At Fathers Building Futures, we use a total of 9 different woods for our products. The list below is in order of most valuable at the top, starting with walnut, to most affordable at the bottom, ending with sugar pine.
Long prized for its rich, dark brown tone, walnut is beloved among woodworkers and collectors alike. Ranging from lighter pale brown to a dark chocolate brown with darker brown streaks, it’s easy to tell walnut apart from the more traditional woods like red oak or cherry. Walnut is also very decay resistant, and coupled with its excellent hardness, makes it an excellent wood for high-use items like furniture, gunstocks (dating back to 17th century France), and cutting boards. Its beloved, rich coloring has also made it popular for small novelty items, such as bowls, carvings, and other small pieces. Maple and walnut represent our two hardest woods of the eight we offer.
African mahogany is prized for its unique grain (which ranges from straight to interlocked, with a medium to coarse texture) and warm color (ranging from a medium to dark reddish brown). Another of our many hardwoods, it’s also valued for its durability (though it falls behind walnut in this respect). It has been used frequently as trim in both boats and cars for its unique grain. Easy to work with, African mahogany is also commonly used for furniture. African mahogany’s popularity has risen as a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional mahogany. It grows more easily than its Amazon counterpart, making harvesting easier and less invasive.
Along with sugar pine, white maple (also called hard maple) is the lightest color-wise of the woods we work with. The color can range from nearly white, to off-white, cream, and may possess a very light reddish hue. Generally maple has a straight-grain with a consistent texture, though it can also have a bird’s-eye or curly (also called fiddle back) pattern. Many people find the unique grain patterns of maple particularly appealing. With its tendency to burn when being machined, it takes a skilled hand to work with maple. Maple can commonly be found as flooring, veneer, musical instruments, cutting boards, workbenches, baseball bats, and many other items. It has been used and prized for decades for its durability, providing sturdy furniture, cutting boards, and butcher blocks since the 1700s. Maple and walnut represent our two hardest woods of the eight we offer.
Dubbed “New England Mahogany” by colonial furniture makers in early America due to its natural darkening after being cut, cherry wood has a familiar and almost comforting hue. Cherry ranges from a pinkish brown when freshly cut to a medium reddish brown over time and sun exposure. Cherry is quite durable and resistant to decay. It is also considered one of the best woods for workability with its straight grain and stable nature. Cherry is also known for withstanding shock, compaction, and other abuses quite well, making it very popular for furniture, veneers, cabinets, musical instruments, and many other items.
Boasting a respectable range in color, red oak can come in anything from light to medium reddish-brown, often making it difficult to tell apart from other like-hued woods. However, red oak also has medium to large pores and a fairly coarse grain, granting it some uniqueness from our other hardwoods. As an easy to work with hardwood, red oak has many applications, including furniture, interior trim, and flooring. Going back in time, red oak was used heavily in seafaring ships from the Greeks, Romans, English, and French. Red oak is arguably one of the most popular hardwoods in America. Many vinyl wood surfaces are painted to resemble red oak.
Seen frequently in cabinets, alder is one of the softest woods to be classified as a hardwood, just above pine and poplar. With a familiar color ranging from a light tan to a reddish brown, alder (like cherry) is known for darkening with age. Similar in grain and overall appearance to birch, alder is distinctively redder. It also boasts straighter grain patterns than other hardwoods like oak or ash. Also like cherry, alder is easy to work with, making it an excellent and frequently used wood for cabinets, veneer, and musical instruments (like electric guitar bodies).
Like alder, poplar is one of the softest of the woods to be classified as a hardwood. With a unique coloring, poplar can range from light cream to yellowish brown, with occasional streaks of gray or green. Exposure to light, like several of our other woods, can darken poplar over time. It has a relatively straight and uniform grain with a medium texture. If you like a more “matte” look to your woods, poplar has a naturally low luster. Poplar is an extremely versatile wood, often used in place of almost any other wood. It is easy to work with, and takes painting very well, and is commonly used for molding and trim work. For a hardwood, it is also soft and lightweight.
Specifically called aromatic red cedar, this wood is distinct and easily recognizable for its rich, warm hue, boasting a deep red to a violet-brown range. It’s straight grain and commonly occurring knots also make for a unique and distinguishable appearance. As one of the softer woods we use in our cutting boards, it provides some unique advantages. Though the board will scar quicker than our other woods, it will not dull knives as fast. Additionally, cedar boasts being one of the best woods for rot and insect resistance. Because of this, it is also commonly used for fence posts with ground contact, as it needs no treatment. It is also used for closets and chests to repel moths and other insects.
Along with maple, sugar pine is our lightest wood in terms of color. Sugar pine typically ranges from a very light brown, to a pale yellow, and even just shy of white. Sugar pine is one of the few non-hard woods that we work with and is not used in our cutting boards. Reaching American popularity during the gold rush, sugar pine became a staple wood for everything from homes to boxes. Easier to work with than other pines, sugar pine also accepts glues and finishes easily, making it a woodworking favorite. Present uses include crates, construction lumber, and musical instruments, such as piano keys.