Selecting the wood type for your furniture can seem intimidating but don't worry, we're here to help! Our guide below will explain the features and differences between Oak, Brown Maple, Cherry, Quarter Sawn White Oak, Hickory and Hard Maple. Check out our Wood Species guide below or give us a call to talk with a specialist.
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Red Oak Features:
Red Oak exhibits a strong grain pattern commonly referred to as "Cathedral" because of the large arch patterns. Oak has been widely used over the past several decades for many reasons including the beauty of the grain pattern, durability and relatively low cost in comparison to other American hardwoods.
One of the reasons Red Oak has been so popular is because of how dense and hard it is. With a rating of 1290 on the Janka Hardness Scale, Red Oak garners a QW hardness score of 9 out of 10. Oak also wears very well over years of tough use and hides minor dents and wear very well in its wide and thick grain pattern.
For many years, Oak was almost exclusively finished in Natural, Light (Golden) and Medium finishes. While we still build a lot of lighter Oak furniture, we are seeing a prominent trend towards the medium to dark color tones on this wood type. QW staff favorites on Oak include Fruitwood, Michael's Cherry, Asbury and Rich Tobacco.
Typically, the Oak grain pattern lends the styling towards Traditional.
Brown Maple Features:
In terms of grain, Brown Maple is very much the opposite of Red Oak. Red Oak has a strong, deep grain pattern while Brown Maple has a very smooth and subtle grain pattern.
Brown Maple checks in the Janka Hardness Scale with a rating of 950 and garners a QW hardness score of 6 out of 10. Brown Maple is very similar in hardness to another familiar American hardwood, Cherry. As is the case with Cherry, we recommend being a little more careful with products made in this wood species. Let's be clear, Brown Maple is still very much an American Hardwood. However, if furniture in your household takes a beating every now and then, we may recommend an upgrade to Brown Maple's big brother, Hard Maple.
Typically, we finish our Brown Maple furniture on the medium to darker side of the stain spectrum. While we certainly can and will finish Brown Maple in a light or even natural finish, we recommend the medium to dark tones because of brown mineral streaking in the grain pattern. QW staff favorites on Brown Maple include Seely, Michael's, Asbury and Rich Tobacco.
The smooth grain pattern in Brown Maple lends the style towards contemporary and shaker styles. Brown Maple is also found on Victorian style furniture as a less-than-Cherry option.
Cherry / Rustic Cherry
Cherry / Rustic Cherry Features:
Rustic Cherry vs Cherry
One of the most commonly asked questions at QW Furniture is 'What is the difference between Rustic Cherry and Regular Cherry?'. The difference can be summed in 'grain variation'. In Rustic Cherry furniture, there is more grain variation allowed. Meaning, small grain burls and even small knots are allowed. Because there is less waste using Rustic Cherry, the cost is less than regular Cherry. In many cases, our customers want this variation and cost savings and prefer the Rustic Cherry.
Cherry is widely considered one of the most beautiful American hardwoods. With a deep, wide and exotic grain pattern, it is easy to see why.
Cherry checks the box on the Janka Hardness Scale with a rating of 950 and garners a QW hardness score of 6 out of 10. As is the case with Brown Maple, we recommend being a little more careful with products made in this wood species. Let's be clear, Cherry is still very much an American Hardwood. However, if furniture in your household takes a regular beating we may recommend a change to Hard Maple, Red Oak or QSWO.
Cherry is one of those wood types that looks great in any finish. Modern style furniture in Cherry is commonly finished in Natural. Current trends are more toward the true brown tones and grey finishes. Cherry also looks great in the dark tones. QW staff favorites on Cherry include Natural, S-14, Michael's, Lite Asbury, Asbury and Earthtone.
Over the years, builders have created many different styles out of Cherry. Cherry is very common on Victorian style furniture, modern, shaker and even provides a unique and attractive twist to traditional style.
Quarter Sawn White Oak / Rustic Quarter Sawn White Oak (QSWO)
QSWO / Rustic QSWO Features:
Rustic QSWO vs QSWO
Just like with Cherry, we can build our furniture out of regular Quarter Sawn White Oak (QSWO) or Rustic Quarter Sawn White Oak. The difference can again be summed in 'grain variation'. In Rustic QSWO furniture, there is more grain variation allowed. Small grain imperfections, burls and even small knots are allowed. In many cases, Rustic QSWO costs less than Regular QSWO. Many of our customers want this grain variation and cost savings and prefer the Rustic QSWO.
What is Quarter Sawn White Oak?
This is another common question at QW Furniture. The term 'quarter-sawn' actually refers to how the log is milled. Quarter sawing is a type of cut in the sawing of logs into lumber. The log is cut once, then turned a quarter turn and cut again. The resulting grain pattern on White Oak is a very tight grain with horizontal 'flakes' called tiger stripes. This grain pattern has been widely preferred for generations.
QSWO is often considered the counterpart to Cherry and is preferred over Red Oak. The grain is very tight and deep and has the hallmark of the 'quarter-sawn' milling process in what is referred to as 'tiger stripes'. These tiger stripes are horizontal 'flakes' that add to and accentuate the beauty of White Oak. You'll find this grain pattern on furniture dating back to the turn of the century.
QSWO rings the bell on the Janka Hardness Scale with a rating of 1335 and garners a QW hardness score of 10 out of 10. Plain and simple. Furniture made out of QSWO will last for generations.
Like Cherry, QSWO has been popular in a broad spectrum of finishes over the years. Current trends on QSWO are more toward the medium brown and red tones. QW staff favorites on QSWO include Seely, Michael's, Lite Asbury and Asbury.
The most popular style of furniture ever created out of QSWO is definitely the mission style. QSWO also looks great on traditional and shaker styles as well.
Like Oak, Hickory has a distinct and deep grain pattern. Hickory is available in either Rustic Hickory, for those who want the grain variation and visible knots, and regular Hickory.
Hickory blows up the Janka Hardness Scale with a rating of 1820 and garners a QW hardness score of 15 out of 10. Plain and simple. Furniture made out of Hickory is guaranteed to be very heavy. And will last for generations.
When most people think Hickory, they think of Rustic Hickory kitchen cabinets in a Natural finish. While Rustic Hickory with a Natural finish is very distinct and fits well with rustic themes, Hickory with a stained finish is very attractive as well and has been gaining popularity. QW staff favorites on Hickory include Natural, Seely, Michael's, Asbury and Earthtone.
Hickory furniture is typically associated with either rustic masculine styles or traditional styles. However, Hickory is a very versatile wood species and would complement a home in almost any style.
Hard Maple Features:
Much like its soft Maple counterpart, Hard Maple has a very smooth and feminine grain pattern. The wood grain on Hard Maple is not meant to distract from the overall decor in a room but silently compliment it.
Hard Maple is at the top of the chart on the Janka Hardness Scale with a rating of 1450 and garners a QW hardness score of 10 out of 10. Plain and simple. Furniture made out of Hard Maple is guaranteed to be very heavy. And will last for generations.
Hard Maple looks excellent in any finish from Natural to Ebony. Hard Maple, also known as 'clear Maple' is very common on kitchen cabinets with a Natural finish because of it's clarity and lack of grain imperfections. If you're trying to achieve a very light and consistent color, Hard Maple would be an excellent choice. QW staff favorites on Hard Maple include Natural, Michael's, Asbury and Rich Tobacco.
The smooth grain pattern in Hard Maple lends the style towards contemporary and shaker styles. Hard Maple is a versatile wood and does look great on all styles of furniture.