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Different Type of Wood used for Furniture

Before we get into all of the different wood varieties and their common uses, it’s important to understand the three basic types of wood you might encounter. These three types are: Softwoods, Hardwoods, and Engineered wood. Each of these different wood types can be used in a number of different ways.

Hardness is one of the simplest ways to distinguish the wood used for furniture. Contrary to the popular belief, hardwood is not necessarily harder and denser compared to softwood. In botanical terms, hardwood comes from flowering trees while softwood comes from conifers. Both hardwood and softwood are used for everything from structural to decorative purposes.

Softwood - Softwood is wood from gymnosperm trees such as pines and spruces. Softwoods are not necessarily softer than hardwoods. As most evergreen trees tend to be less dense than deciduous trees, it is easier to cut them down. They also grow tall and straight, making it easier to cut long straight planks of wood. Some names are Pinewood, Poplar Wood, Southern Yellow Pine, Deodar Wood, Red Cedar, White Wood, Cedar, White Cedar.

Properties of Softwood

  • Usually, softwood consists of tracheid and wood rays but lacks vessels (vessels simply appear to be holes in the wood—what are commonly referred to as pores). As vessels are absent, softwood is also called non-porous wood.

  • The lack of vessels allows softwoods to absorb adhesives quickly, resulting in a better finish.

  • Softwood is commonly used in building material such as structural frames, exterior and interior wall cladding, fittings, floor coverings, formwork, and scaffolding, among others. It is also used in the paper and cardboard industry.

  • It comes with loose grain, higher sap content, and lighter color. However, it has poor fire resistance.

  • Its fine and lightweight structure makes it the best wood for furniture.

Hardwood - Hardwood such as maple, oak, and walnut. These trees lose their leaves annually (deciduous or broad-leafed trees). As they grow slowly, hardwood has denser wood fibers (fiber tracheid and labriform fibers). An interesting fact about hardwood is that some types of hardwood can’t float in water.

Properties of Hardwood

  • It grows slowly compared to softwoods. So, hardwood is relatively expensive. However, there are exceptions. For example, gum is a hardwood that comes at a price comparable with most types of softwood.

  • Hardwood is durable (less likely to decay and rot), comes with close grain, and requires low maintenance.

  • As it comes with low sap content and good fire resistance, hardwood is commonly used for wooden flooring. However, hardwood flooring is also revered for its varied natural colors, styles, and perforation plate patterns.

  • It is also used for making furniture. However, not all types of hardwood are ideal for making furniture.

Engineered wood - The third type of wood you may encounter are engineered woods. Engineered wood does not occur naturally in the environment but instead are manufactured. These boards are generally made with wood which is manipulated to have certain qualities or features. Also known as composite wood, these products are often made from the waste wood of sawmills.

Engineered wood is often treated through chemical or a heat process to produce a wood product which can meet certain sizes that would be difficult to a