Softwood vs. Hardwood

The terms “softwood” and “hardwood” do not refer to the density of the wood, but rather the type of tree that the wood comes from. Softwood comes from gymnosperms, which are plants that let their seeds fall to the ground with no covering such as pinecones. Hardwood comes from angiosperms, or plants that produce seeds with some type of covering over it.  A good example would be fruit, such as an apple, or something with a hard shell like an acorn.


Hardwoods

Birch birch
Uses – Birch is used in kitchen cabinets, architectural trim, paneling, and cabinetry.
Characteristics – Birch is a strong, closed grained hardwood that is generally off white in color, although it also contains light hues of yellow, brown and pink. It is relatively hard and known for its good machining and finishing properties as well as its attractive color. Although the wood is difficult to work with hand tools, it can be easily shaped by machines and ranks high in nail-withdrawal resistance. Birch glues well with care and takes stain extremely well.

 

Knotty Alder knotty alder
Uses – Predominantly used in cabinetry, doors, architectural trim, paneling, and furniture.
Characteristics - Knotty Alder is a reddish-brown to pale yellow wood with soft, straight grain and even texture. It has small 1/4" closed knots to large 2" open knots that appear sporadically throughout. It is a relatively soft hardwood with medium density. It nails, screws, and glues well and generally finishes smoothly and takes stain uniformly.

 

Cherrycherry
Uses – Cherry is used in furniture, cabinetry, architectural trim, millwork, flooring and paneling.
Characteristics – Cherry is a medium density multi-colored hardwood varying from red to reddish brown in color. Natural or light stains accent these color variations giving a lustrous finish.It is easy to machine, nails and glues well and after sanding and staining produces a clean, smooth finish.

 

Hard Maplehard maple
Uses – Maple is used in cabinetry, doors, flooring, architectural trim, millwork, paneling, tabletops, handrails, and furniture
Characteristics - Hard maple is creamy white with a reddish tinge and usually has a straight grain, sometimes curly or wavy. It is a hard and heavy wood known for its durability and excellent finishing qualities. Pre-drilling is required for nailing and screwing. Hard maple dries slowly with high shrinkage so it can be susceptible to movement in performance.

 

Soft Maplesoft maple
Uses – Maple is used in cabinetry, doors, flooring, architectural trim, millwork, paneling, tabletops, handrails, and furniture.
Characteristics - Soft maple is creamy white and has a straight grain. It is not as lustrous as Hard Maple is and its growth rings are indistinct in comparison. It can be worked fairly well with hand and power tools and stains and polishes to excellent finish.

 

Bird’s Eye Maplebird's eye maple
Uses – Bird’s Eye Maple is primarily used in veneers, furniture inlays, handles, canes, and guitars.
Characteristics - Birdseye is a fairly rare type of grain pattern resulting from localized distortions in the growth rings that resemble tiny, swirling eyes disrupting the smooth lines of grain, similar to a burl. It turns well on a lathe.

 

Poplarpoplar
Uses – Poplar is used in light construction, doors, cabinetry, architectural trim, millwork, paneling and plywood.
Characteristics – Poplar is straight-grained wood, creamy white in color containing some streaks of brown and green. It is a medium density wood offering excellent strength and stability. Poplar is a very versatile wood making it easy to machine, plane, glue and bore. It accepts paint and stain exceptionally well.

 

Red Oakred oak
Uses – Red oak is used in doors, cabinetry, flooring, architectural trim, millwork and paneling.
Characteristics – Red oak is a strong, mostly straight grained wood that has a range of color of white, pink and brown. Oak is hard and heavy and machines well. It stains nicely and is one of the most commonly used species.

 

Quarter Sawn Red Oakquarter sawn red oak
Uses – Quarter Sawn Red oak is used in furniture, veneer, interior joinery, flooring, and plywood.
Characteristics – Quarter Sawn Red oak is similar to other oaks and its color varies from a light tan to pink with a reddish tinge. The wood is predominantly straight grained and coarse textured. Gluing properties vary and nailing may require pre-drilling. It takes stain well and polishes to a nice finish.

 

White Oakwhite oak
Uses – White oak is used in furniture, cabinetry, joinery, flooring, plywood, veneers, paneling, shakes, and shingles.
Characteristics – White oak varies in color from light tan to pale yellow-brown with a pinkish tinge. Pre-boring is advised, but it takes nails and screws well. It stains and polishes to a beautiful finish.

 

Quarter Sawn White Oakquarter sawn white oak
Uses – White oak is used in furniture, cabinetry, joinery, flooring, plywood, veneers, paneling, shakes, and shingles.
Characteristics – White oak varies in color from light tan to pale yellow-brown with a pinkish tinge. Straight grained with characteristic silver grain in quarter sawn wood. Pre-boring is advised, but it takes nails and screws well. It stains and polishes to a beautiful finish.

 

Spanish Cedar spanish cedar
Uses –  Doors, millwork, moulding, paneling, cabinetry, furniture, carvings, veneers, and architectural trim.
Characteristics - The sapwood is pale in color and usually ranges from pale pinkish-brown to dark reddish-brown in color. The grain is straight or shallowly interlocked and it has a moderately coarse texture. It is said to have a high natural resistant to decay.

