Different Types of Wood and Their Uses
There are not many things that have benefited man as much as the tree has. It is not only a source of oxygen - something that we would never have been able to live without - but also a source of nutrition in the form of fruits and sap. Another important utility served by trees is in the form of their wood.
Wood is an extremely versatile substance, used in construction, furniture, and even to light fires. The use case varies with the type of wood being used. Hardwoods hardly catch any fire, whereas the durability of most softwoods can be questioned. Therefore, it is important to learn about all wood types so that each type of wood is put to the best use it can serve.
Although it is a fact that most of the hardwoods are harder than their softwood counterparts, it isn’t always the case. Rather, these are named based on certain botanical features that they possess. These types of trees are marked by their broad leaves and the seeds that they produce, which are encapsulated within shells. Other popular features of this variety of wood include:
- A slow rate of growth
- Denser grain
- Tend to be more expensive
- Heavier in weight and density
- Resistant to fire
Since hardwoods are generally more durable and resistant to weight and environmental degradation, they are highly sought after for construction, furniture, and even used to make utensils. We discuss the various types of hardwood, what makes each of them stand apart, and what is the best use case for each of them.
Walnut is a highly prized variety of hardwoods and also very expensive since it is scarcely found nowadays. It comes in a rich, dark, chocolate-brown colour, although there may be slight degrees of variations in the colour.
Although it tends to be very hard, it is still a wood of choice when it comes to carving by hand. Even though floor tiles and cabinets can be made of Walnut, other wood types are preferred due to durability and cost. High-end luxury car makers and arms manufacturers also use wood due to its shock absorption qualities.
Finally, musical instruments such as guitars are made using walnuts because of the clear tones and the relatively lower cost than its other hardwood alternatives.
Teak is another type of wood that different people in different industries love to work with. It is highly durable and has high oil content, making it extremely resistant to fire and water. It is highly versatile, and use cases include outdoor furniture, decking, and a veneer for glueing onto furniture.
Maple comes in a few varieties, with two of the most popular being Sugar Maple and Red Maple. Sugar Maple tends to be extremely hard, making it very difficult to work with.
However, due to it being hard, it is also more durable and, as a result, is used to make furniture with high-use cases. Another popular use case for Sugar Maple is the making of floor tiles. Its grains are aesthetically pleasing and hence used for decoration, being generally straight or in the shape of a bird’s eye. Red Maple is softer than Sugar Maple and, hence, the choice for carving and woodworking.
Sourcing this wood has become increasingly difficult in recent times since the population of this wood has declined rapidly, causing international trade laws to restrict its movement. However, once found, this is an extremely expensive type of wood with a beautiful grain.
It sports a rich, reddish brown colour that gets darker over time, making it even more visually appealing. It is a very easy wood to work with, making it the clear choice for use in furniture, cabinetry, and flooring. It is also used in the manufacture of musical instruments due to the warm tone that it lends to them.
This is another one of the highly dense, rot and decay-resistant varieties of hardwood. It is so strong that it is the wood of choice for construction. Furthermore, it is also used as a veneer, where thin slices of it are glued to the furniture.
The reason for this use case is the beautiful grain design, which resembles the contours found on fingerprints. There are two types of Oak Wood: Red Oak and White Oak. White Oak is of a light greyish-brown colour, whereas Red Oak is of a similar colour but with little hints of red in the grain.
This is one of the exceptions to the rule that hardwoods are generally harder than their softwood counterparts. This wood is so soft that if the craftsman working on it is not careful, he can easily chip or crumble it.
This wood is extremely buoyant and, hence, is used in the production of surfboards, rafts, and floats for fishing nets. It is also used for the insulation of buildings.
This is one of the more moderately priced hardwoods. Another reason for its high popularity is that it is highly durable and can be bent, making it the best option for use cases that require bent wood, such as certain types of furniture.
It is also used in the sports industry, where it is used in making products such as baseball bats. Visually, it resembles Oak Wood with the same light greyish-brown colour and similarly shaped grain.
What makes softwood trees distinct from hardwood trees is that they have needles instead of leaves, and they also produce cones. Pine and Redwood are some of the most popular types of softwood trees. Other distinctions that softwood trees have from hardwoods are listed below:
- They are fast-growing
- Have a looser grain
- Less expensive than their hardwood counterparts
- Light in weight and density
- Poor resistance to fire
Pine is a type of wood that can be found in abundance, hence making it a low-cost variety of wood. Since it is strong and flexible while being lightweight at the same time, it is the clear choice of wood for the construction industry.
It is a very stain-friendly variety of wood, and it contains ‘knots’ that do look visually appealing but make Pine a little harder to work with, especially when carving.
This is less durable than its other softwood counterpart, that is, Pine. However, it does have a high level of decay resistance and also has insect-repelling qualities, making it best suited to outdoor uses, such as furniture. As its name suggests, it is a reddish shade with an interesting grain pattern.
Engineered Wood Types
This is an artificially occurring type of wood where waste from sawmills is bound together to form wooden sheets that are then used in the production of furniture or other wood products that do not require design or high-quality and expensive hardwoods.
This is a cheap and robust alternative to its naturally occurring counterpart. These also come in different variations and forms, which we will be discussing now.
Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF)
This is an engineered wood product with a density of 600-800kg/m3. Since this has good acoustic and insulation properties, it is used to make the most of them. Use cases include the inside of a speaker. However, its use is limited by the fact that the chemicals used to bind together the wood fibres are toxic and, hence, do not sit well with woodworkers.
This is another type of engineered wood made by binding together sheets of wood - or ‘plies’ - into a single block of wood. Those plies, also called veneers, can be taken from different woods for different uses, such as in aircraft, marine, or flexible use case scenarios. They have a side that is referred to as the ‘good side’, and the other side is called the ‘rough side’. They come in variations of differing thicknesses, providing great versatility.
It’s a Wrap
To summarise, there are two types of wood: those that are naturally occurring and the others that are artificially engineered. The naturally occurring woods can be further classified into hardwoods and softwoods, and the distinctions of these types of wood have already been established. Therefore, if you are to embark on some work that requires knowing the different types of wood and its use cases, this is your best guide.
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