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alder, red

(Alnus rubra // Origin-Western North America) Red alder is almost white when freshly cut but quickly changes on exposure to air to light brown with a yellow or reddish tinge. Heartwood is formed only in trees of advanced age and there is no visible boundary between sap and heartwood. The wood is fairly straight grained with a uniform texture.


Uses: Furniture, kitchen cabinets, doors, interior mouldings, turning, carving and kitchen utensils.


Wood Working Properties:

Red alder machines well and is excellent for turning and polishing. It nails, screws and glues well, and can be sanded, painted, or stained to a good finish. Red alder is a relatively soft hardwood of medium density that has low bending strength, shock resistance and stiffness.  It dries easily with little degrade and has good dimensional stability after drying.

Ash, white

(Faxinus Americana// Origin-US) Grows in Eastern North America from the

Mississippi river valley to the Atlantic coast Ash sapwood is light-colored to nearly white and the heartwood varies from grayish or light brown, to pale yellow streaked wit brown.  Ash is generally straight-grained with a coarse uniform texture.  The main uses are furtinure, flooring, doors, architectural millwork and moulding and kitchen cabinets. Grows in Eastern North America from the Mississippi river valley to the Atlantic coast.


Uses: Furniture, flooring, doors, architectural interiors, high class joinery and moulding, kitchen cabinets, panelling, tool handles, sports goods and turning.


Wood Working Properties:

Heavy and hard wood with good dimensional stability and minimal shrinkage; No natural resistance to decay.  Easy to work, cuts, planes, nails and bends well; not recommended for turning or mortising; good staining properties.


(Populus tremuloides //Origin –US & Canada) Common to the American West.

Sapwood is white, blending into the light brown heartwood. The contrast between sap and heartwood is small. The wood has a fine uniform texture and is straight grained.


Uses: Furniture parts (drawer sides), doors, mouldings, picture frames, interior joinery, toys, kitchen utensils. Matchsticks (USA). Important specialised uses include sauna laths because of its low conductivity of heat, and chopsticks.


Wood Working Properties:

The wood is light and soft, with low bending strength and stiffness, and medium shock resistance. It has very low bending classification.  Very soft wood fuzzes when sanded but does work well with tools.  Low fastening strength and fairly high flame resistance.


(Tilia americanan // Origin US & Canada)  The sapwood of basswood is usually quite large and creamy white in colour, merging into the heartwood which is pale to reddish brown, sometimes with darker streaks. The wood has a fine uniform texture and indistinct grain that is straight.


Uses:  Carving, turning, furniture, pattern-making, mouldings, interior joinery and musical instruments. An important specialised use is Venetian blinds.


Wood Working Properties:

Basswood machines well and is easy to work with hand tools making it a premier carving wood. It nails, screws, and glues fairly well and can be sanded, stained, and polished to a good smooth finish. It dries fairly rapidly with little distortion or degrade. It has a fairly large shrinkage but good dimensional stability when dry.

birch, alaska

(Betula neoalaskana // Origin Alaska & Northern Canada) Heartwood tends to be a light reddish brown, with nearly white sapwood. Occasionally figured pieces are available with a wide, shallow curl similar to the curl found in Cherry. There is virtually no color distinction between annual growth rings, giving Birch a somewhat plain, uniform appearance.


Uses:  Plywood, boxes, crates, turned objects, interior trim, and other small specialty wood items.  Birch is one of the most widely used woods for veneer and plywood worldwide. Besides regular sheets of plywood, Birch veneer is also used for doors, furniture, and paneling.


Wood Working Properties:

Generally easy to work with hand and machine tools, though boards with wild grain can cause grain tear-out during machining operations. Turns, glues, and finishes well.

birch, eastern yellow

(Betula alleghaniensis // Origin Northeastern North America) Heartwood tends to be a light reddish brown, with nearly white sapwood The wood is generally straight grained with fine uniform texture. There is virtually no color distinction between annual growth rings, giving Birch a somewhat plain, uniform appearance.


