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Knowing the wood

2018-01-30

Generally speaking, there are several kinds of common woods on the market. We line them up according to their prices.

Note: The price of solid wood is based on their market price then and serves only as reference. Although the price many change, but their relative value is stable.

[The first echelon] 

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Teak

Feature: The teak has longitudinal stripes with dark lines. It is mainly produced in Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand. The price of teak is very close to that of redwood (Tepa, Wenge, Rosewood). Teak is very rare on the market. Teak frame or veneering is more common in furniture. Teak is anti-corrosion because it can produce grease and is naturally mothproof, dampproof and anti-corrosion. In ancient times, many dragon boats in South China and Southeast Asia were made of teak. Teak dragon boat is usually buried in sludge and took out for use once a year. By doing this, the boat can resist oxidation and avoid deformation or decay in hundreds of years. All the boats used in Zheng He’s travelling to the west in the Ming Dynasty were made of teak, and the deck of Titanic was also made of teak.

Shortcomings: It is pricey and difficult to be processed. Teak needs to be dried naturally in outdoor. However, must solid wood furniture uses water-boiling method which is not suitable for teak because it can lose the internal grease of teak. Besides, teak furniture needs artificial toning to become golden; otherwise, the color of teak will go bad and be darker. Lots of teak furniture on the market is made from teak after improper processing. The color of teak furniture also varies due to different origins and grades.

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Black walnut

Features: Black walnut of different origins varies slightly and the following is based on the black walnut of America (most black walnut in China is from America due to its fewer limitations on wood exportation). The cutting surface of black walnut is smooth with soft gloss. It is slightly black brown with a little purple. The texture of cutting surface is large parabola pattern. Compared with other woods, the grain is beautiful and elegant (this is similar with America read oak but the latter is much cheaper). The edge is milky white and the heartwood varies from light brown to dark chocolate, sometimes with purple and darker stripes. Most black walnut we see now has darker color because they are processed with steam. The texture and the color are not the only reasons of its high price. Another important factor is that its fixity is very good, suitable for the use of nails and bolts, with good effect and anti-corrosion performance after painting.

Shortcomings: However, black walnut is not perfect. It dries very slow and need special care to avoid dry aging. The crack of all woods is largely resulted from improper drying process. So except black walnut dried in large factories with good drying process, most black walnut will have cracks and need special care. As far as I know, black walnut is mainly used in China to make tables, chairs and low cabinets. To be sincere, I will not recommend customers to use black walnut because it is not very cost-effective, unless the customer really likes it or the customer is very rich and does not care about if it is cost-effective.

[The second echelon]

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Cherry

Features: High-end wood with straight wood grain. Cherry is mainly distributed in East America. The heartwood of cherry varies from bright red to brown red and the edge is milky white. Cherry is suitable to be used as the panel of high-end cupboard and wardrobe. It is featured by fine and clear texture, with good effect after polishing and painting.

Shortcomings: Great dry shrinkage but it is stable after fully dries and not easy to have deformation.

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White oak

Features: It is produced in East America with many varieties. About 8 varieties are commercial trees. There is a saying that “red oak is not red and white oak is not white” which means that the white oak is not as white as its name. It has light color with the heartwood varies from light brown to dark brown.

Merits:

1. It has clear chevron texture with good touch.

2. It is solid and firm, not easy to have deformation. It is very anti-corrosion, with long service life.

3. The wood nature is good and it is on a par with redwood furniture in terms of its precious degree.

4. White oak can be sprayed with colored paint for surface treatment to have many different colors while maintaining the original wood tough.

5. White oak can be combined harmoniously with metal and glass, bring fashionable feeling. 

Shortcomings:

1. White oak is difficult to be processed.

2. White oak is rare, all imported from abroad and has high price. Therefore, the price of white oak furniture is usually very high.

3. The white oak furniture is solid and hard with high density and difficult to be dehydrated. Therefore, it is easy to have deformation.

4. White oak furniture cannot stand high temperature. Item with temperature higher than 40 ℃ cannot be placed on the white oak furniture; otherwise, the high temperature will damage its surface texture.

