We are surrounded by wood in our industry. Different wood species are better for certain architectural projects than others. For example, maple is a great wood type used for kitchen and bathroom cabinets. The type of wood chosen will determine the beauty and strength of the finished piece.
Do you know the most popular wood species? How about the specific characteristics that make up different wood types? This blog post will introduce you to the most popular wood types and their characteristics.
The Beauty of Natural Wood
There’s no denying the beautiful characteristics of wood. It’s actually the variety of color hues, grain patterns, and other natural characteristics that make wood perfect for furniture, countertops, and cabinets.
Color and grain pattern are the two primary factors that influence the appearance of wood, and both can be easily enhanced when the finish color is applied.
What naturally influences color variation in wood species? There are a few: soil, minerals, water levels, available sunlight, temperature, and genetic composition. In a forest, natural chemical extractives found in the cell walls create color variation. These variations are traceable to: red, orange, yellow, and violet.
In a commercial farm, the range of variation can be increased when mixing wood species. For example, it’s common to mix red oak and pine oak together.
Similar to color variation, grain is influenced by many different factors including tree size, growth rate, climate changes, site conditions, genetics, bird, insect, and fire damage.
Even the same wood species that grows in another part of the world can look drastically different from one another.
Hardwood vs. Softwood
The type of wood chosen for a certain project depends on what is being built. For instance, a bookshelf needs to be built with strong wood that can withstand a lot of weight. However, a coffee table could use a wood species that’s more lightweight and good-looking. So what’s the difference between hardwood and softwood?
Hardwood comes from deciduous trees, and typically are more expensive simply because they are hard to find as they take a long time to grow and mature.
Hardwood is strong, and has beautiful texture, color, and grain patterns. Some common examples of this type of wood include ash, oak, teak, birch, walnut, and mahogany.
This type of wood comes from evergreen or coniferous trees. Typically, softwood grows in cool climates, often found in Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia. Since these trees grow faster than hardwood, softwood tends to be cheaper.
Softwood is light, soft, and easy to work with. Some common examples of softwood include pine, spruce, cedar, and redwood.
Other Wood Species
But, what about maple? It actually comes in hard and soft! Soft maple is easy to work with, while hard maple is a bit tougher. This wood species is actually pretty common as it’s grown on commercial farms. Choosing either soft or hard maple is better and stronger than other softwoods. It’s also less expensive too!
Have you heard of plywood, medium density fiberboard (MDF), or particle board before? These are manufactured wood types. In this process, wood particles are pressed together and bonded under pressure. Hardwoods are typically used on the outer side to give different looks. These wood types are exclusively used for kitchen cabinets and shelves.
Popular Wood Species
While there are over 50 types of wood species (and more than 60,000 trees worldwide!), we’re here to breakdown the 5 most popular ones that are commonly seen in both cabinets and countertops.
Let’s take a moment to admire (and learn) about the biodiversity of the earth’s wood species:
Being a very popular and all-around great wood, cherry is easy to work with, stains and finishes well, and ages beautifully. The color variation can range from a nearly white to light red to dark reddish brown. It also has a fine to medium, uniform grain pattern. Cherry is in high-demand and can be more expensive compared to oak or maple.
Most commonly used for furniture, oak is available in either red or white, and is another wood species that’s very easy to work with. The color variation of oak ranges from light tan to pink to red to dark brown. Oak does have a consistent medium fine grain pattern.
Being easier to work with than hard maple, soft maple has a color variation that goes from nearly white to light gray. The fine, straight, and uniform grain pattern help to create a very stable and beautiful wood.
While difficult to work with, hard maple is one of the most beautiful woods. Similar to soft maple, this wood type has a fine consistent grain pattern. Oftentimes, you’ll see the color variation range from nearly white to a slightly reddish brown. Both soft and hard maple are less expensive than other hardwoods, making them one of the most popular wood species on the market.
Similar to hard maple, hickory is a very difficult wood to work with. However, the beautiful color range from nearly white to dark brown make up for it. Featuring a fine, uniform grain, you can use hickory to make a beautiful statement piece.
Wood Products at the H.J. Oldenkamp Company
Typically, when we think of wood, we usually think about bookshelves, tables, and flooring. However, wood is very versatile, and here at the H.J. Oldenkamp Company, we supply the industry with some great wood products.
Kitchen & Bathroom Cabinets
The kitchen and bathroom are two very important rooms in any home. You’ll want to ensure that those spaces are both functional and stylish. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to invest in top quality cabinets from some of the top manufacturers in the United States.
These top cabinet brands will build durable, strong, and beautiful cabinets that last for many years.
We are pleased to offer 8 cabinet brands:
- Merillat Masterpiece
- Mid Continent Cabinetry
- Vista (frameless)
- Merillat Classic
- Quality Cabinets
- Quality – Woodstar Cabinets
- Kountry Wood Products
While choosing kitchen or bathroom cabinets can be a tough decision, just remember that there is a cabinet line, door style, and color that will meet your tastes and needs.
A unique wood application (and one of our favorites) is residential and commercial countertops. A butcher block countertop is both practical and gorgeous. Plus, with a little proper upkeep, you’ll have countertops that will last for many years with minimum wear and tear.
Residentially, butcher block tops can serve many different purposes including kitchen countertops, island surfacing material, make/prep station off a kitchen island, and rolling workstations.
Industrially, this product is great for bench tops in the locker room or in an institution. Commercially, we’ve seen butcher blocks used as dining table tops in a cafe, bakery and food prep areas, and as professional cutting boards.
One of the reasons why we love Michigan Maple Block is the fact that it’s customizable for any type of space, and look and feel. Butcher block tops come in a variety of traditional wood species like maple and cherry. They also come in more exotic finishes such as black walnut and teak. Whether you’re looking for a space with an industrial look or one with chic innovation, the possibilities are truly endless.
Final Thoughts on Wood Species
There are many wood species that can be used for cabinet, countertop, and furniture projects. While there are pros and cons to each type, there definitely is no “one size fits all.” It all comes down to your tastes, which elements are important to you, and your budget. Knowing the characteristics will allow you to select the best wood species for your space. Interested in learning more about our cabinet lines or Michigan Maple Block? Contact our team today!