Uses:  Furniture, millwork and paneling, doors, flooring, kitchen cabinets, turnings and toys.


Wood Working Properties:

The wood works fairly easily, glues well with care, takes stain and polish extremely well, and nails and screws satisfactorily where pre-boring is advised.  The wood of yellow birch is heavy, hard and strong. It has very good wood bending properties, with good crushing strength and shock resistance.  It dries rather slowly with little degrade, but it has moderately high shrinkage, so is susceptible to movement in performance.

Black WAlnut

(Juglans nigra //Origin US) The sapwood of walnut is creamy white, while the

heartwood is light brown to dark chocolate brown, occasionally with a purplish cast and darker streaks. Walnut can be supplied steamed, to darken sapwood or left unsteamed. The wood is generally straight grained, but sometimes with wavy or curly grain that produces an attractive and decorative figure. Grows in Eastern North American and the Northwestern portion of South America.


Uses:  Furniture, cabinet making, architectural interiors, high class joinery, doors, flooring, and panelling.  A favoured wood for using in contrast with lighter coloured timbers.


Wood Working Properties:

Walnut works easily with hand and machine tools, and nails, screws and glues well. It holds paint and stain very well and can be polished to an exceptional finish. It dries slowly, and care is needed to avoid kilning degrade. Walnut has good dimensional stability.


(Prunus serotina // Origin-  )  The heartwood of cherry varies from rich red to

reddish brown and will darken on exposure to light. In contrast the sapwood is

creamy white. The wood has a fine uniform straight grain, smooth texture, and may naturally contain brown pith flecks and small gum pockets.


Uses:  Furniture and cabinet making, high class joinery, kitchen cabinets, mouldings, panelling, flooring, doors, boat interiors, musical instruments, turning and carving.


Wood Working Properties:

Cherry is easy to machine, nails and glues well and when sanded, stained and polished, it produces an excellent smooth finish.  The wood is of medium density with good wood bending properties; it has low stiffness and medium strength and shock resistance.  It must dry slowly to avoid warping, but dries fairly quickly with moderately large shrinkage, but is dimensionally stable after kilning.


(Populus deltoidus // Origin-Eastern US) The sapwood is white and may contain brown streaks while the heartwood may be pale to light brown. It is a diffuse porous timber with a coarse texture. The wood is generally straight grained and contains relatively few defects. Cottonwood is a true poplar, and therefore has similar characteristics and properties to aspen and European poplar.


Uses:  Furniture, furniture parts, interior joinery and mouldings, toys and kitchen utensils. A specialised use (USA) is Venetian blinds, shutters, and caskets.


Wood Working Properties:

General machinability is fair, although tension wood is frequently present and can cause a fuzzy surface when cut, which in turn will require additional care when finishing. The wood glues well and has good resistance to splitting when nailing and screwing. It dries easily but may still have a tendency to warp, with small movement in performance.


(Carya spp. // Origin- Eastern US)  Hickory is the hardest, heaviest and strongest American wood. The hickories are an important group within the Eastern hardwood forests. Botanically they are split into two groups; the true hickories, and the pecan hickories (fruit bearing).  The sapwood of hickory is white, tinged with inconspicuous fine brown lines while the heartwood is pale to reddish brown.  Both are coarse-textured and the grain is fine, usually straight but can be wavy or irregular.   The wood is virtually the same for both and is usually sold together.


Wood Working Properties:

The hickories are considered difficult to machine and glue, and are very hard to work with hand tools, so care is needed. The density and strength of the hickories will vary according to the rate of growth, with the true hickories generally showing higher values than the pecan hickories. The wood is well known for its very good strength and shock resistance and it also has excellent steam bending properties.They hold nails and screws well, but there is a tendency to split so pre-boring is advised. The wood can be sanded and polished to a good finish. It can be difficult to dry and has a large shrinkage.


