WOOD USED FOR MAKING FURNITURE

If you’re looking to procure wooden furniture either as an individual homeowner, a furniture trader, wholesaler, or a store owner, you’re faced with a few options to consider which require thorough evaluation before you go ahead and make your purchase.

The decision is further complicated if you’re a manufacturer or a boutique designer of furniture and you’re wondering which is the best wood type to use to aid your decision.

Chief among these considerations is whether you should procure furniture in solid wood or in engineered wood. As with most aspects of furniture, the answer is quite a lot more nuanced than a simple “yes” or a “no” or “one over the other”.

Once you’ve shortlisted between either of the two, you’re left to decide between the exact kind of wood species(in the case of solid natural wood) and the specific type of engineered wood to consider

First, let’s understand a bit about all the wood species available in your consideration set before we delve deeper to answer this question.

 

MÓVEIS DE MADEIRA SÓLIDA

Furniture made from solid wood is sawed and milled directly from the tree trunk but not all trees that are used to make wooden furniture are necessarily “solid wood furniture”, as a good portion of trees that are fell for the wooden furniture industry are used to make ply veneers firstAdditionally, there are several solid wood furniture species, each with a whole range of properties and characteristics.

But first, let’s try and demarcate between the technicalities of two main types of solid wood furniture – Hardwood furniture & softwood furniture.

Softwood is derived from coniferous trees that go through their growth cycle a whole lot quicker and don’t shed their leaves annually; fir, spruce, redwood, cedar, American elm etc are all softwoods. Softwood is also heavily used in furniture manufacturing and in terms of classification, softwood is part of  the umbrella term “solid wood”

In fact, the terms “softwood” or “hardwood” has nothing to do with the strength or feel of the wood itself. In fact, nature itself is replete with examples where softwood species are in fact, harder than solid wood species.

Confused? Let us explain

HARDWOOD VS SOFTWOOD

?Softwoods? & ?hardwoods? are botanical terms that refer to species of deciduous trees that either annually shed their leaves (hardwood) or coniferous trees that are evergreen but intermittently do shed ?pines? ?cones? or thin ?needles? that shed during the right season.

Without indulging too much in botanical Jargon, softwood trees are Gymnosperms (seedless and flowerless), the name is slightly misleading as early researchers didn?t have a wider sample to test out, so the wood obtained from deciduous trees unanimously came to be known as softwood.

Similarly, Hardwood is obtained from species that are Angiosperms (flowering plants). These generally take a long time to grow and shed their leaves annually. Generally speaking, Angiosperms do have denser wood structures and a tightly packed grain.

However, there are several exceptions to this rule, for instance; Douglas Fir, a softwood, has a density of 161.12 Kg/Sqm but Aspen, a hardwood, has a density of 126.94 Kg/Sqm

The table below will give a rough idea about the wood density of different tree species that manufacturers of wooden furniture like us use to manufactures furniture. Naturally, some of the densest wood is coming from ?hardwoods? like Teak but all of them are used to make solid wood furniture.

TYPES OF WOOD USED FOR FURNITURE

Although, the distinction is clearly understood, several manufacturers have different interpretations of these terms, some manufacturers from Eastern Asia refer to Hardwood Mobília as the ones that are an amalgam of different solid wood and engineered wood species, which can be quite misleading for unsuspecting buyers.

This is precisely why a solid understanding (see what we did there ?)of wood types helps during the procurement process.

This brings us to the next section of this article.

