Hardwood Lumber Species

Here is some solid background information on various hardwood lumber species you will be using in your woodworking projects.

RED OAK:

Uses: Indoor furniture, trim, flooring, plywood and veneers.

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight, wide grain pattern with larger pores. Tan to reddish pink in color. Quartersawing reveals narrow medullary rays.

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits. Not prone to burning when machined. Drill pilot holes first for nails and screws.

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes well, but pores will show through if painted unless they are filled.

Price: Moderate

WHITE OAK:

Uses: Indoor and outdoor furniture, trim, flooring, plywood and veneers.

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight, wide grain pattern, tan with yellow to cream tints. Quartersawing reveals wide medullary rays. Naturally resistant to deterioration from UV sunlight, insects and moisture.

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits.Not prone to burning when machined. Drill pilot holes first for nails or screws.

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes like red oak, but narrower pores reduce the need for filling

Price: Moderate to expensive

HARD MAPLE:

Uses: Indoor furniture, trim, flooring, butcher block countertops, instruments, plywoods and veneers.

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight, wide grain with occasional bird’s eye or fiddle­back figure. Blonde heartwood.

Workability: Difficult to machine without carbide blades and bits. Dull blades will leave burns.

Finishing: Takes clear finishes well, but staining may produce blotches

Price: Moderate to expensive, depending on figure

CHERRY:

Uses: Indoor furniture, cabinetry, carving, turning, plywood and veneers

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Fine grain pattern with smooth texture. Wood continues to darken as it ages and is exposed to sunlight.

Workability: Machines easily with a sharp steel or carbide blades but is more prone to machine burns.

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes well

Price: Moderate

WALNUT:

Uses: Indoor furniture, cabinets, musical instruments, clocks, boat-building, carving

Sources: Eastern United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight, fine grain. Moderately heavy. Color ranges from dark brown to purple or black.

Workability: Cuts and drills easily with sharp tools without burning

Finishing:  Takes natural finish beautifully

Price: Moderate

BIRCH:

Uses: Kitchen utensils, toys, dowels, trim, plywood and veneers

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight grain with fine texture and tight pores.

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits. Good bending properties. Drill pilot holes first for nails or screws.

Finishing: Takes finishes well, but penetrating wood stains may produce blotching

Price: Inexpensive to moderate

HICKORY:

Uses: Sporting equipment, handles for striking tools, furniture, plywood and veneers

Sources: Southeastern United States

Characteristics: Straight to wavy grained with coarse texture. Excellent shock-resistance.

Workability: Bends well, but lumber hardness will dull steel blades and bits quickly. Resists machine burning.

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes well.

Price: Inexpensive where regionally available.

ASPEN:

Uses: A secondary wood used for drawer boxes, cleats, runners and other hidden structural furniture components. Crafts.

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Indistinguishable, tight grain pattern

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits.

Finishing: Better suited for painting than staining. Tight grain provides smooth, paintable surface.

Price: Inexpensive

WHITE ASH:

Uses: Furniture, boat oars, baseball bats, handles for striking tools, pool cues, veneers

Sources: United States and Canada

Characteristics: Straight, wide grain pattern with coarse texture. Hard and dense with excellent shock-resistance.

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits. Drill pilot holes first for nails or screws. “Green” ash often used for steam bending.

Finishing: Takes stains and clear finishes well

Price: Inexpensive

POPLAR:

Uses: Secondary wood for furniture and cabinetry, similar to aspen. Carving, veneers and pulp for paper:

Sources: United States

Characteristics: Fine-textured with straight, wide grain pattern. Tan to

gray or green in color.

Workability: Machines easily with sharp steel or carbide blades and bits. Not prone to burning when machined. Drill pilot holes fast for nail or screws.

Finishing: Better suited for painting than staining. Tight grain provides smooth, paintable surface.

Price: Inexpensive

YouTube Video Tip: Hit the gear button to speed up the playback to watch the video faster.

Tree Identification – Northeastern Hardwoods

I spent some time in Western New York’s Letchworth State Park showing how to I.D. the red oak, white oak, black cherry, soft maple, hard maple, white ash, basswood, beech, aspen, cucumbertree, tulip poplar, bitternut hickory, shagbark hickory, and sycamore.

Identifying Oaks | White and Red Oaks

Habitat consultant Tom James shows you the differences in the bark, leaves and acorns of the two main oak species, white and red oaks.

Hardwood Identification

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