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A Brief Guide to American Hardwoods

(Also See - A Brief Guide to Lumber and Plywood Grading.)



ALDER (2.8lbs/bf)

Often considered as a lower cost substitute for Cherry in many applications, Alder is medium in strength, low in durability and light in weight. The lumber is of fairly straight grain, uniform texture and little distinctive figuring. When freshly cut, Alder is almost white, then darkens to a mellow reddish brown after exposure.Works and turns fairly easily, with some tearing of grain. Glues, sands and finishes well, although difficult to stain evenly.


BIRCH (3.7lbs/bf)

Birch is even textured and shows a wide color variation, from red-brown to creamy white. Usually straight grained, but a wavy or curly figure may be found in this strong, durable wood. Works well with machine tools, but tends to "spring" as stress is released in ripping. Some tearing of grain when planing against grain direction. Glues and finishes well.

CHERRY (3.3 lbs/bf)

The popularity of black cherry as a furniture and panel wood stems from its beauty and ease of use. It is uniform in texture, has fine grain and machines well. It is moderately heavy, stiff and very Strong. The color will change from a light brown to a rich deep golden brown with age and exposure to daylight.


A genuine mahogany! this wood has a reddish color with a tight grain and fine texture. Mahogany yields excellent widths and lengths. A favorite of boat builders and cabinet makers, it works nicely and finishes well.

MAPLE, HARD (4.0 lbs/bf)

Famous for its resistance to wear, hard maple is most notably used for flooring. It is used in fine furniture, often where turned spindles are needed. It is hard, heavy and very strong. The color is a light brown or tan and, in some cases, has an occasional mineral streak. As a result of its fine texture and grain pattern, it stains and finishes nicely.

OAK, RED (4.25 lbs/bf)

More coarsely grained than white oak, red oak is favored for its characteristics of strength, hardness and dependable workmanship. Its reddish brown color and beautiful grain texture add to its attractiveness.
Red Oak

OAK, WHITE (4.2 lbs/bf)

A symbol of strength and dependability white oak is very popular among furniture builders worldwide. It is heavy, hard and very strong. White oak has been recognized for resisting water damage and decay. The beautiful open grain pattern can be left a warm light gray or stained to suit a wide variety of tastes.
White OakWhite Oak

PINE, KNOTTY WHITE (2.1 lbs/bf)

<Pine is soft, low in strength and is light weight. The heartwood is a light creamy brown with a reddish tinge, at times. The knots are solid and tight.

POPLAR (3.2 lbs/bf)

Poplar is a medium strength, extremely stable hardwood. Sapwood is white to canary yellow, while the well- defined heartwood is brown to olive green. Because of its availability and workability, Poplar is used for a wide variety of applications, but is usually painted to cover its wide color variation. Machines and turns extremely well. Glues well. Holds detail well when carved or shaped.

WALNUT (3.75 lbs/bf)

Black Walnut is one of the most desirable woods available. It is tough, stable, and has good bending strength. Heartwood is rich and dark, turning a light brown in the drying process. Usually plain sawed, walnut produces a wide variety of figured wood, including burl, crotch, stump-wood, swirls, and fiddleback. Works, carves and turns well. Easy to glue. Sands smoothly and takes natural oil finish.

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