WOOD NAME WOOD TYPE DENSITY (KG/M3) DENSITY (LB/FT 3) MAINLY FOUND IN
Oak Hardwood 720.42 45
Teakwood (Indian) Hardwood 784.9 49 Índia
Teakwood (African) Hardwood 913.05 57 East Africa
Teakwood (Burmese) Hardwood 720.83 45 Myanmar
Mangowood Hardwood 672.77 42 South Asia
Mahogany (Spanish) Hardwood 848.97 53 Espanha
Mahogany (Cuban) Hardwood 640.73 40 Cuba
Acacia Hardwood 560.22-768.88 35-48 Australia, Asia & Africa
Rubberwood Hardwood 592.68 37 South Asia
Gurjan Hardwood 897.03 56 Índia
Maple Hardwood 768.88 48 North America
Pine, White Softwood 432.49 27 Central Europe & America
Pine, Pitch Softwood 832.96 52 Central Europe & America
Cedar Softwood 336.38 21 Asia & Mediterranean Europe
Walnut Hardwood 672.77 42 Eastern Europe & Americas
Ash (White) Hardwood 848.97 64 North America
Birch Hardwood 672.77 42 Asia & America
Cherry Hardwood 800.92 50 Asia, America & Europe
Beech Hardwood 704.56 44 Scandinavia, Asia & North America
Rosewood/Sheesham Hardwood 897.03 56 Índia
Douglas Fir Softwood 528.62 33 Western America
Spruce Softwood 400.46-704.81 25-44 Europe
Elm Softwood 897.03 56 Europe, Asia & North America
Redwood Softwood 448.51 28 North America

ENGINEERED WOOD FURNITURE

A no-brainer definition here ? wood which is not directly milled from the tree trunk but is made artificially after multiple rounds of treatment and processing are classified as Engineered wood furniture.

The interesting part is the several engineered wood variants namely, Plywood, HDF & MDF, each worth knowing a bit about.

PLYWOOD FURNITURE

diagram showing cross lamination of wood for making plywood
Various Plywood Veneer Samples

The most ubiquitous and well-known engineered wood used to make furniture. Plywood is used for all types of interior applications and is not only limited to furniture.

There are several qualities that contribute towards plywoods? merit and an equal number that don?t. To understand these, we must understand exactly how they?re made and their composition.

Plywood is made by gluing and layering thin sheets of veneer or ?ply? that are laid out in alternate directions. This technique is called cross lamination and it?s founded on the same physics principle as Jenga stacks.

The wood veneers are typically made from hardwood species that are ditched by fabricantes de móveis de madeira maciça (as extremely hardwood species tend to split at the grain), this results in a lower cost and a studied ply.

The veneers are kiln-dried, which basically means lightly baked in a large oven.

The quality of glue used to layer the ply sheets make a significant difference in the quality of the plywood.

If you?re wondering why plywood is less expensive than solid wood furniture while at the same time involving more processing steps, you have a very legitimate reason for thinking so.

You see, using thin veneers and layering them with commercial-grade adhesives is a process that ends up using a lot less natural wood as a significant portion of the cross-section is composed of, well, glue.

Secondly, solid wood species that are generally not used for manufacturing solid wood furniture due to the extreme hardness and stiffness that can cause the wood the rupture or split while processing are the ones that are used to make plywood, if such wood species are available in abundance, there?ll be virtually no demand for them from the natural wood furniture industry, so they also tend to be quite cheaper

For example, Gurgan wood, a species found in South East Asia has a weight density of 900 KG/m3 and is heavily used on plywood.

Watch out for manufacturers that claim to use a hardwood species like teakwood ply for the veneers but the core layers of the ply are substituted with cheaper and less effective alternatives.

MEDIUM DENSITY FIBERBOARD [MDF]

wood fibres used for MDF manufacturing
diagram explaining how MDF furniture is made

Another artificially made engineered wood, medium density fiberboard is made by breaking down relatively softer wood species (as opposed to high-density fiberboard) into finer fibers before adding glue wax & binders in specific proportions. Additional chemical additives can easily be added to MDF to achieve the desired properties that result in some stunning furniture pieces.

The final product is a homogenous blend of wood that is ideal for making fittings and structural applications. To adjust the strength of the wood, medium-density fibreboard can alternate between the use of hardwood and softwood species.

Furniture made from MDF has a smoother finish as chemical components like wax and other additives can easily be blended with the wood itself.

MDF furniture is also cheaper to make but they?re also weaker and not ideal for applications that involve high load-bearing times.

Although they?re resistant to termites, poorly made MDF furniture without adequate coating and precautions are notorious for releasing a small amount of VOC due to the presence of Urea-Formaldehyde that makes it a poor choice for furniture.

