Thursday, January 8, 2009

Domestic Hardwoods and Softwoods

Whether you are planning to install a hardwood floor, replace the siding on your home, or begin your first craft project, at Wightman Specialty Woods our goal is to be a resource to help you select the best possible wood materials for the job.
Some of the most popular wood species come from right in our backyards here in the northeastern United States! Below we offer you some general information and best uses for these domestic hardwoods and softwoods.
Domestic Hardwoods

Red Oak

With its attractive open grain pattern and light brown/red hue, Red Oak has long been one of the most popular northeastern hardwoods. Known for its hardness and durability, Red Oak stains and finishes well and is a classic choice for flooring, furniture, cabinetry, and interior finishes including wainscot, mouldings and paneling.

Hard Maple

Hard Maple is the 'hardest' of the northeastern hardwoods (as measured by the Janka hardness test). With its closed, straight grain pattern, it is slightly more difficult to machine than other northeastern hardwoods. Maple is not very porous and does not accept stains well, however, it finishes quite nicely with polyurethanes. Hard Maple has excellent shock resistance making it the wood of choice for gymnasium floors. Hard Maple is also ideal for furniture, cabinets, and tabletops.

Cherry (American)

Not to be confused with Brazilian Cherry, which has a much higher hardness level, American Cherry is one of the softer northeastern hardwood species. Cherry has a rich reddish color that will darken over time and with exposure to sunlight. Cherry "sapwood" (which comes from the exterior portion of the tree) is creamy white in color. Cherry machines easily and finishes beautifully making it ideal for furniture, cabinetry, mouldings, flooring, turning, carving, and musical instruments.


Though considered a hardwood, Basswood is quite a light, soft wood. This softness along with its uniform texture and indistinct grain pattern make it the premier wood for carving. Basswood is also ideal for painted mouldings, as it machines well, is easy to work with hand tools, and readily accepts paint.

White Ash

With a similar open grain pattern to Red Oak, the coloring of White Ash has more variation, ranging from light white to streaks of grey and light brown. Ash machines well, is good in nailing, screwing and gluing and accepts stains very well. White Ash has a relatively high hardness level, which makes it ideal for furniture, flooring, and the wood specie of choice for baseball bats.

Domestic Softwoods

Eastern White Pine

A popular softwood in the northeast, Eastern white pine may be used in a wide variety of projects from simple shelving to intricate furniture pieces. Pine is easily workable with power and hand tools, and though it does not stain well (will be blotchy), Pine accepts paints very well. Eastern white pine often contains knots, which are appealing to those hoping to achieve a "rustic" look.


Though this softwood specie is indigenous to the southeastern United States, its weather resistant properties make it a natural fit for outdoor applications here in the northeast. Natural oils within Cypress make it resistant to decay, insect attack and seasonal climate changes. Cypress is easily workable and readily accepts finishes. Though it is an ideal solution for outdoor decks, pergolas and stairways, it can be equally beautiful indoors as flooring, wall and ceiling coverings.