Selecting a Wood Species

Last updated on October 4th, 2017 at 03:14 pm

Top Quality Hardwoods include American Cherry, Maple, Walnut, Oak
Top Quality Hardwoods include American Cherry, Maple, Walnut, Oak

Vermont Woods Studios fine furniture is handcrafted in Vermont using real solid wood. Each board in your furniture is selected by hand, and inspected for quality, strength, straightness, grain and color. Our furniture makers use wood that comes from North American forests that are harvested sustainably.

Our furniture makers typically work with the following four species of wood: black cherry, sugar maple, red oak and black walnut. We like these species because they are well suited to fine furniture making by virtue of their color, strength, hardness, grain patterns and workability. They are also readily obtainable in our local and regional area, making them a sustainable choice. Often our furniture makers will offer two-tone combinations of these woods creating a custom, artisan look and feel to their work.

If you are looking for a different wood species, give us a call. We will be happy to discuss options and considerations involving the use of other wood species.

American Black Cherry

American Black Cherry
American Black Cherry

Cherry Wood is a reddish brown hardwood with a smooth, fine grain. It’s perhaps the most prized furniture hardwood in America. People are often surprised to learn that natural cherry wood furniture changes colors over time– quite a bit actually. It starts out as a light-toned wood and darkens as it is exposed to light.

This darkening or “ripening” process is most apparent within the first six months of light exposure and it may continue for several years before reaching that beautiful, reddish brown hue that cherry wood is known for. You can accelerate the aging process by exposing the wood to as much natural light as possible.

Cherry wood has a smooth, closed grain pattern, much like that of maple wood. As with any natural product, we expect and embrace unique characteristics in the wood grain. A single cherry wood board can have several contrasting grain patterns depending on the growth of the tree.

Sugar or Hard Maple

Maple Wood
Maple Wood

Sugar Maple Wood (aka: hard maple) is usually light reddish brown in the center or heartwood but sometimes considerably darker (dark maple is often mistaken for cherry wood). Maple sapwood is typically white with a slight reddish-brown tinge. Maple is heavy, strong, stiff, hard, and resistant to shock.  It has a fine, uniform texture with generally straight grain, but variations such as curly, wavy, rippled, birdseye, tiger, flame or fiddleback grain occur and are often selected for specialty custom artisan furniture.

It is not uncommon to find different grain contrasts in the same piece of solid maple wood furniture.  The lighter grain was closer to the tree’s bark (sapwood) and the slightly darker grain was closer to the tree’s center (heartwood).  The contrast between heartwood and sapwood is usually not extreme– for example it generally ranges from paper white to creamy white to tan.  As you can see in this picture of a cross section of a maple tree, the contrast is much less than for a cherry tree.

Our craftsmen typically use maple wood that is grown right here in Vermont, as it is native to our Green Mountain Forest and grows in abundance here.  Your maple furniture may well come from a sugar maple tree that was tapped for many years to produce sap for Vermont’s world famous maple syrup.

American Black Walnut

American Black Walnut
American Black Walnut

Black Walnut Wood is the only dark North American wood. It’s prized by woodworkers for it’s strength, grain and color which is a rich chocolate brown– with occasional purple tones. There are over 20 species of walnut trees but it is the Eastern Black Walnut tree (aka: American Walnut) that is native to North America and is used for our American made walnut furniture.

Black walnut wood is dark, hard, dense and tight-grained. It polishes to a very smooth finish and the color ranges from creamy white in the sapwood to a dark chocolate color in the heartwood. With our furniture, we use walnut heartwood & sapwood and do our best to keep the grain color consistent. You may notice grain color variations however, particularly on the bottom of table tops and on table legs. These natural variations make each piece unique and are considered hallmarks of quality.

Black walnut is often straight grained but is enjoyed for more figure variations than any other wood. Mineral deposits and pitch pockets are rarely a concern in black walnut. Over the years natural walnut wood develops a lustrous patina. Because it is the only dark brown domestic species it has a large following of devoted woodworkers and fine furniture aficionados.

Oak

Oak Wood
Oak Wood

At Vermont Woods Studios we use White and Red Oak –long favorite woods for furniture building. Oak is a solid, sturdy and very durable hardwood with generally uniform coarse texture and prominent rays.  It is not uncommon to find different grain contrasts in the same piece of solid oak wood furniture.  The lighter, almost white grain was closer to the tree’s bark (sapwood) and the slightly reddish tan colored grain was closer to the tree’s center (heartwood).   Oak wood may darken slightly over time, taking on more amber tones however the change is very subtle, unlike the significant color change with cherry wood.   As you can see in this picture of a cross section of an oak tree, the contrast is much less than for a cherry tree.

Oak has been the wood of choice for many of America’s most beloved mission and craftsman-style furniture makers, like Gustav Stickley, Greene and Greene and Frank Lloyd Wright.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

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