The Woods We Use

At The Mountain Woodworker we use quality woods from global sustainable forests for making our clients' projects. Before starting work on your project we will discuss with you the types of wood that will be used. Our specialty signature in woodworking is to use two contrasting woods for our custom furniture. We believe that this approach provides our clients a greater range of choices in home decorating and decor.

Both domestic and exotic woods are often used in our woodworking. Because wood is an organic material, different species will have its own characteristics that respond to environmental elements such as temperature, humidity, and light. Even within a species of wood the characteristics are usually different between the sapwood and heart of the tree. Wood also has different woodworking characteristics such as ease of sawing, quality of finishing capabilities, etcetera. For our clients it is important to have realistic expectations about how the wood(s) they select for their project will perform.

The following table describes general characteristics of the woods most often used for Mountain Woodworker furniture. As you review the table, please keep in mind that wood is a natural product subject to many variations in color, stability, grain, and hardness. The samples shown are representative of each species and do not indicate how the wood for your particular project will look.

Click below for:
Trees of the Bible
Zodiac and Celtic woods.


Ash Ash The heartwood is light tan to dark brown; sapwood is creamy white. Similar to white oak but more yellow. Its grain is usually bold, straight, moderately open with occasional wavy figuring,
Birch Birch Sapwood is creamy yellow or pale white in yellow birch; heartwood is light reddish brown tinged with red. The grain has medium figuring, straight, closed, even textured. Occasional curly grain or wavy figure in some boards.
Cedar Cedar The heartwood is reddish brown or pinkish brown to dull brown, and typically much darker than sapwood which is nearly white. The wood is almost always straight-grained, easily split, and has a uniform but rather coarse texture. It is moderately soft, light weight and low in strength. Its heartwood is very resistant to decay, an important feature if you are interested in using cedar outdoors.
Cherry Cherry Heartwood is dark to reddish brown, lustrous while the sapwood is light brown to pale with a light pinkish tone. The grain structure is fine, frequently wavy, uniform texture. Quarter-sawn cherry has a distinctive flake pattern. Texture is satiny, with some gum pockets.
Cypress Cypress The sapwood is darker cream colored; heartwood is honey-gold to reds with darker knots throughout. The grain is closed. This is the only common domestic wood that we recommend for outdoor use.
Hickory Hickory This is one of the hardest, strongest and heaviest native North American woods there is. This is a wood for those who are looking for a touch of character and class in the furniture that the Mountain Woodworker makes for them. The heartwood is tan or reddish; sapwood is white to cream, with fine brown lines with closed grain having a moderate definition.
Mahogany/Sapele Mahogany/Sapele Used widely in furniture making and boat building this wood varies from a light to dark reddish-brown with iridescent flecks in the wood. The color of the Central and South America. The color of the Central and South American varieties varies from a reddish brown to a deep red. It is a prized wood used for fine furniture and veneers.
Maple Maple (Hard) Maple Heartwood is creamy white to light reddish brown; Sapwood is pale to creamy white. The grain is closed, subdued grain, with medium figuring and uniform grain texture. Occasionally shows quilted, fiddle back, curly or bird's-eye figuring.
Red Oak Red Oak The heart and sapwood are similar with sapwood lighter in color; most pieces have a reddish tone. Slightly redder than white. Its grain is open, slightly coarser (more porous) than white oak. Plain-sawn boards have a plumed or flared grain appearance; rift-sawn has a tighter grain pattern, low figuring; quarter-sawn has a flake pattern, sometimes called tiger oak, tiger rays or butterflies.
White Oak White Oak The heartwood is light brown; some boards may have a pinkish tint or a slight grayish cast. Sapwood is white to cream. The grain is open but with longer rays than red oak. Occasional crotches, swirls and burls. Plain-sawn boards have a plumed or flared grain appearance; rift-sawn has a tighter grain pattern, low figuring; quarter-sawn has a flake pattern, sometimes called tiger oak, tiger rays, or butterflies
Walnut Walnut Heartwood ranges from a deep, rich dark brown to a purplish black. Sapwood is nearly white to tan. Difference between heartwood and sapwood is great; some manufacturers steam the wood to bleed the darker heartwood color into the sapwood. The grain is mostly straight and open, but some boards have burled or curly grain.

Some of the less commonly used woods in making Mountain Woodworker furniture include the exotic woods. These woods may cost 2 to 5 times or more than the traditional woods listed above. Some of the exotics are best used as veneers instead of solid wood. Depending on the exotic choosen an additional fee may be added to the project since some exotics, especially those in the rosewood family, require skin and lung protection from its sawdust. If you have a particular exotic wood in mind, please let us know and we will see if we can get it.

Bubinga Bubinga Bubinga is African Rosewood. It has a reddish tint, with brown and black grain patterns, somewhat like a cross between Walnut and Cherry. It is popular among furniture artists. The wood is dense enough that the end grain finishes well. It is often used in furniture veneers, and its beautiful color makes it excellent for jewelry boxes.
Cocobolo Cocobolo Colors range from purple red to yellow with irregular black streaks. With exposure to light over time, colors will darken to a deep orange red. It is very dense, and is often used in musical instruments. It is similar to Bolivian Rosewood (Morado), Santos Rosewood, and many of the other members of the Central American branch of the rosewood family.
Ebony Ebony This family of woods are very hard and heavy, many of which are quite black. Grain markings are fine and very indistinct. The wood is hard that carbide rather than steel tools normally must be used to cut it, and most is so heavy that it sinks in water.

