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Domestic Woods Characteristics

... including color, grain, characteristics such as shock resistance, dimensional stability, decay resistance properties, steam-bends qualities plus finishing properties like staining, sanding and painting.

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Alder, also known as Oregon Alder or Western Alder, is a relative of Birch. It grows along the Pacific coast of United States from Alaska to Southern California. It ranks third behind Oak and Pine as the wood most commonly used for ready-to finish furniture.
  Color: Pale yellow to reddish brown with indistinct boundary between heartwood and softwood.
  Grain: Straight grained and even textured, but with no distinct grain pattern.
  Characteristics: Good working properties, moderately lightweight, low shock resistance. Alder is soft, light, not particularly strong, with good elasticity, good steam bending, medium stiffness, low shock resistance, low decay resistance, and good stability in service. Works easily with hand or machine tools. Turns and carves extremely well. Marginal nail and screw holding properties.
  Finishing: Glues, sands, stains and finishes easily.

Ash

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There are several species of American Ash: black, brown, and white. Like most other hardwoods the timber of the White Ash is heavy, hard, strong and durable. What sets ash apart and makes it valuable for many special uses is its exceptional flexibility. Ash is among the most easily steam-bent hardwood species. Early windmills were made form Ash. Ash is also used extensively in the manufacture of sporting goods. We all know that baseball bats are made from white Ash. Ash is a popular species for food containers because the wood has no taste.
  Color: Nearly pure lustrous white, ranging through cream to very light brown.
  Grain: It has an attractive, straight, moderately open, pronounced grain with a coarse texture. Pale-brown heartwood and almost white sapwood.
  Characteristics: Moderately heavy, hard, strong, and tough with moderately high shock resistance, good dimensional stability, and poor decay resistance. Steam-bends very well and is quite elastic.
  Finishing: Glues, screws, and nails satisfactorily. Stains and finishes well, although filling may be required.

Cherry

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Like all fruit trees, Cherry belongs to the rose family and was used as early as 400 B.C. by the Greeks and Romans for furniture making. Cherry helped define American traditional design because Colonial cabinetmakers recognized its superior woodworking qualities. Today, Cherry helps define Shaker, Mission and country styling. The wood from the Cherry tree can be described in a single word: beautiful. Its rich red-brown color deepens with age. Small dark gum flecks add to its interest. Distinctive, unique figures and grains are brought out through quarter sawing. It has an exceptionally lustrous appearance that glows. The finish is satiny to the touch
  Color: Rich, reddish-brown. Cherry darkens considerably with age and exposure to sunlight.
  Grain: Straight-grained and satiny. Small gum pockets produce distinctive markings.
  Characteristics: Light, strong, stiff and rather hard. Cherry's grain is more subdued than some other hardwood species, with very interesting character.
  Finishing: Cherry is unsurpassed in its finishing qualities-its uniform texture takes a finish very well.

Maple

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The American species of Maple are divided into two groups: Hard Maple, which includes sugar and Black Maple; and soft Maple, which includes red and silver Maple. Maple has been a favorite of American furniture makers since early Colonial days. Hard maple is the standard wood for cutting boards because it imparts no taste to food and holds up well.
  Color: Cream to light reddish-brown.
  Grain: Usually straight-grained and sometimes found with highly figured bird's-eye or burl grain. Bird's-eye resembles small circular or elliptical figures. Clusters of round curls are known as burl.
  Characteristics: Heavy, hard, strong, tough, stiff, close-grained and possesses a uniform texture. Maple has excellent resistance to abrasion and indentation, making it ideal flooring as well as cutting boards and counter tops.
  Finishing: Takes stain satisfactorily and polishes well.

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Also known as Yellow Poplar, Whitewood, Tulipwood, Canoe Wood, Tulip Tree, European Black Poplar, Canadian Poplar, Balsam Poplar and Cottonwood. It grows throughout N. America, Europe, and Asia. Poplar trees grow taller than any other U.S. hardwood species. The yellow poplar grows quickly into a tall straight tree. It is found alone in open, rich, moist soil. Because of its fast maturity the lumber from poplar is lightweight and soft for a hardwood. But it is strong, durable and seasons well resisting warping once it is dried. Because the trunk has no limbs or branches, except at the very top, the wood has no knots.
  Color: White to yellowish cast, sometimes with slightly greenish cast and occasionally with dark purplish streaks.
  Grain: Straight grained with a fine even texture.
  Characteristics: Comparatively uniform texture, light to medium weight, excellent strength, and stability. It cuts and sands well, keeps its' edge and resists splitting.
  Finishing: Glues, screws and nails well. Staining can be patchy but paints and varnish are easily applied. Because it takes paint exceptionally well, it is often painted.

Red Oak

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Oak was a favorite of early English craftsmen and a prized material for American Colonists. Red Oak grows only in North America and is found further north than any other Oak species. A big, slow growing tree, red oak takes 20 years to mature and lives an average of 300 years.
  Color: Red Oak-ranges from nearly white cream color to a beautiful warm, pale brown heartwood, tinted with red.
  Grain: The grain is distinguished by rays, which reflect light and add to its attractiveness. Depending on the way the logs are sawn into timber (rift-cut, flat sliced, flat sawn, rotary cut, quartered), many distinctive and sought after patterns emerge: flake figures, pin stripes, fine lines, leafy grains and watery figures.
  Characteristics: Heavy, very strong and very hard, stiff, durable under exposure, great wear-resistance, holds nails and screws well.
  Finishing: Oaks can be stained beautifully with a wide range of finish tones.

Walnut

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Also known as American Black Walnut, American Walnut, Canadian Walnut, Black Hickory Nut, Gun Wood, Canaletto, Nogal, and Tocte. Grows in United States and Canada. Walnuts average in height between 100 to 150 feet with diameters of 4 to 6 feet.
  Color: Rich dark brown heartwood and nearly white sapwood.
  Grain: American black walnut can be found with both a straight grain, or a distinctive, highly figured grain. It had a moderately coarse, uniform texture.
  Characteristics: Walnut is one of the largest hardwood trees found in the United States. Moderately heavy, hard, strong, and stiff, with good decay resistance and dimensional stability. Works very well with machine or hand tools. Excels at turning, molding, routing, shaping, carving, and drilling.
  Finishing: Sands easily and finishes to a velvety, natural-colored sheen.

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