wood species

Selected wood species: Canada and United States

Furniture designers and SMEs can access a plethora of wood species, from ubiquitous red oak and walnut to subtle fruitwoods and urban park thinnings. furniturelink selected 14 species for special scrutiny — six softwoods and eight hardwoods, all indigenous to Canada and/or the United States — divided into four categories (listed below) to reflect the national source of the technical data.

Criteria for selected species reflects furniturelink's priorities — support for design-driven small and medium-size domestic furniture producers using sustainable materials. This sector requires unique and innovative design to generate the niche products that appeal to North American consumers: it makes no sense to compete with mass-marketed products using mass-marketed materials. Small companies' flexibility enable them to work with local woodlots, kilning services and lumberyards to identify rarer species with aesthetic appeal. Look around in your own backyard for relatively small volumes of "interesting" timber that lacks the economy of scale to attract large multinational corporations. View the 14 woods selected as examples of these values and not as a definitive list. furniturelink appreciates opinions on wood species meeting these criteria to add to the list.

furniturelink gives some practical examples of "interesting" uses of regional wood species (below) to inspire designers and manufacturers to search out local materials that the competition usually ignores.

Western hemlock bench
Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) bench by David Grieg, Vancouver, BC.
Western larch chair
Western larch (Larix occidentalis) folding chair by Emily Carr University students Pauline Cheng, Clive Chan, Dennis Chan and Shora Pararesh, Vancouver, BC.
Red alder bookcase
Red alder (Alnus rubra) triangle bookcase by British Columbia Institute of Technonogy student Corey Robertson, Burnaby, BC.
Edge-glued panels from Alaska hardwoods
Edge-Glued Panels from Alaska Hardwoods: Retail Manager Perspectives, March 2010.
David Nicholls, et al., researched the market potential for edge-glued paper birch and red alder panels (image copyright USAD).

Eco comments

Many of us have retained the images of North American and tropical clearcut wastelands caused by commodity species extraction. The 2008 report Assessment of Lawful Harvesting and Sustainability of US Hardwood Exports, by Seneca Creek Associates, concludes that, with the exception of Washington State, hardwood growing stock in the United States more than doubled since 1952 and increased by 28 per cent since 1987, and selective logging accounts primarily for the harvesting of North American hardwoods. (1)

Manufacturers need credible chain-of-custody monitoring of their raw wood supplies to help consumers identify furniture made of sustainably harvested materials. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a respected organization overseeing ethical wood harvesting, provides an online database of approved suppliers.

Manufacturers who self-monitor wood sourced from local community forests (below) provide another option. To determine the sustainability of harvested wood, manufacturers can make random unannounced visits to small woodlots that can't afford the high cost of formal certification, take photographs and talk to forest professionals. (See also furniturelink's eco furniture page.)

Sourcing local wood species (United States)

California: Urban Wood, Berkeley: GWRY, Marshall: Arborica, Martinez: Urban Lumber, San Luis Obispo: Pacific Coast Lumber, San Leandro: Moore Newton, Whitethorn: Whitethorn Hardwoods, Woodland: Walnut Place.

Colorado: Forest Products

Delaware: Wood Products Directory

Idaho: Forest Products Commission, Wood Products Directory

Illinois: Urban Forestry Chicago: Horigan Urban Forest Products

Indiana: Community and Urban Forestry

Iowa: Wood Products Directory, Belle Plaine: Pierce Lumber

Kansas: Forest Products

Kentucky: Urban forestry

Maine: Forest Products Directory (PDF), Certified wood

Maryland: Brick and Board

Massachusetts: Sawmill/Kiln Directory

Michigan: Urban Wood

Minnesota: Timber producers, Directory, Maple Lake: Certified Wood Products

Montana: Community Forestry

New Jersey: Sawmill Directory (PDF)

New York: Wood Products Directory, Buffalo: Advantage Lumber, NY: NY Heartwoods

New Hampshire: Directory of Sawmills

Oregon: Sustainable Northwest, Forest Industry Directory

Pennsylvania: PFPA, Lemoyne: Lafferty, Kreamer: Bingaman Lumber, Picture Rocks: Lewis Lumber, Liberty: Wheeland Lumber

Vermont: Forest Product Utilization, Burlington: Woodnet, Guilford: Kerber Lumber

Virginia: Forest Products Directory, AHC

Washington: Small Forest Landowners Office, Small-scale Sawmills Directory (eastern), Small-scale Sawmills Directory (western), Northwest Certified Forestry, Port Townsend: Edensaw

Wisconsin: Urban Forestry, Urban Wood, River Falls: Liberty Sawmill, Spring Green: Timbergreen Farm

Sourcing local wood species (Canada)

Alberta: Forest Products Directory

British Columbia: Forest Supplier Directory, Cortes Island: Cortes Forestry General Partnership, Maple Ridge: Carlwood, Sidney: West Wind Hardwoods, Thrums: Kalesnikoff, Squamish: Vancouver Urban Timberworks

New Brunswick: Value-added Report, Kedgwick Ouest: Chassé Sawmill, Saint John: Irving

Nova Scotia: Windhorse

Ontario: Wood Producers Directory, Cambridge: A&M, Mississauga: Weston, Stouffville: Century Mill, Toronto: Urban Tree Salvage

Quebec: Forest Industry Directory, Dixville: Leclerc&Tremblay, Louiseville: Maski, Laval: C.A. Spencer


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