All different type of woods have unique signature marks, that can help in easy identification of the type. There are hardwoods and softwoods. Both are used in furniture manufacturing, and each have their own specific uses.

hardwoods are flowering trees (with leaves); softwoods are coniferous or evergreen trees (with needles). Although most hardwoods are harder than most softwoods, there are exceptions. In very general terms, hardwoods are usually more expensive than softwoods due to availability. Hardwoods tend to be stronger and more stable, whereas softwoods are ideal for wood carvings as they are able to handle intricate designs.

Among all the hardwoods, cherry, maple, mahogany, oak, teak, and walnut are prized for quality furniture.

Pair of swivel bookcase made of mahogany, circa 1940. Dim: L 71 L 71 H 184.5 cm

Pair of swivel bookcase made of mahogany, circa 1940. Dim: L 71 L 71 H 184.5 cm

Mahogany

Mahogany is a close grained hardwood, native to South America and the West Indies. It varies in colour from dark brown to red and occasionally has a spotted effect. As the girth of the tree is broad furniture makers were able to use a single cut of wood for a table top. Furniture made from mahogany became very popular in Britain from mid 18 th Century, followed by the rest of Europe.

Table Les 2 Potiers, French Oak and Ceramics,W220xD120xH36cm

Table Les 2 Potiers, French Oak and Ceramics,W220xD120xH36cm

Oak
Oak is a slow growing tree, taking between 150 – 200 years to reach maturity. The wood is hard and pale in colour, but darkens to a rich brown with age and polishing. Furniture made from oak is usually heavy, solid and simple in design. From the mid 17 th Century oak was mainly used for the carcass and drawer linings of furniture. Oak was a popular wood used in the Georgian era and made a revival in late Victorian times.

Desk in rosewood and bronze, armchair in white foal, France, 1950

Desk in rosewood and bronze, armchair in white foal, France, 1950

Rosewood (Brazilian, Indian, or Ceylonese rosewood): This hardwood, like mahogany, is one of the finest and most valued furniture woods; it’s also used for veneers. Rosewood varies in color from dark brown to dark purple, with rich, strongly marked black streaks. Rosewood is difficult to work with hand tools, and is very expensive.

Pair of teak wood side tables, Denmark, 1950

Pair of teak wood side tables, Denmark, 1950

Teak: Teak is one of the choice furniture hardwoods, and has traditionally been used for both solid pieces and veneers. Teak varies from rich golden-yellow to dark brown, with dark and light streaks.  It is very expensive.