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map of where black cherry grows and a wood swatch

Hardwoods We Use

Black Cherry

In cabinetmaking, cherry is rated one of the favorites because of its beauty and versatility it has warmth, personality and charm. As a craftwood it cuts,stains and sands beautifully, which makes it a hobby wood of choice.

American black cherry is widely used for paneling and as a veneer, burial caskets and other specialty items such as gunstocks, tobacco pipes, musical instruments, turnery, carvings, etc. It is only moderately durable for outdoor projects. Cherry wood is a favorite of all the domestic wood species.

Black Cherry Wood Description:
Cherry has a pale yellowish sapwood and a darker heartwood. The wood's colour deepens to its characteristic reddish brown, almost mahogany-like colour when exposed to the sun. The sapwood never darkens to the same colour of the heartwood. Cherry often shows a waving curly figure when finished. Heartwood can have dark spots or fine black lines that are actually gum pockets, that pose added challenges in finishing.

The grain pattern welcomes a full range of medium to dark finishes and bleaching treatments. The best way to achieve a uniform deep red colour is to let mother nature do her work rather than attempt staining. If you have to replace a board, remember in time, the sunlight will darken all cherry, even if it doesn't look like it matches in the beginning.

[Black Cherry info from The Wood Box.]

map of where red oak grows and a wood swatch

Red Oak

Red Oak is probably the most common and widely used North American wood. Red oak is largely cut into lumber, railroad ties, mine timbers, fenceposts, veneer, pulpwood and fuelwood. It is remanufactured into flooring, furniture, general millwork, boxes, pallets and crates, caskets, wooden ware and handles.

The Tree:
Northern red oak is the largest group in this family and has the broadest distribution across North America. It has great commercial significance. The trees can grow to 150' and 4'+ in diameter.

Red Oak Wood Description:
The sapwood is nearly white and usually one to two inches thick; the heartwood is brown with a tinge of red or pink. It seems that the farther south the wood is cut the redder and coarser it gets. Due to slower growth, wood cut in northern US and southern Canada has a finer texture, more consistent pale pink colour and somewhat denser, than central or southern US oak.

Red Oak finishes and stains easily. It has none of the blotching problems that are associated with birch or maple. The open pores absorb more stain, so the grain pattern becomes quite evident when a dark stain is applied to red oak.

[Red Oak info from The Wood Box.]

map of where hard maple grows and a wood swatch

Hard Maple

Hard Maple is currently used for furniture, cabinets, decorative woodwork, flooring, veneers, cutting surfaces, bowling pins, utensils, and bowls.. Ideal for ballroom and gymnasium floors as well as cutting boards and countertops.

The Tree:
There are some 200 species of trees and shrubs worldwide. Acer means hard or sharp in latin, somewhat appropriate for many of the family members. The American species are actually divided into two groups: hard and soft. Sugar maple (or rock maple: acer saccharum) is the most common hard maple, the most commercially important and the most abundant type found in the U.S.

Silver, Red Maple and Boxelder are the most common soft maple species. They grow extensively across North America, on both coast. The commercial species grow tall with relatively decent diameters. The farther north you go the larger the hearts are in the trees and the more colour variation in the wood.

Maple Wood Description:
Hard Maple: Tends to have cream to white sapwood and light reddish brown heartstock, usually straight grained and sometimes found with high figured bird's eye or burl grain. Bird's-eye resembles small circular or elliptical figures and only found in sugar maple. Clusters of round curls that grow into balls on the sides of trees, are known as burls. They are common in the big leaf maple of the west coast. Hard maple is heavy, hard, strong, tough, stiff, close grained and possesses a uniform texture. It sands to a beautiful tight finish. Excellent resistance to abrasion, indentation and shock. Often the heart stock, shows black mineral lines and darker grey streaking, particularly in wood milled in the northern part of its range. Commercially it is usually sorted by colour.

Soft Maple: These trees tend to be very similar to the hard maples but much lighter in density. The sapwood can be very white and often show nice curl. The heartwood is tan to gray in colour, often with extreme colour changes on one board. Soft maple is almost never sorted by colour.

Maple is a beautiful wood to apply a clear coat. The tight grain makes pore filling unnecessary and it is easy to get a glass like finish if you have taken the time to work down the grit and sand with the grain.

