Decor Basics: An Introduction to the Different Types of Wood

Types of wood used to make musical instruments
Wood as a material for construction has a history of hundreds and thousands of years. Wooden artifacts not only carry aesthetic value, but are also strong status symbols.
Wood has been one of the best materials used for making furniture since ages. Different kinds of trees produce different kinds of woods that vary in hardness, color and texture. They can be hewn and shaped in various designs depending on one's aesthetic sensibilities. Added to this, they are durable, require low maintenance, and have an imperishable value. In fact, beautiful pieces of wooden furniture are often handed down from generation to generation with their value appreciating with age.
Things you Should Know about Wood
Wood is classified into two kinds viz., hardwood and softwood. However, it has been noted that some hardwoods are softer than the commonly used softwoods and vice versa.
Each type of wood also has distinctive characteristics in their grain. The grain in wood refers to the stripes that are created due to growth rings. While some kind of wood may possess tight grain that indicates of slow growth, others may be widely spaced, which indicates faster growth.
The growth rings of a tree indicates the age of the wood. The more the number of rings, the higher is the age.
Different types of wood have distinctive 'figures', or markings, such as spalting, fiddle-back, bird's eye, pomelle, ray, and quilting. These so-called figures in wood are created due to different color shades that are most probably the result of the grain structure.
Wood is a durable, recyclable, and biodegradable resource, which is rich in carbon content.
Apart from being used for a variety of purposes including construction, flooring, furniture-making, ship-building, sports equipment, and musical instruments, wood is also a very valuable fuel.
The strength of the wood is inversely proportional to its moisture content. Thus, the drier the wood, the higher is its strength.
Wood has been used as a raw material for fencing in America since last 400 years due to the fact that it is inexpensive, light, strong, and durable.
Wood can survive for several hundred years. California has the longest surviving tree, a Bristlecone pine which is 5,000 years old.
Wood-carving is a traditional cottage industry in many regions of the world, and handicrafts thus produced hold a high value in international markets.
Some Commonly Used Wood Varieties
Teak Wood
Teak Wood
■ This kind of wood is widely produced in South-east Asia. However, some similar varieties are also found in Africa.
■ It has an oily texture due to which it can resist insects. It is also resistant to warping.
■ It is durable, strong and an extremely heavy type of wood that can last for hundreds of years.
■ Ranging in color from dark brown to yellowish-brown, teak wood has mineral streaks that give it a contrasting grainy structure.
■ This is a popular wood for making furniture and veneer. Originally it was used for building ships because of its surface being oily and thus moisture resistant. It is also used to build houses.
Cherry Wood
Cherry Wood
■ Also known as Fruit Wood, this is found in the eastern parts of the United States.
■ The color of this wood ranges from reddish-brown to light pinkish. When polished, it shines and turns a deep red color.
■ It is a strong and close-grained wood that is resistant to warping.
■ Because it not very hard, carving is relatively easy in case of cherry wood.
■ It is used to make all types of furniture from chairs to cabinets.
Maple Wood
Maple Wood
■ Maple is one of the hardest of woods. European Sycamore Maple and North American Sugar Maple are considered to be valuable producers of timber.
■ The grain of some of the varieties of maple wood produce figures in the form of flames, quilts, curls, and burls.
■ This wood ranges from cream-white to snowy-white, although during the off-season a few that are yellowish in tone are also available. It becomes golden-ivory in color when it is hand-rubbed with oil.
■ Since hard rock maple is one of the hardest woods, it is a common choice for making bowling alley flooring as it can resist shocks.
■ Apart from making furniture, maple wood is also used for making musical instruments and sports equipment.
African Mahogany
African Mahogany
■ Also known as Khaya, African mahogany wood comes from tropical Africa and Madagascar.
■ This wood is tan-brown, reddish-brown, or pinkish in color, which becomes darker as the wood ages.
■ Its grain is distinctive, often being ribbon-striped when it is straight, although it can also be quite plain or in broken stripes.
■ It is used for making all kinds of furniture, plywood and for boat-building.
■ Interestingly, it is also used for making drums.
North American Walnut
North American Walnut
■ Also known as American Walnut, Virginia Walnut and Black Hickory Nut, this is a wood with straight, wavy or curly grain.
■ Resistance to insects is relatively low and hence it needs preventive treatment from time to time.
■ It is available in colors ranging from purplish-brown to a rich, deep brown.
■ The wood is open-pored and quite hard.
■ It is used for making gunstocks, furniture and cabinets, flooring tiles, ships, musical instruments, utensils, and clock cases.
Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood
■ Found only in Brazil, in the jungles of Bahia to Rio de Janeiro, this is also known as Bahia Rosewood or Piano Wood.
■ It is very hard and heavy and bears a peculiar floral fragrance, like that of roses, which is probably why it is known as Rosewood.
■ It comes in a number of shades, from dark brown and chocolate brown to purplish on a reddish background.
■ It has black pigmentation lines or eye-catching dark brown streaks.
White Ashwood
White Ashwood
■ This kind of wood is found mostly in the American states of Florida and Texas and in Canada, and is also known as American Biltmore or Cane Ash.
■ This wood, if it belongs to the heart of the tree, ranges in color from light brown to cream, whereas the sap wood is lighter in shade.
■ Its grain is moderately open and straight.
■ It is a strong, elastic, and hard wood, and therefore is used for making sports equipment like baseball bats, hockey sticks, tennis racquets, and polo mallets.
■ It is fairly light and break-resistant.
English Brown Oak
English Brown Oak
■ The English Brown oak is a type of European oak that grows in England and often in France.
■ It is also known as Brown Oak or Pollard Oak.
■ A fungus infection during its growth causes the color of the wood to turn into a beautiful, rich honey brown.
■ However, there may be some sap type of streaks where the fungus does not affect the wood.
■ It is traditionally used for making European furniture and veneer.
■ This wood is widely grown in Australia and is a fairly soft one.
■ It is also known as Australian Silky-oak or Queensland Silky-oak.
■ It has an unusual grain structure appearing like hammered copper.
■ The younger wood is reddish-brown in color, which goes on to become brown as it matures.
■ It can be used to make lovely veneered tabletops.
■ Also known as Coyote, Macawood, or Cristobal, this is a very rarely found species of wood.
■ It is found in Southern Mexico, Brazilian Amazon and Trinidad and has a tan coloring with dark brown streaks.
■ It is a close-grained hard wood, and is selectively harvested to be used in a sustainable manner.
■ This wood has a high resistance to fungi and termites.
■ Granadillo wood is used to make a variety of furniture, cabinets, gun-stocks, and billiard cues.
The kind of wood you use to make furniture or any other wooden article in your home, office, shop, etc. will surely add a unique look to the space, and help you create a particular ambiance. From the wide range of woods available in the market, you can choose the one that suits your requirements and aesthetics.