(Eucalyptus urograndis (Eucalyptus grandis x E. urophylla hybrid // Origin-) Color ranges from a lighter salmon pink to a darker brownish red. Appearance has been likened to both Black Cherry and Honduran Mahogany. Color tends to deepen with age. Has a medium texture and small to medium sized open pores. The grain tends to be straight and even. Also, since the wood is grown and pruned on a plantation, there tends to be few knots or other abnormal grain patterns.


Uses:  Flooring, lumber, interior millwork, cabinetry, plywood, and turned objects.


Wood Working Properties:

Generally easy to work, though it can burn easily. Glues, stains, and finishes well.

maple, hard

(Acer saccharum, A. nigrum // Origin- Eastern U.S., principally Mid-Atlantic and Lake states)  Hard Maple typically refers to one specific type of maple species: Acer saccharum; also known as Rock Maple or Sugar Maple, (this is the same tree which is tapped to get maple syrup).  The sapwood is creamy white with a slight reddish brown tinge and the heartwood varies from light to dark reddish brown. The amount of darker brown heartwood can vary significantly according to growing region. Both sapwood and heartwood can contain pith fleck. The wood has a close fine texture and is generally straight grained, but it can also occur as 'curly', 'fiddleback', and 'birds-eye' figure.


Uses:  Flooring, furniture, paneling, ballroom and gymnasium floors, kitchen

cabinets, worktops, table tops, butchers blocks, toys, kitchenware and millwork: stairs, handrails, mouldings, and doors.


Wood Working Properties:

The wood is hard and heavy with good strength properties, in particular its high resistance to abrasion and wear. It also has good steam-bending properties. Hard maple dries slowly with high shrinkage, so it can be susceptible to movement in performance. Pre-boring is recommended when nailing and screwing. With care it machines well, turns well, glues satisfactorily, and can be stained to an outstanding finish. Maple polishes well and is suitable for enamel finishes and brown tones.

maple, soft

(Principally Acer rubrum, A. saccharinum //  Origin- Eastern & West Coast US)  First of all, the term “Soft Maple” does not refer to any specific species of maple, but rather, it’s a broad term, which includes several different species of maple. The term “Soft Maple” is merely used to differentiate these species from Hard Maple. Some of the most common species of maple that fall under the grouping of Soft Maple are:  Big Leaf Maple, Boxed Elder, Red Maple, Silver Maple, Striped Maple.  In most respects the wood of soft maple is very similar to that of hard maple. Although due to its widespread growth it may be more susceptible to regional colour variations. Generally the sapwood is greyish white, sometimes with darker coloured pith flecks. The heartwood varies from light to dark reddish brown. The wood is usually straight grained. The lumber is generally sold unselected for colour.


Uses:  Furniture, panelling, interior joinery, kitchen cabinets, mouldings, doors, musical instruments, and turning. Soft maple is often used as a substitute for hard maple or stained to resemble other species such as cherry. Its physical and working properties also make it a possible substitute for beech.


Wood Working Properties:

Soft maple machines well and can be stained and polished to an excellent finish. It glues, screws, and nails satisfactorily. It dries slowly with minimal degrade and there is little movement in performance.

oak, red

(Quercus spp. // Origin- Eastern US)  The sapwood of red oak is white to light

brown and the heartwood is a pinkish reddish brown. The wood is similar in general appearance to white oak, but with a slightly less pronounced figure due to the smaller rays. The wood is mostly straight-grained, with a coarse texture.


Uses: Furniture, flooring, architectural millwork and mouldings, doors, kitchen

cabinets, paneling and caskets.


Wood Working Properties:

The wood is hard and heavy, with medium bending strength and stiffness and high crushing strength. It is very good for steam bending. Great wear-resistance.  Red oak machines well, nailing and screwing are good although pre-boring is recommended, and it can be stained to a good finish. It can be stained with a wide range of finish tones. It dries slowly.

oak, white

(Quercus spp // Origin- Eastern US)  The sapwood is light-colored and the

heartwood is light to dark brown. White oak is mostly straight-grained with a

medium to coarse texture, with longer rays than red oak. White oak therefore has more figure.  The white oak group comprises many species, of which about eight are commercial.


