A Brief Guide to Popular Wood Types & How to Care for Them

Tako Agency | 10 September, 2021


          
            A Brief Guide to Popular Wood Types & How to Care for Them

When we think about wood, we think about...durability, right? Wood is a force to be reckoned with, sure, but it’s not totally invulnerable. A gorgeous walnut desk can easily fall victim to a coaster-less, condensation-laden glass. And the wrong cleaning products can pillage through each layer, ruining the wood forever. 

Like Larry David, we have more respect for wood than to let anything damage its beautiful exterior.

Before we get started, a little lesson in the difference between softwood and hardwood (because each has unique needs when it comes time to spruce up). (Sorry.) 

 

The Difference Between Softwood and Hardwood

While hardwood does tend to be more durable and softwood generally more pliable, there are definitely exceptions. The real difference between softwood and hardwood has to do with their origins. Hardwood comes from flowering plants, while softwood comes from trees that bear no fruit or flowers.

Pine, spruce, fir, cedar, and juniper are examples of softwood. Softwood tends to be less expensive than hardwood.

Hardwood is known for being generally enduring, as it comes from trees that grow more slowly. Examples of hardwood include mahogany, birch, and oak--among others. Due to its slower growth rate and enhanced density, the price tag on hardwood (even reclaimed) is usually higher than softwoods.

 

Popular Types of Wood

Mahogany 

Like a glass of fine wine, mahogany gets better with time. This hardwood ranks high in durability and its brilliant reddish color is known to darken richly over time. Mahogany is commonly used for high-end furniture, windows, paneling, musical instruments, boats, and trim. 

When caring for a mahogany piece, it’s recommended to refinish it from time to time. When doing so, clean the wood and sand off any impurities, then finish with a water-based sealant. 

 

Birch

Birch is hardwood, making it wonderfully durable. But the benefits don’t stop there! It’s also super affordable which makes it perfect for DIY projects. Birch wood is often a yellow or light red-brown and can be used for plywood, boxes, crates, cabinets, shelves, furniture, and more. 

(We, personally, love it in the form of a Birch Tree Table Lamp.)

To clean birch, dust it off lightly with a non-abrasive brush. Avoid using water or water-based products, as they may stain or ruin the texture of the wood. 

 Birch Lamp

Cedar

Cedar is a popular wood that is incredibly versatile, offers up a beautiful red color, and has a deliciously earthy smell. It’s a softwood that has a fantastic moisture tolerance, making it an excellent choice for outdoor furniture, patios, patio covers, and more. 

Cedar maintenance--especially for outdoor items--is dependent on the climate in your area, but for general care, a good scrub with a mild detergent mixture will do the trick. For tougher invaders, like mildew, a bleach solution may be in order! 

 

Fir

From the mountains and into your home! Fir is a beautiful, stable softwood that can vary greatly in color. It’s inexpensive and often used for plywood or construction lumber, and is another great choice for construction of outdoor furniture. 

When caring for fir, make sure to use a neutral wood cleaner. When soiled, you’ll want to act quickly, as this wood can be easily stained. 

 

Maple

Maple is a curveball in the hardwood/softwood game, as it actually can be considered to be both. It’s resistant to splitting, making it great for furniture and other weight-bearing items. The cherry on top for most? It’s super easy to maintain. 

If you have a maple piece in your home, simply wipe it down with a damp cloth and you’re good to go. 

 

Oak

If it’s gotta be sturdy--make it oak. This hardwood is heavy duty and tends to feature a red-yellow hue. Oak can be used to build furniture, cabinets, molding, trim, flooring, and Rustic Wine and Glass Racks

Clean your oak wood with a clean, damp cloth. For tougher messes, a standard hardwood cleaner will do.

 

Oak Wine Rack 

Pine

Pine is a super popular softwood, well-loved by furniture builders and other woodworking DIYers. It’s pliant, making it easy to carve and shape, and also comes in many varieties. Pitch pine is resistant to fire, while lodgepole pine is a favorite for paneling. Whatever pine you use, it’ll brilliantly ride the line between soft and strong.

Caring for pine is dependent on the type that you’re using. Good rule of thumb: avoid using plain water or acidic products. 

 

Walnut 

Walnut is a rich wood that is strong, shock resistant, and super easy to work with. It has a beautiful grain and varies in color, but typically is some shade of ultra earthy brown. Walnut lends itself well to luxury items, such as high quality accent pieces, musical instruments, and high-end furniture.

This wood is particularly vulnerable to scratching and staining, so take care to always use table runners, coasters, and placemats. When dusting, use a very light touch and a microfiber cloth. For tougher messes, there are a few things you can try.

 

Have you seen what we’re doing with wood? Check out our array of gorgeous handmade pieces!