What are the favorite woods for components, cabinets and furniture? Here are some species earning high praise.
Rare Veined Ziricote
Rick Banas, vice president at Interwood Forest Products, Div. of Fritz Kohl Veneer, named ziricote as his favorite wood. “There are many species which can be found not only in different countries, but also on different continents. But then, there are other species which are growing exclusively in certain regions or areas of a country. Ziricote falls into the latter category and is by far one of the most ornamental species of the world,” said Banas.
“This species from the Yucatan Peninsula has the grain of a Rio Palisander, the color of an ebony, and complex veining like no other species could possibly provide. Its rarity and unique characteristics make this a favorite of ours as well as that of designers and architects from around the world.”
Cypress: A Bald Beauty
Asked for his favorite wood, Jimmy Krantz, owner of Krantz Recovered Wood, said it would have to be bald cypress. “I have been working with it since I was a kid in my father’s cypress lumber business. Over the years, I’ve used cypress from today’s forests and those of ancient, virgin growth forests. It has such a beautiful look, smell, is very easy to cut, plane, sand, paint, stain, and varnish.”
Krantz added that cypress trees are part of his heritage. “My grandfather and father grew up in south central Louisiana, where they logged some of those virgin growth trees. It is a connection to my past — I’m quite partial to it.”
Krantz said his second favorite wood is longleaf pine, also known as antique heart pine. “Having just moved from New Orleans after 10 years there, I saw just how amazing longleaf pine is. Longleaf pine flooring and framing in the thousands of old homes and buildings in New Orleans performed with flying colors even as Mother Nature drowned the city in 2 to 12 feet of water. I can’t tell you how many customers came to our lumberyard and told us of their original 100+ year old longleaf pine floors, which were submerged for two to three weeks, dried out when the water receded from their homes and were good as new after refinishing.”
Kevin Crisp, national accounts manager at Columbia Forest Products, named maple as a favorite, based on customer interest. “We’ve noticed a real increase in the popularity of maple for hardwood plywood over the last decade. The tight grain and light color make it very desirable for cabinets, built-ins, furniture and many other applications. Maple takes finish very well, from light to darker stains.”
Readily available, Crisp said maple has a good cost structure compared to other North American species. “We believe maple will continue to be a wood species that is preferred for years to come.”
Character Enhances Cherry’s Popularity
Trish Houck, owner of Kitchen Concepts by Trish Houck in Ellicott City, MD, has been featured on HGTV’s Kitchen Show and is a perennial winner of the Best Kitchen Designer by Baltimore Magazine. She said that while she loves working with white oak, which she sometimes pickles and limes, cherry remains a favorite.
“Cherry when it is done well, is fabulous,” said Houck. With a traditional stain, Houck has used cherry in libraries with rope carvings, but said she also likes to add a glaze for wonderful color variations. “I’ve really liked using cherry with paint on top that is rubbed. Black on cherry with rub gives a really beautiful look.”
Another cherry fan, Kit Clark, owner of Kit Clark Furniture in North Ferrisburgh, VT, designs and creates traditional, contemporary and art furniture. “As a fine furniture maker for 17 years now, I have found that my favorite wood to work with is cherry from Pennsylvania, primarily for its character and grain properties.”
Clark described the wood as unique “and a step above in beauty, depth and character, due to its ability to change color over time. Cherry, when freshly planed, sanded and finished, starts its assembled life lighter, in a reddish color. Over time and exposure to ultraviolet light its color darkens, which gives any piece of furniture made of cherry a richness and depth of color that is superior to other woods.”
A second reason cherry is a favorite is its “perfect balance of grain strength and density. It’s easy to work by hand, easy to plane and sand, and takes a finish very well. In addition to its desirable grain properties, cherry can exhibit beautiful figuring,” said Clark.
Steven Holdrige, a Product Design & Development student at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC), a program offered in partnership with Danville Community College, also picked cherry for its very rich color options. “Cherry is also a very sturdy and stable wood. It’s not flakey and it stains very well.”
Holdridge, who has a background in woodworking through work with his father, made news recently with a unique design he created — a wine holder that combines design with sophisticated engineering. He, along with fellow student Joshua Brooks, will be part of a group traveling to the Galway-Mayo Institute in Letterfrack, Ireland.
Kamil Antos, owner of Wise Wood Veneer, Sterling Heights, MI, said while it is not easy to select a favorite, American black walnut is his top choice. “As I ponder the specific attributes of various species of wood I have to say that walnut, or more specifically black walnut, is the species I favor most.”
“I have built many projects with walnut. I love the color, the different figures and burls that it offers. I find it to be a stable and a resilient wood, which might be due to the steaming process that brings out that rich brown color. I also find it easy to machine and finish and I even like the smell when I cut into a fresh board,” Antos said. “There is really nothing that surpasses a hand rubbed oil finish on polished walnut, it makes the grain and color just glow. Couple it with nice clean cherry and you have a combination that is seldom beat.”
Joshua Brooks, a second-year student in the Product Design & Development program at SVHEC, is another fan of black walnut. “To me American black walnut is in the upper echelon of woods. It is aesthetically pleasing, works wonderfully and it finishes beautifully with a nice gloss. Walnut is simply gorgeous with the right finish and it is a very stable wood.
“Any gun aficionado will tell you that walnut is the wood of choice for that particular application. When I’m working with walnut for gunstocks and grips for handguns, I typically use a clear lacquer for a glossy, shiny look, but walnut will allow you to get a variety of looks with different finishes.”
Red Grandis’ Popularity Grows
Keith Atherholt, president of Lewis Lumber Products, is a fan of plantation-grown red grandis, a wood he describes as an “awesome” mahogany alternative when the correct stain is applied. Atherholt said he has been working with a supplier in Uruguay since 2004 to help develop the FSC-certified product and introduce it to the North American marketplace.
“It has a lot going for it on the green side. It is also priced below its competitors for millwork and cabinet uses. It is a stable product, glues normally, machines well, drills and nails well,” he said.
Another fan of the species, Dan Caldwell, president of Atlanta Hardwood Corp., noted the number applications is growing. “Red grandis can be used for both exterior and interior applications in windows, doors, trim packages, furniture, cabinetry, flooring and more.” He added that Atlanta Hardwood has been marketing and distributing the product for approximately 2-1/2 years.
Will Bruinsma, inside sales representative for Sierra Forest Products, said red grandis is available as both lumber and veneer. “Most of what we have sold has been used as an African mahogany replacement and sometimes in place of cherry. It is a wood that is at the ‘up and coming’ stage. The feedback we get from users is that it stains very well.”
He noted that customers have used it for paneling, libraries, moulding and cabinetry. “It is plantation grown, so it has great green credentials. The limbs are clipped from the trees except at the top, which minimizes knots and helps provide clear boards.”
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