5. The white oak furniture is solid and hard and is easily damaged because of bump.

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Red oak

Features: Its place of origin is East America. It is hard but dries very slow. People often mixed it with Fraxinus Mandshurica. Its color and texture vary greatly in different place of origin. It has very similar texture with Fraxinus Mandshurica. The difference lies in that the smooth place outside of the red oak has small texture which is obvious in open paint manufacture, while Fraxinus Mandshurica has not. The red oak is divided into two kinds depending on its place of origin is South or North of East America. The red oak of the south is redder with color shading and is suitable for dark color treatment, while the red oak of the north has lighter color and whiter, and is suitable for light color treatment.

Merit: The red oak has chevron texture with good touch, and red oak furniture is of high-class. Due to its hardness and good processing performance, the furniture made of red oak is very delicate. Complex pattern and engraving can be made on it. It is suitable for making European-style furniture. The quality of red oak furniture depends on the degree it dries. The value of red oak furniture also lies in that the wood texture is clear. The clearer the texture is, the better the wood.

Shortcoming: It dries slow and difficult to be dehydrated. Insufficient dehydration will result in deformation.

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Ash

Features: The main place of origin is Russia, Europe and North America. Processing, painting and polishing performances of the wood is very good. Ash has good anti-corrosion performance and is easy for processing, making it the main material for high-end American furniture. The furniture made of ash has good appearance, glossy with clear texture. Ash is hard, tough with high density. It has good mechanical endurance and is suitable for making furniture.

Shortcomings: All the above wood has a common shortcoming, that is, they are imported, so the price is very high. Moreover, ash is like red oak and dries hard. Its appearance and use will be seriously affected with improper drying treatment. The surface of ash is easy to have fuzzing, which requires higher manufacture skills.

[The third echelon]

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Catalpa wood

Features: People call fruitless walnut as catalpa wood. Its texture is like brown dots. It has darker color, is soft and has less gloss. But it has little shrinkage, is suitable for be used as door core or desktop core. The wood is often used together with Korean wood and walnut. Catalpa wood is lighter in weight than walnut. Its color is deeper and the grain is loose. The brown dot is large and scattered.

Merit: The wood is hard and tough, is not easy to bend or deform. It has no unpleasant smell, easy for processing, drying, carving and with good insulation performance. It can avoid damage by worms, is anti-wear, anti-corrosion, moisture resistant and can transmit sound. It is a good material which is widely used in building, furniture, ship-building, carving, musical instrument, process and military.

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Beech

Features: It is heavy, tough and anti-impact. It will easily bend in steam. It can be shaped and suitable for using nails. However, it will easily crack. The texture is clear and the wood grain is even. The color is soft and smooth. It is heavier than most hardwood. Cracking may appear when it is dried or processed in furnance.

Merit:

1. In terms of the nature of beech furniture, the wood is tough and can resist impact.

2. The wood will easily bend in steam; therefore, it can be shaped easily. It will not have deformation after it is dried and is durable.

3. Seen from appearance, the wood grain of beech is even, with beautiful texture and soft color tone. It can be used in building and utensils.

Shortcomings:

1. Different ages of trees may result in different color and density. Therefore the furniture made of different trees of different ages many be not the same.

2. Cracks and deformations may easily appear when the wood is dried or process in furnace. Therefore, it is not easy to successfully make a set of furniture.

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Maple

Features: In earlier time, the wood was often used in European and American furniture. The color of maple is uniform with good gloss. The color is light and beautiful. Furniture made of maple has clear and beautiful texture. The processing performance of maple is very good. Maple furniture is firm, durable, adjusted with the environment and is high-class furniture. However, maple also has some inevitable shortcomings. The cutting surface of maple is not smooth enough to be made into furniture with good touch. The shrinkage of maple is very large and it will bend easily when dries. American maple is a common material with good processing performance, suitable for using nails, bolts and glue. It can be dyed easily and have perfect surface after grinding and polishing.