 

Honduras Mahoganyhonduras mahogany
Uses – Honduras Mahogany is used for doors, windows, cabinetry, architectural trim, millwork, and furniture.
Characteristics - Mahogany varies from reddish, pinkish, or salmon colored when freshly cut, to a deep rich red, to reddish brown as the wood matures with age. It contains a fine to medium texture, with uniform to interlocking grain. Mahogany polishes to a high luster, with excellent working and finishing characteristics. It responds well to hand and machine tools, and has good nailing and screwing properties.

 

African Mahoganyafrican mahogany
Uses – African Mahogany is used for doors, windows, cabinetry, architectural trim, millwork, musical instruments, paneling, and furniture.
Characteristics - African Mahogany is a light pink-brown that darkens when cut to a reddish brown. It has a medium to coarse texture and a straight to interlocked grain. Mahogany polishes to a high luster, with excellent working and finishing characteristics. It responds well to hand and machine tools, and has good nailing and screwing properties.

 

Sapelesapele
Uses – Sapele is used for doors, windows, cabinetry, architectural trim, millwork, and furniture.
Characteristics - Sapele is a reddish-brown wood that is very similar to Mahogany. Fine texture and interlocked grain produces a narrow and uniform stripe pattern on quartered surfaces. It is fairly easy to work with hand and machine tools, and it saws and finishes easily. Sapele has good nailing and gluing properties, and it finishes well.

 

Teak  teak
 Uses -
Teak is often used in paneling and furniture.
Characteristics -
Teak is an extremely dense fine grained hardwood. It is generally straight grained, but occasionally wavy. Teak is known for its dimensional stability and does not swell and contract easily. It has a high oil content that works as "built-in" natural water repellent and is therefore virtually immune to rotting, fungi and harsh chemicals.

 

Ashash
Uses –  Ash is used in sporting goods, bats, oars, pool cues, tool handles, cabinet work, high-class joinery, plywood, paneling and veneer.
Characteristics - Ash is a white-to-pale-brown colored wood with a straight grain. It is easy to work with, takes stain quite nicely, and is easy to use with nails, screws and glue.

 

Black Walnutblack walnut
Uses – Black Walnut is used in doors, cabinetry, flooring, architectural millwork, paneling and furniture.
Characteristics – Black walnut is a straight grained wood colored in creamy white with light to dark brown streaks throughout. It is usually supplied steamed to darken the color. It machines nicely and can be nailed, screwed and glued with ease. It accepts paint and stain exceptionally well creating a smooth polished finish.

 

Beech beech
Uses –  Beech is primarily used in cabinetry, furniture, flooring, veneers, mouldings, and handrail parts.
Characteristics - Beech is a brownish-whitish wood with a distinctive flecked grain. The grain is straight with a fine, even texture. It is easily worked using both hand and power tools, nails and glues with ease, and stains and polishes to a nice finish.

 


Softwoods

Yellow Pine
yellow pineUses – Used in tongue and groove flooring, paneling, decking, siding, structural lumber and architectural trim.
Characteristics - Yellow Pine offers a distinct grain pattern, an appealing golden color, and is one of the strongest softwood structural lumber species there is. It has the highest density of all structural lumber species, providing superior fastener-holding power and load-bearing capacity.

 

Ponderosa Pineponderosa pine
Uses - Ponderosa pine is used for window framing, sashes, doors, moulding, architectural millwork, shelving, and paneling.
Characteristics – Ponderosa Pine is yellowish-white, light in weight, soft, and the grain is generally straight. It resists splitting when nailed but is only average in its nail-holding ability. It is easily machined, glues extremely well; and it doesn't split readily. Because of ponderosa's texture, uniform cell structure, and comparative hardness for a softwood, it stains and finishes exceptionally well.

 

Firfir
Uses – Fir is used for doors, windows, cabinetry, flooring, paneling, siding, architectural trim and millwork.
Characteristics – Fir is a light pink color and is straight grained. Widely used due to its fine characteristics, fir is dense, hard, stiff, durable, and strong. Douglas Fir is unique among all softwood species in that it is naturally dimensionally stable, having the ability to season well in position. Fir can hold all types of stains, paints and finishes.

 

Cypresscypress
Uses – Cypress is used in siding, decking, paneling, architectural trim, millwork, cabinetry, and flooring.
Characteristics – Cypress consists of honey-like hues in pale yellow with the heartwood varying in color from light to dark or reddish brown. It is technically a softwood but is graded as a hardwood according to the National Hardwood Lumber Association's rules. Cypress is an exceptionally stable wood, making it highly resistant to splitting and warping. It machines, nails and screws well and readily accept paints and stains.

 

Caribbean Heart Pinecaribbean heart pine
Uses – Heart Pine is used in flooring, ceilings, wainscoting, moulding, cabinetry, paneling, stairparts and architectural millwork.
Characteristics – Caribbean Heart pine is golden brown with a straight grain and a coarse texture. Its growth rings are clearly defined.It is a very easy wood to work with both hand and machine tools.

 
 
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