My Wood Palette
Stan Pike - furniture maker
From among these common but beautiful woods I build my creations.
Ash is an amazing wood. It has a wonderful grain pattern, is a very strong hard wood and works especially well in furniture. It has qualities which give it great strength while maintaining flexibility. This makes it especially good for chair components or table legs. It also carves wonderfully.
Basswood is frequently used by wood carvers because of it's softness and uniform grain pattern. However because it is very stable, it works well for drawer and cabinet construction. It's a good replacement for pine although not as attractive.
North Eastern Cherry is a terrific furniture wood. Although it can be unpredictable because it varies in grain pattern, density and coloration. However, it's a moderately strong hard wood which works well in cabinetry and table construction. It's very stable and can be given a beautiful finish.
Cherry with Red Mahogany Stain
Although I don't usually use stain, when cherry is stained with red mahogany it produces a darker, deeper and richer look.
Douglas fir is a very special wood although not used much in furniture. It's more commonly used on the West Coast especially in house construction for door and window frames. Although it's considered a "soft wood" it's very strong, though also light and works well in framed panels, doors and most structural elements. It's one drawback is that it's very splintery to use.
Black Locust ia a rarely used but very special wood. Because it's usually not found in long lengths, its use is limited, mostly for wood pallets. However, it's a very hard and stable wood with a look in between oak and ash. It is very, very durable and can be used in wet environments and also resists rot.
Maple is a beautiful wood which goes well with many others. It comes in two varieties, hard or "rock maple" and soft. I prefer the soft which is none the less a hard wood and works well especially for cabinet tops or table legs. It does have a tendency to expand and contract a lot with changes in humidity. This makes it less suitable for large table tops except in its veneer or plywood form.
Maogany ia a very rich wood which goes well with many others. It comes in two varieties, Philippine and American. The Philippine variety is softer and not as attractive so I usually prefer not to use it. Mahonagy is a very stable wood and goes well with red oak , padauk and walnut.
Red Oak is one of my favorite woods. While it's very strong it has a beautiful light finish and goes with many other woods. It stands up to hard abuse and works very well as a major structural element in almost any kind of furniture application.
Red Oak with Cherry Stain
Although I prefer not to use stains, when cherry stain is applied to red oak it gives it a nice mellow, slightly reddish look.
Poplar is widely used for structure in upholstered furniture. This is because it's light and strong, nails and screws well, but is not too attractive. This is why it's often covered up by upholstery material. However, it also works well for drawer bottoms and cabinet backs and can look good in visible structural elements depending on the wood chosen.
Aromatic Red Cedar
Another of my favorite woods, aromatic red cedar is very special because of it's beautiful look, wonderfully fragrant smell and it's natural insect repellent quality. Used for many years in making cedar blanket chests, it's still popular for use building cedar strip canoes. I love to use it for drawer bottoms, both for its look and insect repellent qualities. It may also be used for side panels in chests or other cabinetry where hardness is not required.
American Black Walnut
Walnut is a wonderful dark wood that fits well into a formal setting. It's medium hard and works easily. It's light but relatively strong and stable. Although its fine dust can be toxic to breathe it's moderately resistant to fungi. Usually used as a veneer, I like to use solid walnut in framed panels.
I try to use clear grade yellow pine whenever possible. Besides being a beautiful wood it gives off a wonderful pine scent which is very pleasing. It's relatively stable when dry and although of light weight and low strength, it works easily and takes an excellent finish. It has good furniture qualities for areas that don't take too much abuse.
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