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Characteristics of Popular Hardwoods

Diane Burkholder

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RED OAK

The sapwood of red oak is white to light brown and the heartwood is a pinkish-reddish brown. The wood is similar in general appearance to white oak but with a slightly less pronounced figure due to the smaller rays. The wood is mostly straight-grained, with a coarse texture.

BROWN (SOFT) MAPLE

Soft maple is very similar to hard maple in most respects. Generally the sapwood is greyish-white, sometimes with darker colored pith flecks. The heartwood varies from light to dark reddish brown. The wood is usually straight grained.  Soft maple is about 25 percent less hard than hard maple, has medium bending and crushing strength, and is low in stiffness and shock resistance. It has good steam bending properties.

CHERRY

The heartwood of cherry varies from rich red to reddish brown and will darken with age and an exposure to light. In contrast, the sapwood is creamy white. The wood has a straight grain; a fine, uniform, satiny smooth texture, and naturally may contain brown pith flecks and small gum pockets.

HICKORY

The hickories are an important group within the eastern hardwood forests. Botanically they are split into two groups: the true hickories and the pecan hickories (fruit bearing). The wood is virtually the same for both and is usually sold together. The sapwood of hickory is white tinged with brown, while the heartwood is pale to reddish brown.

WHITE OAK

The sapwood is light colored and the heartwood is light to dark brown. White oak is mostly straight grained with a medium to coarse texture; having longer rays than red oak, white oak has more figure.