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Solid Wood Furniture Guide

There is nothing more naturally beautiful in the world than pure wood furniture. Solid wood furniture pieces can last a lifetime and with so many different types of wood to consider it can be hard to decide which is best for you. Today we will discuss the best wood species used in furniture.

Each piece of wood is unique and there are no two that are identical. There are many different species of wood to choose from and today we will focus on the most common species used in solid wood furniture pieces. Appearance, strength, and durability varies in wood species. Some woods have a more smooth grain pattern while others are more irregular. No matter the species, all wood is beautiful and naturally unique.

There are 7 primary wood species used in hardwood furniture which are maple, birch, ash, oak, walnut, cherry and elm. They all have different characteristics in look, feel and hardness. The hardness is measured by the Janka Scale and a higher number on the scale signals a harder wood. We will start from the hardest woods to the softest.


Maple is one of the hardest deciduous tree species with a score of 1450 on the Janka hardness scale. Maple has an even and straight grain structure and is known for having a more uniform grain type. The sapwood is cream colored and the heartwood is beige. Maple trees are native to Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Maple is sturdy, strong, resistant to splitting and incredibly durable. Maple is commonly used in furniture, flooring and for millwork. Maple is an excellent wood choice for furniture and is the most popular wood species used in bedroom and dining room pieces.


Ash trees are grown in Northern America in the eastern regions and ash holds a hardness score on the Janka scale of 1320. Furniture makers love working with ash because it has fantastic working properties because it sands well and easily takes screws, nails and glue. Naturally ash is a light-colored wood specie with an open grain structure and coarse texture. Ash is known for being very durable, aesthetically beautiful, lightweight and it absorbs wood stains wonderfully.


Birch trees are in the deciduous family and are native to Eastern North America. Birch wood has a hardness score on the Janka scale of 1260. The wood grain is generally straight with a fine, uniform texture, and is characterized by a plain often wavy pattern. Birch wood is primarily used for making household furniture because it is strong, durable and takes stain evenly for less color variation on the finished product. Birch wood is known for its easy workability with hand and power tools. Birch is shock resistant which makes it a great option for all kinds of interior furniture and it is commonly used for dining tables and chairs.


Oak is another hardwood choice that is popular in furniture design and it has a score of 1260 on the Janka scale. It is remarkably strong, heavy and durable. Characteristics of oak include small knots, distinct grain markings which range from linear to broad patterns. Oak trees are native to the northern hemisphere and are also resistant to fungal attacks. Oak wood’s color comes in many different hues and the grain pattern is very unique making it one of the easiest species to identify. Oak wood in its natural state can stain many shades from light beige to brown and red. Red oak and white oak are the two main types used in furniture production.


Black walnut is highly prized for its dark-colored, true heartwood. It is heavy and strong yet easily split and simple to work with. Due to its value, forestry officials often are called to track down walnut tree poachers. Black Walnut is native to North America and is very solid and sturdy with a score of 1010 on the Janka hardness scale. It works wonderfully for everyday use in dining sets, accent tables, bed frames and for other case goods. Walnut naturally resists decay and has been used in fine furniture since the Victorian era. Adding walnut furniture pieces to your home decor is a great way to add character and charm to any home.


Cherry wood is famed for its durability and for its beautiful rich red/brown tones. Cherry wood is harvested from cherry fruit trees and is commonly found in Midwest and Eastern North America. Cherry has a Janka hardness score of 950. People love cherry wood because of its smooth grain structure and rich color. Cherry wood is unique because it ages over time by getting a darker and richer color when exposed to sunlight. This type of wood adds richness to its surroundings and is the perfect material for furniture because of its durability and character. Many antique furniture pieces are made from cherry which proves a great testament to cherry woods strength and capacity to last for centuries when properly taken care of.


Elm trees are deciduous and usually found in North America and Western Europe. Elm scores a 830 on the Janka hardness scale. Elm is one of the most vibrant timbers; the heartwood may be a dark brown with varying shades and the sapwood is much lighter. Elm is wonderful for furniture because it is incredibly beautiful, has a smooth texture, great strength and moderate split resistance. Elm has irregular growth rings and because of this it has cross grained character giving it a very unique appearance. Elm trees used to be more popular but because of Dutch elm disease many trees have been destroyed causing the timber to be rare and expensive.

By Chloe Holister-Cicciarelli

Interior Designer, Blogger and Marketing Consultant

Chloe Holister-Cicciarelli has been in the design field for the last 4 years and she works at Stewart and Company Fine Furniture as a marketing consultant, blogger and with customers as an interior designer. Chloe is a passionate writer and when she isn’t working you can find her walking her dog and being engaged in countless art projects. For more blogs from Chloe please click

Stewart and Company Fine Furniture


472 West Michigan Ave. Kalamazoo, MI. 49007


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