How-To Guide: Selecting your Wood Species

By Bailiegh Basham · February 25, 2020

How-To Guide: Selecting your Wood Species

Which Wood Type Should I Choose for my Furniture?

All of our Amish furniture pieces, including dining room tables, living room chairs, rolltop office desks and more, are handmade from American-grown hardwoods. Hardwoods are the best type of wood material for furniture. A product that is getting harder and harder to find, hardwood furniture has a combination of beauty and durability that cannot be matched by any softwood or engineered wood. Each tree is individually unique, and like most natural products, wood has variations in color, grain, and texture that help create one-of-a-kind beautiful pieces.

Determining the right wood species for your home or business can be difficult, and choosing the best wood for furniture mainly depends on personal preference. In order to better understand the differences between each wood species, we offer this informational guide.

Oak or Red Oak, one of the most popular hardwoods in the United States, is hard and highly durable and is commonly used in cabinetry, furniture, flooring, trim, and doors. Oak features a combination of mountain peak and straight grain with large, open pores. It also absorbs a variety of light to dark stains with ease. This wood species is both beautiful and wear-resistant, perfect for your kitchen table or dining chairs. Oak may darken slowly over time, though the color change is on the subtle side.

Brown Maple includes a unique combination of brown, gray, tan, white, and cream streaks. A light stain selection will reveal this color variation and is typically not recommended. This wood species best absorbs medium to dark stains and is ideal for your painted finishes. Craft your modern dining set in Brown Maple with a painted finish or dark stain like Vintage Black or Venezuelan Chocolate for a more modern appeal. This hardwood can be finished to look like more expensive hardwoods, such as Walnut or Cherry.

Cherry features a fine texture with close grain. One of the premier hardwoods in the United States, Cherry is commonly used in fine furniture and trim. Its satin-smooth texture and circular grain pattern are ideal for your furniture set. Cherry, a moderately hard species popular for cabinets and furniture, is strong and durable with good wear resistance. When completed, your furniture will boast a warm, even-toned finish. Do note, as Cherry wood ages, it develops a rich, reddish-brown patina. In other words, furniture crafted in Cherry will redden with exposure to light and heat. Given its strength, visual appeal, and resistance to warping, cherry is often used to make bedroom, living room, and office furniture.

Quartersawn White Oak, one of the hardest domestic wood species, is achieved by cutting the wood at a 90-degree angle to the tree’s growth rings. These quarter-sawn sections reveal beautiful ray-fleck patterns. This wood species showcases close grain with dramatic light and dark variation. Quartersawn White Oak absorbs stains richly and evenly. Most of the established heirloom furniture you see today is crafted in Quartersawn White Oak. Choose to have your kitchen table handmade in this wood species so that it may be enjoyed for generations. 

Maple is considered one of the hardest domestic woods in the United States and is seen everywhere; from basketball courts to musical instruments. It features a tight, circular grain pattern with a fine texture and is only suited for light to medium stain colors. Your stain selection on Hard Maple will appear bold and bright. Maple is a durable, dense and strong hardwood that’s a common choice for cabinets and furniture. Choose our Au Natural or Sanibel stain on Maple to showcase its unique grain pattern.

Hickory features a contrasting red and cream grain patterns and is one of the strongest wood types we offer. Hickory is one of the strongest, heaviest and hardest woods available in North America. Furniture crafted in this wood species showcases its earthy feel and substantial color variation with contrasting light and dark grain patterns. It’s a very strong, heavy, hardwood, and highly shock resistant. Hickory trees can be spotted throughout the eastern part of the United States.

Walnut is naturally rich brown in color and is popular among fine furniture and cabinetry makers. The grain is fairly straight and resembles that of Cherry. Distinctive color variation is common and adds to the appeal of this popular domestic wood species. It’s known for its hardness, strength, stability, heavyweight, durability, and shock resistance. Walnut trees grow very slowly, making the wood one of the more expensive species. Black walnut trees can be found covering a large portion of the eastern and central United States.

Elm offers a distinctive and vivid grain pattern that complements nearly any style of furniture. Commonly combined with a less characteristic wood species in a two-tone finish, Elm has an abundance of character. Elm heartwood ranges in tone from reddish-brown to light tan, while the sapwood approaches off-white. The heavy ring pattern combined with interlocked grain results in a very bold appearance or character to the wood.

Tiger Maple is a hardwood with a distinctive wavy or curly pattern that can resemble tiger stripes. It is obtained by hand-selecting pieces of Curly Maple with the most distinctive character. Curly Maple describes a feature found in Maple and is not a separate wood species. The characteristic ripples seen in the grain pattern vary by frequency and intensity to produce a three-dimensional effect that makes the wood appear "wavy." Tiger Maple's durability and its array of patterns make the wood popular with woodworkers who want to design a unique, decorative piece of furniture.

Make an informed decision about the solid-wood furnishings you place in your home. At Countryside, they are built to last a lifetime of use to become treasured family heirlooms. Use this guide to confidently choose the wood type that will become your handmade Amish furniture. Once decided, browse our large selection of wood finishes, and even request real wood samples to view at home.

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