Shortcomings: American maple dries quickly, is easy to have bending and deformation. Its shrinkage is large and its performance will change easily. Besides, red maple heartwood is not anti-resistant, is damaged easily by worms. The heartwood has medium seepage force for anti-corrosion agent. It is better after special treatment.

[The fourth echelon]

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Fraxinus Mandshurica

Features: The main place of origin is Northeast and North China. The edge is yellow white and the heartwood is yellow brown. The growth ring is apparent but not even. The wood grain is tough, with straight texture, no gloss and small harness. Fraxinus Mandshurica is flexible, wear-resistant and moisture-resistant. However, it dries hard and easily bends. It has good processing performance but attention shall be paid to avoid tear. The cutting surface is smooth. It is suitable for painting with good adhesiveness. 

Merit:

1. The cutting surface is smooth, suitable for painting and dry environment. It ages very little and has little performance change.

2. The processing performance of Fraxinus Mandshurica is very good, suitable for the use of nails, bolts and glue. Excellent surface effects can be obtained through dying and polishing.

3. Fraxinus Mandshurica is hard with beautiful texture. Its overall strength, anti-shock performance and steam bending strength are good, making it a good material for furniture.

Shortcomings:

1. Without heartwood anti-corrosion performance, the white wood is easily damaged by worms. It is difficult to dry and easily bends.

2. Fraxinus Mandshurica furniture has large deformation. When making full-solid-wood furniture, smaller wood block is often spliced together, as large block has larger deformation and not suitable for making furniture.

Some Fraxinus Mandshurica furniture usually uses solid wood main frame and large area uses Fraxinus Mandshurica veneer, which is also resulted from its feature of easy deformation.

One thing we shall note is: although Fraxinus Mandshurica is also called ash, but it is not of the same variety with ash. Ash is whiter and most is imported from Europe, while Fraxinus Mandshurica comes from Northeast China. As the quality of ash is better, so the price is higher. So many illegal businessmen use pass Fraxinus Mandshurica off as ash for more profits.

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Rubber wood

Features: It can produce latex rubber. Its growth cycle is short and its source is wide. It is cost-effective to make furniture. Its name is similar with that of oak, but the wood is very different with oak in terms of appearance, performance, price and class.

Merit: It is flexible, not easy to have crack and maintenance is easy. The wood has even and beautiful texture. It is suitable for carving and dying. It is anti-wear and durable.

Shortcomings: It is not easy to dry, easy to have deformation, with peculiar smell and large sugar content. It is easy to have color change, decay and damage by worms.

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Camphorwood

Features: The wood has aroma which is anti-corrosion and insect-proof. It is relatively light, not easy to have deformation and easy to be processed. The cutting surface is smooth with gloss. It is durable with good bonding property. The color is very beautiful after painting. The most important feature is that it has rich aroma which can prevent insect and is mothproof, mould proof and anti-bacteria. The mothball is made of spice from camphorwood. 

Merit: Large diameter and large width, with beautiful texture. The wood is fine with natural and beautiful texture. It is tough and not easy to be broken off or have cracks, making it the first choice of artistic carving. In furniture, camphorwood is usually used to make backboard, drawer board, especially suitcase, bookcase and cabinet. The camphorwood chest of our country is famous at home and abroad. 

Shortcomings: But camphorwood is rarely used to made bed because it aroma will affect sleep quality, making people exciting and even sleepless. It can also cause dizziness, hypodynamia, nausea and vomit.

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Pine

Features: A lot of furniture and kid’s furniture use pine. It has the aroma of pine, in light yellow, with lots of furuncle scars, respond quickly to atmospheric temperature, easy swelling and very difficult to be naturally air-dried. So manual treatments are needed, like drying, degreasing to remove organic compounds and bleaching to have uniform color to avoid deformation.

Merit: Natural gloss and color, with clear and beautiful texture. The shape is simple and nature, with full and smooth line and good touch. It is practical, durable, flexible and breathable with good heat-conducting property and easy maintenance.

Shortcomings: The wood is soft and easy to have crack, deformation and grease.

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