Wood Selection

There are over 30,000 species of trees on earth, of which a small percentage yield new lumber for regular human use. The species list of old growth woods felled and used in 1800’s for American building construction, and which are now re-emerging through the demolition process, amounts to a fraction of one percent. The following list represents a range of reclaimed softwoods and hardwoods that are most commonly found in our inventory, each varying by surface figure, grain, color, hardness, and cell structure, as well as the individual weathering and natural air drying that lend the woods their character, and which distinguish antique and vintage woods from new lumber sawn from today’s fast growing tree plantations.

Some of these species are regularly in stock, though sizes and surface appearances may vary. Other species are rare, or generally available in small quantities. Please call for availability.

 

SOFTWOODS

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

The Tree – Grows to a height of 120 ft., and diameter of nearly 4 ft. Native of U.S. East of the Mississippi River

Appearance– Heartwood is pale brown with red cast. Sapwood generally blends with heartwood, though may be somewhat lighter. Texture is coarse and uneven. Grain is moderately pronounced.

Workability Splits and splinters easily in manufacturing, holds nails only fairly well. Easy to glue and takes paint well.

Durability Dings and mars easily; not resistant to decay

Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

The Tree – Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast, from British Columbia to Mexico. Grows to heights of 250 feet and diameters of 6 feet in coastal stands that are 200-800 years old.

Appearance – Differs between old and new growth. New growth tends toward reddish-brown and wide distances between growth rings; old growth tends toward yellowish-brown and very short distances between growth rings.

Workability Strong, rather hard, and stiff material. Machines well but difficult to use with hand tools. Splits easily.

Durability Somewhat susceptible to dinging and marring; moderately resistant to decay.

Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)

The Tree – Pacific Coastal region of the U.S., from far southwestern Oregon to central California. Grows to heights of 300 feet and diameters of 12 feet.

Appearance – Heartwood’s color ranges from a light cherry to a dark mahogany. Sapwood is white. Very straight-grained and coarsely textured.

Workability Machines well, though splinters easily on the end grain. Holds nails well and takes paint and finishes reasonably well. Glues best with alkaline adhesives.

Durability Dings and mars easily; resistant to very resistant to decay, with old growth material being the most resistant.

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

The Tree – Canada: Maritimes to southeast Manitoba; U.S.: north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River. Old-growth grew to heights of 200 feet diameters of 6 feet; current growth reaches 100 feet in height and 3 feet in diameter

Appearance – Heartwood is a light brown, sometimes with a reddish cast, and tends to develop a patina with age. Sapwood is white to a light yellow. Texture is uniform. Grain is straight and somewhat pronounced.

Workability Easy to machine and dimensionally stable. Nailing, finishing, painting, and gluing properties are all very favorable.

Durability Dings and mars easily; moderately resistant to decay.

Red Cypress (Taxodium distichum)

The Tree – Atlantic and Gulf Coastal regions, from Delaware to Texas, and the southern Mississippi River valley. Though it can grow to a height of 150 feet and a diameter of 12 feet when as old as 2,200 years, most trees grow to 100 feet in height and 5 feet in diameter after 500 years

Appearance – Sapwood is nearly a pure white. Heartwood can range from yellow-brown to a dark brownish-red to brown to even a dark chocolate. Isolated parts of some trees attacked by a fungus can have a “pecked” appearance.

Workability Moderately strong, hard, and pliable. Must use sharp cutting tools to prevent raised grain. Holds paint, takes nails, and glues together well.

Durability Somewhat susceptible to dinging and marring; heartwood is resistant to very resistant to decay; old growth material is one of North America’s most decay resistant species.

 

Yellow Pine (Pinus palustris and Pinus taeda)

The Tree – Southern and Southeastern U.S. Grows to heights of 150 feet and diameters of 5 feet.

Appearance – Sapwood is yellow to white; and heartwood is red to brown. Straight-grained and of a medium texture.

Workability Difficult to machine and glue. Holds nails well.

Durability Easily dinged and marred; low to moderate resistance to decay.

 

Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)

The Tree – Pacific Coastal region from Oregon to Alaska as well as Idaho and Montana. Grows to heights of 200 feet and diameters of 6 feet.

Appearance – Heartwood is a reddish-to-pinkish brown and the thin layer of sapwood is nearly entirely white. Straight grained and uniform but coarse in texture.

Workability Machines well and easy to work using hand tools. Tends to compress in planing and molding operations. Holds nails and screws well; accepts paint and finishes relatively well.