[Maple info from The Wood Box.]

map of where bubinga grows and a wood swatch


Bubinga wood can be an amazingly wavy-figured exotic wood, sought by guitar makers and small box builders alike... often referred to as an African rosewood, although technically NOT from the rosewood family.

The Tree:
The bubinga tree can grow to heights of up to 100' and 3' in diameter and grows mostly in parts of West Africa, Cameroon and surrounding nations. With trees this large they can produce quite wide and long lumber.

Bubinga Wood Description:
Can have mult-shaded, interlocking or wavy-figured bands of colour in various shades of red with distinct purple overtones, in the more exotic samples, and fine, linear grain with greater colour consistency in the balance. Colour does darken with age.

It is often referred to as an African rosewood, although technically NOT from the rosewood family.

If you are lucky enough to get bubinga lumber with no visible sap pockets then you'll find it an easy wood to get a great finish with a rich luster. The sap pocket when present can cause some localized glue up or finishing issues.

[Bubinga info from The Wood Box.]
For more photo examples of Bubinga click here.

map of where white ash grows and a wood swatch

White Ash

Ash is a great craft wood, but best known as the wood of choice for baseball bats. Other woods are stronger, but it has the best strength to weight ratio, and since most players do not want a bat greater than 32 oz. this becomes significant. For the same reason, it is used for tool handles, hockey sticks, and canoe paddles. Historically it was used for food bowls because it had no significant odor or taste. Curved components for chairs, snowshoes and boats capitalize on its wonderful bending properties. Really you can use it for any fine woodworking, with only your imagination as the limiting factor.

The Tree:
There are about 70 species in the world, and it is the oil in the wood that is chemically similar to olive oil, that links this tree with the Olive family. There are only about 17 types of this tree found in North America and only 2 or 3 that have any commercial significance. We predominately talk about white (Fraxinus Americana) and black (Fraxinus Nigra) ash in the lumber industry. The tree is never found in pure stands, but rather is widely distributed among other species.

Ash Wood Description:
The wood is straight-grained, open pored, and hard, with no distinctive taste or odor. It is tough and yet elastic, with high shock resistance and excellent steam bending characteristics. The wood is relatively stable with little downgrade in drying. It only occasionally shows interesting figure in crotch wood. It is not considered to be a durable wood when in contact with the ground. White ash has quite a clear white to pale yellow sapwood, with heartwood pulling more to the light to medium tone browns. Often the commercial lumber yards pull the sap out of the pile to form a more consistent white stock in the higher grades.

Ash finishes relatively easily and takes a beautiful stain. It is ring porous, so if you are looking for a glass like finish you must use a pore filler. It can be stained to look like oak as the grain pattern of the two woods is very similar. Ash has less chatter (ie. the little lines) between the rows of open pores, so tends to stain a little brighter than oak. You must sand carefully to eliminate cross grain scratching, particularly if you are using a dark stain.

[Ash info from The Wood Box.]

map of where tulip poplar grows and a wood swatch

Tulip Poplar

Early settlers called the tulip tree "canoe wood" and harvested it for ships, paper mills and construction. Poplar is found in many furniture projects, toys and wood turnings because it is inexpensive, fairly workable and takes nails, screws and glue well. Poplar is also used quite often for more industrial purposes, such as the core of finer plywoods or for crates and pallets.

The Tree:
According to the University of Kentucky, the tulip poplar is the tallest North American hardwood tree. It is named for the distinctive green and orange tulip-shaped flowers that grow upright, high in the tree, in May and June. The flowers produce samaras, cone-shaped spirals of seeds, in fall, and the seeds themselves are extremely sharp. The four-lobed leaves grow 6 inches wide and turn yellow or brown in fall. Duck-bill shaped buds appear in winter.

Tulip Wood Description:
Yellow Poplar is a domestic hardwood. Poplar is straight grained and uniform in texture. The sapwood is white and often several inches thick. The heartwood is a yellowish brown to olive green sometimes streaked with dark green, purple, black, blue or red.

Poplar is renowned for it's ability to take paint well. It is commonly the wood stock of choice when building woodworking projects that will be painted. It is relatively resistant to decay, and when sanded, primed and painted thoroughly, should hold up well to normal wear and tear for many interior projects.

[Poplar info from, Garden Guides and Curious Woods.]

Hardwood Density and Strength

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Cambridge, MA 02139
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Last Updated: 03/09/17