How to Identify Different Types of Wood in Antique Furniture


For their unique features, furniture producers use numerous types of woods for use in furniture. With so many different techniques to cut and colour wood, determining the sort of wood used in antique furniture and tracing it back to a specific period can be challenging. Additional variations within each wood type, such as “knotty pine” or “bird’s-eye maple,” might make identifying them more difficult. There are numerous books and online materials available, but the best teacher is always experience, as trees grow differently in different environments.

This is merely a brief introduction of how to distinguish between different types of wood and recognise common characteristics. Lumber is frequently classified into two types: soft and hardwood. Softwoods are soft and easier to work with than hardwoods, but they are less durable. Conifers make up softwoods, while deciduous trees make up hardwoods.

The Different Types of Antique Wood

These are some of the most prevalent antique woods that have been utilised throughout history and are still in use now.

Pine – Pine is a very common wood that is light and resistant to shrinking and swelling, but it is prone to splitting. Straight grain is prevalent, and the wood is typically white or pale yellow in colour, darkening over time. Pine is frequently used to construct the carcass or interiors of furniture, only to be veneered subsequently.

Mahogany – Furniture made of mahogany is a wood that is rich in colour and texture. Mahogany is a common type of wood used in European furniture styles. It is native to Central and South America, as well as the West Indies. It features a unique grain pattern that goes from light brown to red, with a ribbon look on occasion. It’s widely used on dining tables and dressers, either as a complete piece or as a veneer.

Oak is a fairly sturdy wood that is widely used in cabinetry, wood turning, and nearly all furniture manufacturing. Red and white oak are two of the most common species. Quarter-sawn oak is also a form of lumber that is cut in such a way that the ray fleck, a sought-after almost holographic pattern in the grain, is visible. In the Arts and Crafts movement, oak was particularly popular. Ash is frequently substituted for oak, and the two are easily confused.

Walnuts come in a wide range of colours, but they always have a rich detailed grain with cathedral patterns. In its raw form, black walnut can appear grey or purple, making it popular in modern architecture. Walnut comes in a variety of colours, including browns and whites, but antique pieces take on a yellow-brown hue as it ages. Solid walnut pieces are rarer than walnut veneers over pine construction. In bigger works, walnut burl veneers are frequently used on the edges and trim.

Rosewood – This wood derives its name from the aroma it emits when cut, which is similar to that of a flower. It resembles mahogany in appearance, but it has fine black or white rings and is much heavier. Chinese Rosewood with beautiful carvings and inlay is shown.

Cherry is a popular hardwood in American antiques and Queen Anne furniture. When originally cut, the wood is almost pink, but as it ages, it darkens to magnificent browns and reds. Because of its strength and durability, it is widely used in cabinetry building.

Bring it in if you’re unsure about a piece of antique furniture or the type of wood it’s composed of. We can assist you with upholstery, restoring or refinishing your antique furniture using the appropriate care for the wood and piece.