That being said, for kitchen fittings, structural applications and other uses, MDF can be a great, cost-effective option.

croos section of MDF wood

HIGH DENSITY FIBERBOARD [MDF]

Principally, High-Density Fiberboard (HDF) is the same as MDF except that HDF uses the larger % of hardwood species in its blend. HDF is rarely used in furniture manufacturing due to the extremely hard covering but is sometimes used for fittings, cabinetry, shelving furniture, and wardrobes

Mainly these are used for structural applications like reinforcement, as a flooring substrate & wall paneling

diagram explaiining MDF making process
diagram showing texture of all engineered woods

ENGINEERED WOOD FURNITURE OR SOLID WOOD FURNITURE?

For the purpose of this comparison, we?re ditching MDF & HDF as they?re only primarily used for fittings and cabinetry and rarely used for furniture pieces.

If you?re looking for longevity, aesthetics and a premium look & feel, then solid wood furniture is the way to go.

If however, you?re looking for eco-friendly, cost-effective, light furniture that is resistant to moisture engineered furniture is the way to go.

This is a simplistic conclusion to a much more complex question; we recommend you read out post that highlights the key differences between engineered wood furniture & solid wood furniture.

BEST WOOD TYPES FOR FURNITURE BUILDING

We hate to do this to you but like most answers out there, the answer to this too is “it depends”.  

And it really does, depends on the application (commercial furniture or residential furniture), place of usage (outdoor or indoor), the design you wish to opt for, the finish, color, your country, and lastly, the price.

There simply is no one size fits all solution for any of these, else there wouldn’t be these many wooden furniture manufacturers out there that sell furniture made from such a wide variety of wood species. 

MAPLE WOOD FURNITURE

close up texture of maplewood grain
maple wood table base
maplewood console table

We’re assuming most of our readers would be based out of the west, so we must talk about the best choice if you’re looking solely at domestic sourcing.

North American hardwood maple is ideal for making modern furniture, in mid-century and Scandinavian or Danish designs. A smooth texture and airy white color finish is something that comes naturally to the wood type.

It’s a hardwood species found throughout North America, particularly Canada. Since you’re now an expert at understanding wood species, you may have already understood that this is a deciduous tree that takes a long time to grow (20-30) years but due to the sheer abundance of this species, its extremely sustainable and cost-effective to make furniture from these.

PROS: Widely available in the Americas, naturally light & faded finish, a natural hardwood, making mid-century & Scandinavian designs is simple

CONS:  Not resistant for outdoor use, intricate carvings & bentwood techniques cannot be applied for complex furniture pieces, it has a rawish and rugged texture which makes it ideal only for a few furniture types

MÓVEIS DE MADEIRA DE MANGA

zoomed -in image of mangowood grain
Mangowood TV Cabinet
mangowood bedroom furniture closeup

Mangowood is a species native to South East Asia, mainly India. It is a solid wood variant that is available in abundance and used to make all types of premium solid wood furniture. 

Although the wood takes a long time to grow its available in Abundance as the trees are grown for their fruit and after harvest season, Mangowood trees can be fell for the burgeoning wooden furniture industry.

Despite its unfamiliar nativity, manufacturers of wooden furniture from India, like us, have been catering to the requirements of customers in the west, moreover, the domestic manufacturing industries in various countries also import mango wood for its excellent solid wood properties. 

PROS: Eco-friendly wood species due to their sheer abundance, can be worked using different techniques to achieve the desired finish (like shou sugi ban), distressed, antique carving, ornate carving, extremely cost-effective.  

CONS: As it is mainly sourced from South East Asia and a few pockets of South America, finding a good supplier is not particularly easy, requires polishing in medium-timed intervals, not great for rigorous outdoor use

PLYWOOD FURNITURE

A rare addition to most wooden furniture listicles. Since its first time plywood was introduced to the world, purists have shunned its merits and emphasized on its pitfalls while championing the message of using natural, solid wood furniture only

But there are a few compelling reasons as to why you should take plywood-based furniture seriously and consider it for your furniture requirements. For one, plywood has come a long way since the first time it was conceived, most of its well-known drawbacks have gradually been phased out.

Higher quality adhesives, usage of better quality hardwoods as veneers, and manufacturing techniques have made sure that plywood has a unique niche in the market.