Durability Dings and mars easily; resistant to very resistant to decay.

 

Eastern Spruce (Picea rubens)

The Tree – Canada: Maritimes to southeastern Ontario; U.S.: Mid Atlantic, southern New England, and the central Appalachian Mountain region as far south as North Carolina. Can grow as tall as 110 feet and to diameters of 4.5 feet, though it grows no taller than 80 feet in the northern parts of its range.

Appearance – Pale yellow to white, little distinction between heartwood and sapwood. Straight, even graining and a relatively fine texture.

Workability Easily machined and glues well. Not very receptive to paint and does not hold nails well.

Durability Dings and mars easily; very susceptible to decay.

 

HARDWOODS


American Beech (Tsuga canadensis)

The Tree – Grows to a height of 120 ft., and diameter of nearly 4 ft. Native of U.S. East of the Mississippi River

Appearance– The sapwood is white with a reddish cast; the heartwood ranges from a light to a dark reddish-brown.

Workability Pre-boring necessary for nails and screws but holds nails and screws well. Steam-bends easily. Takes paint and transparent finishes well. Somewhat difficult to glue.

Durability In most applications, it is hard enough to resist dents and dings. If untreated, the wood decays easily.


White Oak (Quercus alba)

The Tree Eastern United States 65-85 ft, 3-4 ft trunk diameter

Appearance Has a light to medium brown color, though there can be a fair amount of variation in color. Red Oak tends to be slightly redder, but is by no means a reliable method of determining the type of oak.

Durability Good rot resistance: frequently used in boat-building applications.

Workability Easy to glue, and takes stain and finishes very well.

Comments White Oak, along with its brother Red Oak, are commonly used domestic lumber species. Hard, durable, and moderately priced, White Oak presents an exceptional value—which explains why it is so widely used in cabinet and furniture making.

 

Ipe, Brazilian Walnut (Tabebuia guayacan)

The Tree Tropical Central and South America 100 ft tall, 2-3 ft trunk diameter.

Appearance Heartwood can vary in color from a reddish brown, to a more yellowish olive brown, to a dark blackish brown; sometimes with contrasting darker brown/black stripes.

Durability Ipe is among the most durable lumbers on earth, with exceptional resistance to decay, rot, and insect attack. Ipe is used for seaside boardwalks, and is said to have lasted 50 years before it needed to be replaced: an amazing lifespan given the amount of traffic and environmental stresses put upon the wood.

Workability Overall, Ipe is a difficult wood to work, being extremely hard and dense, with high cutting resistance during sawing. Ipe also has a pronounced blunting effect on cutting edges. The wood generally planes smoothly, but the grain can tear out occassionally on interlocked areas.

Comments Ipe is a wood of extremes: extremely dense and durable, as well as extremely difficult to work. Its incredible hardness and strength make it well suited for flooring, decking, exterior lumber, veneer, and other products.

 

Maple (Acer saccharum)

The Tree Northeastern United States 80-115 ft tall, 2-3 ft trunk diameter. Maple’s leaves typically have either 5 or 7 lobes, with vivid autumn coloring ranging from yellow to purplish red.

Appearance Maple’s sapwood color ranges from nearly white, to an off-white cream color, sometimes with a reddish or golden hue. The heartwood tends to be a darker reddish brown.

Durability Maple is hard, but non-durable in regard to decay resistance.

Workability Fairly easy to work with both hand and machine tools. Maple has a tendency to burn when being machined with high-speed cutters such as in a router. Turns, glues, and finishes well, though blotches can occur when staining, and a pre-conditioner, gel stain, or toner may be necessary to get an even color.

Comments In tree form, Hard Maple is usually referred to as Sugar Maple, and is the tree most often tapped for maple syrup.

Hard Maple ought to be considered the king of the Acer genus. Its wood is stronger, stiffer, harder, and denser than all of the other species of Maple available in lumber form.

Common uses for Hard Maple include: flooring (from basketball courts and dance-floors to bowling alleys and residential), musical instruments, cutting boards, and workbenches.

 

American Chestnut (Castanea dentata)

The Tree – Blighted in the 1920s and no longer grows to maturity in nature. Before the blight, it grew from Maine to Michigan to the north and Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia to the south. Grew to a height of 120 feet and to a diameter of 7 feet. Appearance – Heartwood is grayish brown to brown and develops a patina with age. The sapwood is almost completely white. Texture is coarse and grain relatively muted.

Workability Easy to machine and glues well. Splits easily, making nailing challenging.

Durability Very resistant to rot and marring.