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hardwoods

United States selected hardwoods

American beech Black cherry Madrone White oak Tanoak

As mentioned in the introduction, furniturelink selected the species listed on this page primarily for their regional and unusual aeshetic characteristics. As these five hardwoods are not a definitive list, furniturelink welcomes your suggestions for additional species.

See also: Canada selected hardwoods.

Designers and SME producers can also consult furniturelink's hardwood science resource and Understanding Wood and Identifying Wood by R. Bruce Hoadley (see right-hand column).

Ecolabelling issues

furniturelink advocates the use of FSC-certified, recycled wood or timber from well-managed local woodlots (see bottom of wood species for some sources). Rare wood species should be used primarily for veneered agriboard panels or other certified boards (MDF, plywood), manufactured with non-toxic adhesives.

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American beech - Fagus grandifolia *

Common names

Carolina beech, gray beech, red beech.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

None.

Tree

Found in mixed stands with other hardwoods and softwoods; grows up to 37 m (120 ft) in height and 120 cm (4 ft) in diameter.

Wood

Heartwood lustrous and varies from light to dark reddish brown; usually narrow, white sapwood with a pink tinge.

Density (12% mc)

750 kg/cubic metre (47 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           50.30 MPa
Resistance to splitting      7.00 MPa
Static bending strength    103.00 MPa

* (Source of data and explanation of tests.)

* (Mechanical properties of Canada and United States species.)

* (Chart of strength and density for furniture species.)

* (Interactive species location map.)

Processing

High shrinkage during kilning can cause checks, splits, and warps unless very carefully monitored; straight- to interlocked-grained; machines satisfactorily; suitable for steam bending.

Identification features: hand lens

Diffuse porous; growth rings distinct delineated by dark line of latewood; pores small and indistinct without a hand lens; broad rays separated by narrower rays plainly visible to the unaided eye.

Traditional uses

Furniture, decorative veneer, panelling, handles, food containers, architectural millwork.

Potential "value-created" uses

Furniture designs exploiting the natural reddish colour; edge-laminated table tops; CNC lathe structural components; steam-bent upholstery frames.


Black cherry - Prunus serotina *

Common names

Cherry, cabinet cherry, wild black cherry.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

None.

Tree

Found in mixed stands with other hardwoods; grows up to 30 m (96 ft) in height and 60 cm (2 ft) in diameter.

Wood

Heartwood lustrous and varies from light to mid-reddish brown; usually narrow, off-white sapwood.

Density (12% mc)

610 kg/cubic metre (38 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           50.40 MPa
Resistance to splitting      6.07 MPa
Static bending strength     87.10 MPa

* (Source of data and explanation of tests.)

* (Mechanical properties of Canada and United States species.)

* (Chart of strength and density for furniture species.)

* (Interactive species location map.)

Processing

Seasons satisfactorily but with relative high shrinkage; dimensionally stable after kilning; excellent machining properties because of its fairly uniform texture.

Identification features: hand lens

Diffuse porous; pores small and uniformly distributed; line of pores in the earlywood marks the growth ring; rays visible to the unaided eye and lighter than the other cell mass.

Traditional uses

Furniture, decorative veneer, panelling, architectural millwork.

Potential "value-created" uses

Furniture designs exploiting the natural colour; cherry veneered, MDF (soy-based adhesive, FSC certified) cabinets for LEED and health-care applications.


Madrone - Arbutus menziesi*

Common names

Coast madrone, madrona, laurel, madrone laurel.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

None.

Tree

Normally grows up to 24 m (80 ft) in height and 100 cm (3 ft) in diameter but in optimal conditions can reach 38 m (125 ft) in height and 120 cm (4 ft) in diameter.

Wood

Heartwood light reddish brown; sapwood white or cream often with a pinkish tinge.

Density (12% mc)

720 kg/cubic metre (45 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength            71.70 MPa
Resistance to splitting            n/a
Static bending strength     121.00 MPa

* (Source of data and explanation of tests.)

