This rosewood relative is very hard and heavy and has some beautiful color and figure. It grows in Central America but has been the victim of exploitation. It is still available in small quantities through local lumber yards but be prepared to pay high prices.
Bubinga is a very hard and durable wood. It has a distinctive pink cast when newly machined but will turn to a darker red with brown tones with age. We are starting to see more of this wood in the US but it is still a bit pricey. Continued farming in central and western Africa should help bring the cost down.
This one is the preferred and most common of the birches. It has tight, closed grain and is very durable. Grown mostly in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. and Canada it is popular for making furniture and plywood. It has a very pleasant odor when machined.
Purpleheart is really purple, all the way through from the outer edge to the core.
Some boards are darker than others, however. Do not put oil finish on purpleheart or it will turn dark grey brown, almost black. Use a clear lacquer to seal it and it will stay purple for years. Unfinished, it will darken with age to a dark brown, losing the vivid purple you get when it is newly machined. It is still available, although pricey.
This wood is used primarily by the furniture manufacturing sector as it is easy to machine and accepts stain and paint well. It has a slight pinkish cast and the dark flecks seen in most cuts are medullary rays, a distinguishing characteristic.
White oak is quite common and very popular for furniture. It has a distinct brownish cast and rays that are quite visible no matter how the board is sawn. Quartersawn boards yield the beautiful "tiger" pattern seen in so many of the old antiques. This is called medullary flecking and is achieved by sawing the board at right angles to the growth rings. The sample shown here is plain sawn.
This wood is quite rare and extremely expensive. It is the product of Sulawesi, an Indonesian Island. The trees are small and grow slowly. The wood is very hard and is striped with light and dark brown ribbons.
This tree is the blackest of all the ebonies. It is very hard and very dense and difficult to machine. It is often difficult to find and is very expensive.
This species has a slightly more pink cast than American beech when first machined but looses that tone with age becoming a yellowish tan. Its medullary rays a quite visible as in its American cousin. Beech is malleable so is commonly used for mallets and chisel handles. Most of it is steamed to render the color more uniform. This wood is used in making the biscuits that we use for our plate joinery systems.
This very popular hard wood is the first choice among many furniture makers, me included. It is very hard but machines extremely well and is consistent in color throughout. It is also known as hard maple, and sugar maple. This tree and I go way back in time. I remember helping my grandfather collect sap from these trees using a team of horses hauling a tank on a huge sled. We would boil down the sap in a giant vat to make maple syrup and maple sugar. This was on our family owned farm in the little town of Colebrook, New Hampshire just south of the Canadian border.
Red maple has a definite pinkish cast as can be seen in the sample shown. It is softer than hard maple but machines very well. Much of the surface will have a wavy figure as seen in the sample above.
Soft maple is actually quite hard, but not as hard as sugar maple (aka hard maple, rock maple, white maple). This species machines well and has an amber cast. Much
of the soft maple has a lot of dark color, some from mineral streaking (stains in the tree from minerals in the fluids brought into the tree through the root system).
Red oak is one of the most common domestic hardwoods. If it is the northern (north Appalachian) variety it is uniform in color and has a distinct red hue heartwood. The sapwood is usually discarded and not used. Most boards are plainsawn but this species
will render some medullary flecking if quartersawn. It is dense and hard and sharp tools are needed to machine it.
This one is a hard and heavy wood with lots of cross grain to deal with. It is one f the most difficult to work, especially with hand tools. If you can find it, it will be pricey.
This wood is distinctly brown but has lots of other colors mixed in. Color from board to board can vary greatly. It is being farmed in East India so supplies should see improvement.
This wood is more commonly know as Padauk. It is hard and heavy yet is surprisingly easy to machine. It is quite red with dark streaks through it. It is known to be water resistant.
White ash is a very open grained wood and readily shows this even if finished or painted. It is very strong and flexible and is commonly used for tool handles and baseball bats. I have built some beautiful cabinetry and furniture with this wood but the wild grain patterns can go nuts on you so choose your boards wisely.
