With more than 100,000 different types of trees all over the world and over 750 types in North America alone, furniture manufacturers and do-it-yourself carpenters have a wide variety of trees to choose from when making furniture. But even with thousands of wood types available, you'll find that a only a good handful are most commonly used in furniture making.
Oak trees are the hardest and most commonly used trees for furniture building. Grown throughout Canada, the United States and Europe from deciduous and evergreen trees, oak wood comes in several tones of red and white and is typically used for sturdy finer furniture. It's accentuated rings, prominent grain and large pores make oak wood ideal for absorbing stains of any colour.
Alder is a commonly used and less expensive alternative to oak and is the second most commonly used tree for making furniture. A relative of the birch family, alder trees are bit softer than oak wood and grown primarily across the Pacific Northwest. The extra elasticity and pliability make alder wood a better candidate than oak for carving and intricate detailing. Wood cut from alder trees provides a consistent colour and even absorption of stains and finishes.
Maple is a light-coloured hardwood tree that grows in abundance across the country, particularly in the eastern US. Though its dense texture and durability are comparable to more expensive hardwoods, the abundant availability makes maple wood an economical alternative to oak and alder. The even colour and grain texture accept stains and finishes quite well.
One of the most commonly used and least expensive woods used in furniture making is pine. Numerous types of trees make up the pine family including Ponderosa, eastern white, sugar and Radiata pine. Pine trees produce a softer wood with amber tones, deep brown knots and abstract grain patterns. Pine wood does well with any colour of stain but usually requires a sealer prior to staining to ensure even colour distribution. Pine trees are grown across the US as well as in various countries around the world.
Western red cedar is cut from the famous California redwoods and used for a variety of carpentry and building purposes. Since red cedar is a durable wood that comes from giant trees that produce the largest planks, it is generally used more in home and deck building than for making furniture. However, its durability and ability to withstand intense weather conditions makes it an ideal choice for patio furniture. Western red cedar is known for having a deep red tone a pleasant scent.
Many types of softer exotic woods are not suited for everyday rigorous use but are good for making decorative furnishings or cabinetry. Their bright colours, abstract grain patterns and pliable texture make them ideal for carving designs into trims and adornments as well. Australian lacewood has a beautiful copper tone and is commonly used in tabletop veneers and trims. African mahogany and Mexican rosewood are harder exotic woods that have distinctive colouring and are suitable for most furniture applications.