* (Mechanical properties of Canada and United States species.)

* (Chart of strength and density for furniture species.)

* (Interactive species location map.)

Processing

Kilning requires a long and careful schedule to avoid checks and splits; machines well; though some sources claim poor glue adhesion, others claim no unusual problems; easy to finish.

Identification features: hand lens

Diffuse porous growth rings barely visible even with a hand lens; delineated by continuous row of pores in the earlywood; rays barely to readily visible with a hand lens.

Traditional uses

Turnery, bowls, tool handles, flooring, furniture.

Potential "value-created" uses

Large CNC-routered furniture components with neutral-shade translucent stains; edge-laminated solid table tops; burl madrone veneered cabinet components; laminated veneer chair components.


White oak - Quercus alba*

Common names

Stave oak.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

Red oak - Quercus rubra, Bur oak - Quercus macrocarpa.

Tree

Grows slowly with a life span of 500-600 years; prefers sites with deep soils and good drainage; grows up to 30 m (96 ft) in height and 100 cm (3 ft) in diameter.

Wood

Heartwood light to grey/green brown; sapwood off-white but narrow; cells plugged with tyloses (a clear reflective bubblelike membrane in the pores) that makes it impervious to liquids and the premium choice for wine barrels; resistant to decay; low stiffness.

Density (12% mc)

750 kg/cubic metre (47 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           60.10 MPa
Resistance to splitting      8.65 MPa
Static bending strength    121.00 MPa

* (Source of data and explanation of tests.)

* (Mechanical properties of Canada and United States species.)

* (Chart of strength and density for furniture species.)

* (Interactive species location map.)

Processing

Kilning requires a long and careful schedule to avoid checks and splits; machines well when attention paid to grain direction; excellent steam-bending properties; creates a black stain in contact with mild steel; susceptible to above-average moisture movement in use.

Identification features: hand lens

Ring porous; distinct large earlywood pores; tyloses (a clear reflective bubblelike membrane in the pores); tangential lines of lighter parenchyma cells; rays either extremely large or so fine they are barely visible with a hand lens.

Traditional uses

Furniture, decorative rift-cut "flat" grain and "flake" figure veneer, plywood, panelling, tool handles, boat building.

Potential "value-created" uses

CNC-routered steam-bent furniture components; marketing aesthetic advantages of "white" over "red" oak; oak-veneered MDF (soy-based adhesive, FSC certified) cabinets for LEED and health-care applications; CNC-based chair designs for the hospitality industry.


Tanoak - Lithocarpus densiflorus*

Common names

Tan oak, chestnut oak, tanbark oak.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

Red oak - Quercus rubra, Bur oak - Quercus macrocarpa.

Tree

Grows to 46 m (150 ft) in height and 1.2 m (4 ft) in diameter but in optimal conditions can reach 61 m (200 ft) in height and 2.7 m (9 ft) in diameter; in dense forest tanoaks have straight clear stems for up to 24 m (80 ft); grows in moist climates often in mixed stands with other hardwoods and softwoods.

Wood

Heartwood and sapwood tannish to reddish-brown after aging; hard, resistant to abrasion and stiff; may be susceptible to splitting.

Density (12% mc)

660 kg/cubic metre (41 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           63.40 MPa
Resistance to splitting           n/a
Static bending strength    114.50 MPa

* (Source of data and explanation of tests.)

* (Mechanical properties of Canada and United States species.)

* (Chart of strength and density for furniture species.)

* (Interactive species location map.)

Processing

Kilning requires a long and careful schedule to avoid checks and splits; machines and finishes well because of its fine grain; well suited to veneer production; creates a black stain in contact with mild steel.

Identification features: hand lens

Diffuse porous (unusual in an oak species); growth rings marked by a faint darker narrow line; broad rays easily visible.

Traditional uses

Furniture, flooring, veneer, paneling, pallets.

Potential "value-created" uses

Similar to white oak, though tanoak's finer grain favours furniture requiring high-quality clear finishes.

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Hardwood species data

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