Hickory is a very heavy and very hard wood. I hear more woodworkers complain about that than any other hardwood. The heartwood is a beautiful light to medium brown color however some of the heartwood can be quite dark. Hickory comes in 3 varieties for the consumer: hickory heart (shown above) calico hickory (with contrasting light yellow and dark brown heartwood in the same board) and rustic (knotty) hickory. If you are going to machine this wood, make sure you are using sharp cutting tools.
Black walnut is a beautiful and plentiful domestic wood. When it is freshly machined, it has the color of chocolate, especially when it is clear coated.
With time it will lose the chocolate look and turn to more of a reddish brown. Cherry, in contrast, will lose its red tone, and turn to a more reddish brown. After a number of years have passed after machining, many of us who are schooled in the woods have to look closely to identify one from the other.
This wood is very common throughout North America and is readily available just about anywhere. It is medium hard and machines well . The drawback of cherry is the
dark sap deposits that spoil the clear appearance however this wood is photo sensative
and darkens quickly with ultraviolet light exposure. This helps greatly with the appearance. This wood is very popular with consumers.
This page displays a number of foreign and domestic hardwoods suitable for making cabinetry, furniture and mill work. All of these are available to the consumer however some of the exotics may be quite pricey. Most of the domestic woods are available locally through lumber yards. The photos displayed show 1/2 of each sample finished with a clear coat and the other 1/2 as it will appear when it is surfaced and ready for finish. There are a great number of wood species on our planet. Only a small portion of those are shown here as most of the others are not readily available or not suitable for woodwork. If you are looking for a species not shown here, try "Wikipedia" on the internet.
More to follow so keep coming back
This is one of my favorite exotics. I have made a number of conga drums with this wood and the sound delivered by these instruments is beyond belief. It is hard and heavy and coarse grained with alternating light and dark lines. These can almost disappear when finished but will get soiled if not so your call.
This is one of my favorite woods. In the quartersawn cut (shown in the sample above) it is absolutely beautiful. This cut is also called "ribbon'. It is very heavy and hard and will dull your tools quickly so be prepared for that. I have built some gorgeous pieces with this wood and would direct you to see some of this work by navigating to "Kitchens", "Entertainment Centers", and "Furniture" pages on my site. This wood is being more and more available and costs less than some of our domestic woods.
Teak is an oily wood and is therefore favored for boats and outdoor furniture. This species has been exploited and was nearly all gone before foresters in a few Asian countries started farms to grow it. Now it is being grown also in the Caribbean and west Africa. It appears to be making a comeback but is still quite expensive. Teak is know to dull your tools quickly, as sand enters the tree through the root system and is deposited in the tree. I have actually seen sparks fly from my saw blades while sawing this wood.
This species is in the eucalyptus family and grows only in a small strip of western Australia south of Perth. It is very strong and has a beautiful deep red color. It is still available but may be pricey and hard to find. Believe it or not, it used to be used for railroad ties.
Tigerwood is an excellent name for this wood. It is hard and heavy but has a slightly finer texture than most of the other rainforest hardwoods. The light and dark lines are distinct and add to its beauty. Quartersawn boards give a ribbon effect. This one comes from Brazil.
Jelutong is a closed grain fairly plain looking wood without any pattern or figure. It is commonly used by pattern makers and carvers.
It is easy to work and machines well.
This one is a tough one. It is probably the most sought after wood on the planet and it is the least available due to demand and exploitation. Brazil has banned it from export and most countries, USA included prohibit import. Most of what is available today is from lucky finds by lumber reclaim folks and they will get a premium for what they have. It is extremely costly when you can find it but one of the most beautiful woods in the world. There are several alternatives to this lumber. Africa and Asia have dozens of species of woods similar to Brazilian Rosewood, and most of them are being farmed now.
This wood is also called African walnut. It does look like walnut but has more distinct dark lines or ribbons. It is very translucent when finished,
changing appearance as it is moved around in direct sunlight.