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Oak versus Brown Maple: Pros and Cons of These Furniture Woods

Posted by SCF on

Wood has been used in furniture for hundreds of years. It is still done today as it provides excellent raw material for both consumer and commercial use. Wood is a warm material that is easy to shape and work with. Woodworking fits well with the phrase, “It takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master.” Plenty of people call themselves carpenters, but very few of them are well versed in the art of woodworking.

There are several varieties of woods, some of which are used more than others. One of the most common is oak, which spans several species. Oak is used in hardwood flooring, cabinetry, and fine furniture. It is a sturdy wood categorized into two main varieties; red and white. Red oak has a color range from light brown to pinkish red with swirls reminiscent of spilled liquid. White oak is a yellow wood with high dark to light contrasts vivid in the grains of the wood. Oak is a hardwood. The difference between hardwoods and softwoods is density. Hardwood is quite literally harder than softwood varieties due to its density. The density of this wood makes it hefty when compared to other woods, but the tradeoff here makes it a very strong and sturdy material.

Oak is used in American and English country pieces in traditional, transitional, and contemporary pieces. It has exceptional bending abilities, is cost-effective, durable and abundantly available.

The grain in oak is versatile, allowing different cuts for a desired appearance. A favorite cut for oak is called Quarter Sawn. This method of sawing cuts the wood parallel to the wood’s medullary rays as opposed to across them. The cut reduces the yield amount of a particular tree, but it produces top-grade lumber that is crack, check and warp resistant. When this cut is chosen for furniture, the perpendicular fibers bind together. This is one of the secrets of oak wood that gives it incredible strength.

Oak will not warp with time. Furniture made from oak is timeless, and with periodic maintenance, your investment will last generations. It is one of the few investments you can make that often turn into family heirlooms. However, there are other things you must consider. Oak is expensive, which can be a deterrent when cost is considered. Despite its resiliency, oak is incredibly susceptible to scratches. The beautiful surface of oak is easily marred by sharp objects or active use. Because oak is cumbersome and susceptible to scratches, moving furniture pieces made from oak is not only labor intensive, but increase the chances of surface damage. If you have pets or young children in your house, you may wish to reconsider your timing and purchase oak furniture when they are much older.

Direct sunlight can ruin the appearance of oak, as can heat. Constant moisture will spoil the wood. As soon as something spills on it, wipe it up immediately. Consider drink coasters, as this will help keep surfaces clean and dry.

Maple, on the other hand, does not have a history of being a top choice in furniture woods like oak does. Brown maple comes from the center of various maple trees. The grain is very fine and uniform in appearance.

Maple has the likeness of cherry, is about as hard as cherry, without carrying the cost of cherry wood. It is a very smooth wood providing an excellent surface for darker dye stains like Onyx. It is seamless in appearance when finishing it off with cherry veneers.

Maple is quickly becoming the wood of choice for people because of its strength and uniform appearance. Beautiful mineral streaks become noticeable with darker stains. More and more furniture and cabinetry are being made with maple every day. The pros are obvious; this has just about every property of high-quality cherry wood, from color, strength, and appearance, without carrying the high price tag. Cherry wood is coveted by many for its smooth, intense, deep red beauty. The worst thing about maple is knowing that it is not cherry.

Maple is fine for humid conditions–no worse than most other woods, since they will all “move” in different humidity conditions. Brown maple has natural variations in wood color. Light stain colors will show the variations, darker stain colors help to even out those variations. Surface scratches are more noticeable with very smooth woods like maple and cherry, and dark stain colors show them even more. Care should be taken to use felt pads, or better yet, glass to cover the surface.

If you resurface your wood, you need to make sure that the surface has been sanded evenly. Put the stain on smoothly; the slightest variation will show. If you are in a position to maintain your maple furniture, the benefits and cost will greatly outweigh the cons.