Wood is one of the most commonly used materials in the world, and almost any type of wood can be used to build furniture. Each type of wood has its own unique characteristics, which in turn can add different degrees of warmth, emphasis and beauty to its surrounding decor.
We’ve put together this handy guide to help you choose which type of wood is right for your furniture. With our guide we’ll give you the low down on some of the most popular wood types available and explain their different characteristics as well as the differences between hard and softwood, grains and colours.
We also clear up any fears you may have over Medium Density Fibreboard, how common it is and we explain how a veneer can give any piece of furniture that expensive finishing look.
Wood can be classified further into Solid Wood, Engineered or Composite Wood, Particle Board and Plywood.
Solid wood is a wood that is milled directly from the tree. Other types of wood such as plywood, MDF or veneer are made from wood composites. Unlike engineered wood which consists of wood fibers bonded together by a binder, solid wood contains lignocellulose in a single piece of wood. No filler or adhesive is used. Solid wood is commonly used in furniture, construction, cabinets and flooring. It does not bend as easily as many engineered timber but is more susceptible to stains. Solid wood is easier to repair than veneer or other engineered wood, which is one of the reasons it is used in many types of projects. There are several types of solid wood; so carpenters, cabinet makers can choose from a large selection of their projects. Each type of solid wood has its own characteristics, including colors and textures.
It can be divided into hardwood and cork. Often more expensive than softwood, hardwood furniture is also more durable and compact. Most hardwoods depict a unique grain, so each piece stands out from the other. However, in order to provide a uniform look, planks can be dyed or finished with wood. Some common hardwood types are birch, sheesham, mahogany and teak. In contrast, cork is easy to access and easy to handle plus these are cheaper than hardwood. Due to its soft structure, more complex designs and sculptures can be made on cork. However, it is always better to use hardwood because softwood tends to have lower durability but provides excellent finishes and design quality. Some common corks are cedar, white pine and yellow pine.
Engineered wood is also known as composite wood. It has various forms. Some composites are made of wood, others are made of popular wood; because building methods involve the use of resins and adhesives, composite wood is generally resilient and durable, but requires regular maintenance. Some of the commonly engineered timber are plywood, laminates and veneer, MDF panels and particle board.
Fibre board is an inexpensive manufactured wood made from the breaking down of hard or soft woods into fibres which are then bonded together with wax, resin and heat to create a dense piece of wood.
One of the most popular fibre boards is MDF; constructed of medium density fibres that are known for their strength and durability and lend themselves ideally to furniture products.
MDF is very strong and is considerably more popular than people think. In-fact many will be surprised as to how much MDF furniture is around them.
With its strong/dense structure, your furniture is likely to last a lot longer than you expect, however it’s no solid wood, but it’s a fraction of the price of solid wood. MDF is extremely popular with leading furniture retailers.
In the majority of cases, furniture built with MDF will have a wooden veneer bonded to it to give it an expensive looking finishing touch.
Chipboard is a manufactured wood, made from wood chips and shavings that are bonded together with resin.
Chipboard is extremely popular when making furniture. It is a dense wood and is commonly used with a veneered surface which is used for flat-packed furniture and work surfaces.
Plywood is a very strong manufactured wood as it is build-up of layers of wood veneers which are bonded together to create a flat smooth sheet of wood.
It is popular in the furniture and flooring industries due to its inherent strength and resistance to warping due to the bonded cross-ply construction.
A veneer refers to a thin layer of wood which is cut from the circumference of a tree. It is then bonded onto a dense piece of wood, which is typically MDF, chipboard or plywood. Veneers are available in many sizes, ranging from 3 to 6mm thickness.
Many people mistakenly assume that veneered furniture is cheaper than solid wood; however, veneers quite often are used in high end furniture pieces and it can be more costly than solid wood. The way to find out if your piece of furniture is veneered is by looking at the edges and checking if the grain lines run off the top and over the edges of the wood. As a veneer is real wood, it will accept stains and finishes much like solid wood.
Teak is agreeably the prime choice for making furniture and doors in our home. This type of wood can be used for both furniture types including practical and lifestyle. The maturity time of teak is about 50-70 years which makes it quite expensive and you might have second thoughts before purchasing it but teak is considered to be the most durable hardwood which is strong and heavyweight. It comes in colours varying from dark brown to golden brown.
Sheesham or Rosewood:
Teak being the king of woods, rosewood is considered to be the queen. This type is hard and heavy and is known for its stable nature and resistance to decay. It got its name from its colour which is dark reddish brown. You can judge its quality by its distinct fragrance.
India has a new wood member in the furniture industry, rubber wood which comes from the same tree used to excerpt latex for producing rubber. It is quite sturdy and cheap when compared to teak and rosewood. Although it is lighter than teak, it takes away an extra brownie point with its brilliant density and resistance to screw withdrawal which consequently gives long life to your fixtures.
A perfect choice for modern décor, wenge wood comes in beautiful cappuccino colour with black grains. This hardwood is expensive but provides good quality and durability.
Cherry is a wood type used in fine furniture and thus is an expensive hardwood. It can easily take on finishes and stains and with time this wood furniture grows beautiful and pleasing to the eye.
This type is the main man in the fine wood furniture line and is also one of the most treasured one out of all the options. This expensive type comes in a reddish brown to deep red colour.
Pine is the primary wood used in unfinished furniture. This wood type has a light colour and has the ability to take stains well which makes it ideal for staining or painting with different colours. You will find familiar grain on pine with its knots and clearly visible growth of rings.
All the above mentioned wood types is a gift of nature while engineered woods are manmade and are created by tying together strands of woods, fibres or veneers. These are joined using adhesives to create a fused material.