods, but I always come back to my favorites.

 





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