African blackwood (not part of the ebony family) is a substitute for ebony - cheaper than ebony, but certainly not cheap.

Walnut is sometimes treated with vinegar that has had steel wool "dissolved" in it. This causes the walnut to turn very dark, looking like ebony - a process called ... ebonization. Since ebony costs 20 times as much as walnut, and isn't always 100% black, this technique has been used for centuries. Some vendors descriptions of their ebony products suggest that much of the "ebony" furniture are really made from ebonized wood.

Lacewood Lacewood This wood has an orange brown color and has an unusual grain structure that has the look of hammered copper or fish scale-like pattern when properly cut (quarter--sawn).
Padauk Padauk African Padauk is a deep orange/red color that deepens with age. The sawdust is toxic and stains clothes and other wood. I'm not looking forward to working with this one, but it is strong, dense, and decay resistant, making it a favorite for furniture and boats. Among the exotic woods, it is relatively inexpensive.
teak Teak A wonderful durable wood Teak makes great unfinished outdoor furniture, aging to a beautiful silver-gray, or it holds a fine finish (often teak oil). Price often exceeds 3 times the cost of walnut.
Zebrawood Zebrawood Highly decorative, light gold color, with narrow streaks of dark brown to black, visible by quartering. Heavy and hard, it can be polished to a high luster, but it is rather coarse in texture. Zebrawood has a rather unpleasant odor when working it. It can cost upward to 3 times that of walnut.
Bird`s Eye Maple Bird's Eye Maple Some rare pieces of hard maple have a beautiful pattern like these - each "eye" is the size of a pencil eraser, among the clouds. The wood industry has reportedly learned to print this pattern on wood (or plastic) so artificial birds eye maple is becoming popular as an office wallboard. I recently received a quote at only 2 1/2 times the cost of Walnut - far less than I expected. The birds eyes appear through the wood - even more in the darker heartwood, so pieces of light colored maple with dense birds eye patterns are becoming very rare.
Wenge Wenge Wenge is also popular among furniture artists. It is yellow-brown when freshly cut, and becomes very dark brown to almost black. The sap wood is yellowish white, and would normally be hidden on the inside. The grain is intense, dense, and relatively straight. It is a very hard wood (harder than oak) that quickly dulls cutting tools and gives woodworkers splinters. The open grain pattern must be filled for a smooth finish. The sawdust is toxic (skin and breathing), so this wood should not be used for food service.


Parawood Parawood, also called Rubberwood, Plantation Hardwood, and Plantation Oak, comes from Malaysia. It is often used in do-it-yourself unfinished wood furniture, toys and kitchen accessories. although the wood has a tight grain pattern, it is not easy to stain and usually ends up being painted. For this reason most lumber suppliers do not carry it, and most woodworkers do not use it in making their products.
Polywood Polywood isn't actually wood. It's engineered from polyresins, recycled plastics, and high density polyethylene, and then crafted to look and feel like real wood. It is made completely of recycled materials. As an outdoor "wood," it requires hardly any maintenance and is suitable for all weather conditions.
WPC Wood-plastic composite (commonly abbreviated as WPC) is a composite material lumber or timber made of recycled plastic and wood wastes. It is composed of wood from recovered saw dust (and other cellulose-based fiber fillers such as pulp fibers, peanut hulls, bamboo, straw, digestate, etc.) and virgin or waste plastics including high-density polyethylene, PVC, PP, ABS, PS and PLA.

Its most widespread use is in outdoor decking , but it is also used for railings, fences, landscaping timbers, cladding and siding, park benches, molding and trim, window and door frames, and indoor furniture.

Plywood The Mountain Woodworker uses only cabinet and furniture grade plywood and only for specific purposes. Made from thin layers or veneers of real wood, plywood is more rigid and stable than most solid hardwoods. When used as a primary wood, its edges need to be treated with a veneer or preferably strips of hardwood. As a secondary wood, plywood may be used as cabinet backs, dust panels between drawers, or drawer sides and bottoms. If plywood is to be used for drawer sides, The Mountain Woodworker uses only Baltic Birch in making the sides because of its extra strength, stability, attractiveness,and lack of gaps and knots.

Plywood, faced with hardwood edges, is also used for bookcase shelves because it will carry a heavier load, with less sagging, than a comparable shelf made of solid wood.

MDF MDF, and its cousin, Particle Board, are often used for lower end furniture. The only time that The Mountain Woodworker uses MDF is for built-in counter and desk tops. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has established new standards for built-in furniture. When MDF is used for built-in furniture, high pressure laminates (HPLs) are often used to finish the surfaces of the project. MDF is generally composed of 92% wood and 8% resin. These materials are mixed and then compressed under extremely high heat and pressure.

The wood you choose for your project is referred to as the project's primary wood. Most furniture also has "secondary woods" - wood that you don't see and is used for drawer sides and backs, supports, guides, etc. Poplar is a common secondary wood which does not have the quality of features required of custom furniture. Often we use primary woods leftover from other projects as secondary wood. Unless you also specify the secondary wood we cannot promise what species it will be but that it will be a quality hardwood.

Pens & Pencils
A variety of standard and exoctic woods are used to make our pens and pencils. We also use some acrylics. Since pens and pencils are personal items the choice of wood should be personal. Select a color and grain structure that you like. Some of our woods, such as purpleheart and cedar, are photo sensitive and will usually darken with exposure to sunlight. The oils on your hands and fingers also affect the long-term color of the wood you select.