Uses:  Furniture, flooring, architectural millwork, mouldings, doors, kitchen

cabinets, paneling, barrel staves (tight cooperage) and caskets.


Wood Working Properties:

A hard and heavy wood with medium bending and crushing strength, low in

stiffness, but very good in steam bending. Great wear-resistance.  White oak

machines well, nails and screws well although pre-boring is advised. Since it reacts with iron, galvanized nails are recommended. Its adhesive properties are variable, but it stains to a good finish. Can be stained with a wide range of finish tones. The wood dries slowly.

poplar, tulip

(Liriodendron tulipifera - Other Names: Yellow Poplar, Tulip Wood // Origin-

Eastern US)  The sapwood is creamy white and may be streaked, with the

heartwood varying from pale yellowish brown to olive green. The green color in the heartwood will tend to darken on exposure to light and turn brown. The wood has a medium to fine texture and is straight-grained; has a comparatively uniform texture.


Uses: Light construction, furniture, kitchen cabinets, doors, musical instruments, exterior trim and siding, paneling, mouldings and millwork, edge-glued panels, turnings and carvings.


Wood Working Properties:

A medium density wood with low bending, shock resistance, stiffness and

compression values, with a medium steam-bending classification; Excellent strength and stability.  A versatile wood that is easy to machine, plane, turn, glue and bore. It dries easily with minimal movement in performance and has little tendency to split when nailed. It takes and holds paint, enamel and stain exceptionally well.

soft woods


(Cupressus nootkatensis // Origin- Northwest Coast of North America)  Heartwood is a light yellow. Sapwood is a similar whitish/pale yellow and isn’t distinct from the heartwood. Color tends to darken with age upon exposure to light, (though when left exposed outdoors it weathers to a uniform gray).  Grain is usually straight, though sometimes wavy, with a uniform medium to fine texture.


Uses:  Carving, boatbuilding, siding, flooring, decking, outdoor furniture, musical instruments (flutes, soundboards on guitars), boxes and chests, and various utility/construction.


Wood Working Properties:

Easy to work with both hand and machine tools, though pieces with wavy grain may produce tearout during planing. Holds paint well. Stains, glues, and finishes well.


(Juniperus virginiana // Origin- Eastern North America)  Also known as Eastern Redcedar.  Heartwood tends to be a reddish or violet-brown. Sapwood is a pale yellow color, and can be appear throughout the heartwood as streaks and stripes. Has a straight grain, usually with knots present. Has a very fine even texture.


Uses:  Fence posts, closet and chest linings, carvings, outdoor furniture, pencils, bows, and small wooden specialty items.


Wood Working Properties:

Overall, Aromatic Red Cedar is easy to work, notwithstanding any knots or

irregularities present in the wood. It reportedly has a high silica content, which can dull cutters. Aromatic Red Cedar glues and finishes well, though in many applications, the wood is left unfinished to preserve its aromatic properties.


(Thuja plicata // Origin- Pacific Northwest US & Canada)  Heartwood reddish to pinkish brown, often with random streaks and bands of darker red/brown areas. Narrow sapwood is pale yellowish white, and isn’t always sharply demarcated from the heartwood;  has a straight grain and a medium to coarse texture.


Uses:  Shingles, exterior siding and lumber, boatbuilding, boxes, crates, and musical instruments.


Wood Working Properties:

Easy to work with both hand or machine tools, though it dents and scratches very easily due to its softness, and can sand unevenly due to the difference in density between the earlywood and latewood zones. Glues and finishes well. Iron-based fasteners can stain and discolor the wood, especially in the presence of moisture.


(Pseudotsuga menziesii // Origin- Western US)  Can vary in color based upon age and location of tree; usually a light brown color with a hint of red and/or yellow, with darker growth rings.  In quarter-sawn pieces, the grain is typically straight and plain. In flat-sawn pieces, (typically seen in rotary-sliced veneers), the wood can exhibit wild grain patterns.  Grain is generally straight, though wavy or curly grain is occasionally seen; medium to coarse texture, with a decent natural luster.


