WOOD SPECIES AND FURNITURE FINISHES
I focus my work using locally available hardwoods from the northeast, favoring cherry, walnut, and maple. I have used oak on occasion and I have sometimes used mahogany especially when a client’s home already features this wood in moldings and other pieces of furniture. If you are looking for a different wood species, please contact me, I will be happy to discuss options and the use of other wood species. I can used a second species of lumber as an accent for a drawer front, through tenons or legs when a client wants some additional design elements in their piece.
I finish my furniture pieces with natural oil and varnish finishes, usually six to eight coats, each coat hand rubbed and never with anything that will hide the beauty of the wood surfaces. I’ll apply a final coat of natural paste wax to provide some more protection and an incredibly smooth surface so that the furniture invites you to touch it. I’ll often finish table tops with extra layers of finish or a more durable mixture to provide better protection.
Cherry is one of my favorite species of wood to work with a smooth-grained reddish-brown hardwood that comes from the American Black Cherry fruit tree. It is readily available in large timbers and machines very well. In its fresh state has a reddish/pinkish hue. What many people love is cherry’s aging process; as the wood is exposed to light cherry will naturally darken over time to a deep reddish hue with a deep patina. The grain varies from very straight to figured such as curly cherry or crotch can be used for elements such as a drawer front.
Black walnut wood is dark, hard, dense and tight-grained. It has superior strength, beautiful grain and rich color. In its raw unfinished form it is a mid toned chocolate color and with finish and age it develops a rich patina. The sapwood, a creamy white is often used as an accent or even featured in large planks on tabletops to celebrate the natural variations of wood. Walnut was often stained and heavily varnished so that it lost its rich tones and was seen as a dark heavy wood. Today woodworkers value its beautiful grain and figure and don’t darken it anymore.
Maple wood is very strong, with smooth and subtle grain structure and light, creamy color. There are many of species of maple trees available in the Northeast; the most common is Hard Maple (aka Sugar Maple). I work with other variations of maple such as curly, tiger, or birdseye as accents for legs, drawer fronts, and knobs. Slight staining can be used to pop the grain but usually a good quality varnish will accentuate the grain on it’s own.
Oak was used very commonly in Arts & Crafts furniture, the most common species are red and white oak. Oak is very durable, easy to work with, and looks great stained or with a clear, natural finish. Oak has a very open grain structure, and while not my favorite wood species because of its overuse and sometimes bland appearance, I am happy to work with this for any client.
Mahogany was used in many historic english furniture pieces, valued for is rich reddish-brown tones and straight grain. It is known for its workability, mahogany is equally known for its superb dimensional stability and good rot resistance. It was often stained or heavily varnished so it lost its true color and was also over harvested leading to heavy regulation in “real” mahogany today.