PROS: Extremely cost-effective which makes it a make or break difference for large scale commercial projects, light-weight which makes moving it around very easy and hassle-free, has a light and spaced-out feel to it, its durable and it brings with it the advantages of modern engineering strengths of man like moisture-resistance, enhanced durability etc

CONS: Although it has become a lot more durable than it previously was, plywood still pales in comparison to other solid wood variants when it comes to longevity, poorly made plywood is known to emit VOCs, just like poorly made MDF, it is quite easy for suppliers and manufacturers to substitute the core veneers of plywood with a cheaper wood which is difficult for a discerning buyer to identify, it is also known to be easily damaged during transportation

MAHOGANYWOOD FURNITURE

closeup grain structure for Mahogany
entranceway console table in premium mahogany wood
solid mahogany wood texture

Mahogany is right up there along with Teakwood as one of the most premium wood species for making furniture and fittings, this wood species is naturally water-resistant that also has a fierce reputation of lasting for decades together.  

Its unique properties had earlier made it an ideal candidate for flooring, wall-paneling, and boat-building applications but due to increased harvesting, the supply of  Mahogany wood has been depleting for a long time and is not mostly used for making furniture. 

The wood type is ideal for working vintage styles and is used by manufacturers of antique furniture worldwide due to the ease of carving, bending, and adding ornamentation to the wood grain. 

PROS: Has a naturally dark wood grain that radiates luxury, hardwood species that is among the most durable, consistent color across the tree trunk & tree bark, working the wood & paint is with milf finishes is quite simple, great longevity ad resistance to decay

CONS: High price to do dwindling supply, although the color is consistent within tree bark, the variations across different trees can be quite diverse which can be a problem for commercial projects that rely on multiple sourcing points, its quite lurchy, and moving it around is not particularly simple, the color of the wood darkens over time which makes it unfit for most mid-century and scandinavian designs

TEAKWOOD FURNITURE

closeup of teakwood grain
closeup texture of teakwood stump
bedroom table in solid teak

In interior designing and architectural circles, teakwood is known for exuding opulence and is considered a rather ostentatious wood species for making furniture. Native to southeast Asian countries like Myanmar, Indonesia & India as well as some parts of Africa where the hardest teakwood species are found. 

Maharajas and nobilities during the provincial periods have been exclusively using teakwood furniture and antique furniture pieces made from teakwood have lasted through multiple generations    

The wood naturally releases a pleasant scent that adds to the appeal of the interiors of your home or your business area.  

PROS: Like  Mahogany, teak is also among the top runners in luxury wooden and antique furniture, unlike Mahogany, teakwood is not in short supply as vast reserves are found in countries like Indonesia & Burma, 

CONS: Teakwood is still quite expensive, it can be used for plywood veneers, requires regular maintenance

ACACIAWOOD FURNITURE

rustic console table made from acacia wood
zoomed-in image of acacia wood grain
Acacia Wood Study Desk

If we absolutely had to choose the best wood species that cover the widest possible range of furniture applications, Acacia wood furniture would be our top choice.

To understand why we must take teakwood as a benchmark. Acacia wood varies wildly in density and hardness, you can get acacia wood furniture that is both softer, as hard as or harder than teakwood, depending on your requirements – at a fraction of the cost.     

Acacia wood is grown throughout the south Asian subcontinents – in Vietnam, India, and Australia. They’re widely used for making furniture. Working Acacia wood is extremely simple and it is much more accepting to curving, hammering, and being shaped into a particular form when compared with teakwood.

Unlike teakwood which is naturally suitable for outdoor use, Acacia wood needs some form of simple weather-proofing, (which most manufacturers that specialize in outdoor furniture) are fairly adept at, but is widely used as outdoor furniture piece. It also has a much more striking grain pattern which simply stands out.

Although it does not naturally possess a darker appearance, techniques like Shou Sugi Ban can be applied to the furniture to achieve any desired color scheme. It is also very receptive to carving, ornamentation & bending which makes it one of the most versatile wood types out there.

Most vietnamese furniture manufacturers use Acacia wood in their manufacturing unless otherwise specified – And rightly so, it simply is one of the best wood types to work with.

PROS: Like  Mahogany, teak is also among the top runners in luxury wooden and antique furniture, unlike Mahogany, teakwood is not in short supply as vast reserves are found in countries like Indonesia & Burma, 

CONS: Teakwood is still quite expensive, it can be used for plywood veneers, requires regular maintenance

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