Uses:  Veneer, plywood, and structural/construction lumber


Wood Working Properties: Typically machines well but has a moderate blunting effect on cutters. Accepts stains, glues, and finishes well.


(Tsuga heterophylla // Origin-Northwest Coast North America)  Heartwood is light reddish brown. Sapwood may be slightly lighter in color but usually isn’t

distinguished from the heartwood. Occasionally contains dark streaks caused by bark maggots. The conspicuous growth rings can exhibit interesting grain patterns on flatsawn surfaces.  Grain is generally straight.


Uses:  Boxes, pallets, crates, plywood, framing, and other construction purposes.


Wood Working Properties:

Overall working properties are good, but because of the disparity between the soft earlywood and the hard latewood, sanding can create dips and uneven

surfaces. Glues, stains, and finishes well.

Pine, knotty

Knotty pine is not generally used in vital structural applications, because pine is a very soft wood and the knots may cause it to split, break, or bow. For decorative purposes, however, this wood is quite suitable, although it can be overwhelming when used to excess. It is particularly popular in cabins and other rural retreats, and many manufacturers of artificial wood paneling copy the distinctive bulls-eye look of knotty pine. There are over one hundred species of pine across the Northern hemisphere, and a number of species that grow in Southern climates as well. Pine trees are evergreen conifers and highly resinous, which accounts for their distinctive odor. The sap can be made into turpentine and other products, and it is quite difficult to remove from clothing or hair, so most pine used in construction is aged. Most species have scaly, grayish bark and needle-like green leaves. As the trees mature, they grow outward as well as upward, ultimately subsuming branches in their trunks, and this is how knots are formed. The scarred areas around knots are unusable for structural timber, and it’s likely that builders attempting to make use of otherwise nonfunctional wood realized the ornamental properties of knotty pine.

Knotty pine is most commonly used on walls, though it also appears in flooring. Because pine is a soft wood, floors made from it are not advisable unless they are carefully conditioned and varnished to prevent dents, scarring, and other damage.

pine, ponderosa

(Pinus ponderosa) Heartwood is reddish brown, sapwood is yellowish white; Straight grained with medium texture. Although Ponderosa Pine is technically classified as a yellow (hard) pine, it shares many characteristics with white (soft) pines, having a considerably lower density than the yellow pine species found in the eastern United States.


Uses:  Veneer, plywood, sheathing, subflooring, boxes, crates, posts/poles, interior trim, cabinetry, and construction lumber


Wood Working Properties:

Ponderosa pine works well with both hand and machine tools. Glues and finishes well.

pine, sugar

(Pinus lambertiana // Origin- Mountainous regions of Pacific coast of United States)   Heartwood is a light brown, sometimes with a slightly reddish hue. Sapwood is a pale yellow to nearly white. Flatsawn surfaces frequently exhibit small brown streaks from the conspicuous resin canals present in the tree.


Wood Working Properties:

Sugar Pine is easy to work with both hand and machine tools. Glues and finishes well

spruce, sitka

(Picea sitchensis // Origin-Northwestern North America) Ranges from cream/white to yellow; heartwood can also exhibit a subtle pinkish red hue in some instances. Sapwood not clearly demarcated from heartwood. Some pieces can exhibit a special grain pattern called bearclaw; Sitka Spruce has a fine, even texture, and a consistently straight grain.


Uses:  Lumber, boxes/crates, furniture, millwork, aircraft components, musical instrument soundboards, boatbuilding (masts and spars), wind turbine blades, and virtually any application where a wood material with a good strength-to-weight ratio is needed.


Wood Working Properties:

Easy to work, as long as there are no knots present. Glues and finishes well, though it can give poor (blotchy and inconsistent) results when being stained due to its closed pore structure. A sanding sealer, gel stain, or toner is recommended when coloring Spruce.

© 2015 Superior Hardwoods

To find extended information on different woods and their properties visit  The Wood Database. Data used by permission.