Redwood trees in a misty forest

Form Meets Function: Cedar, Redwood, Cherry, and Hickory

We continue our series on all of the different types of wood and finishes here. Hopefully after reading these, you can make an informed decision on what pieces fit you best! We will be going over some types of softwoods, as well as some more hardwoods. 

Cedar: Naturally Insect Resistant

Cedar is a very common softwood, and has a lot of uses besides furniture. It is light red in color, and is commonly used as cedar chips to keep insects away. It is for that reason that cedar is commonly the wood of choice for chests and boxes, to keep away any insects. It’s grains are full of knots, with some streaking. It is usually not stained or bleached. It does not normally need it, since it has protective qualities naturally.

Redwood: Ideal for the Outdoors

Redwood brings to mind huge lumbering trees. Luckily, those huge old growth trees are not cut down for use as timber. But where it is grown, it still must be allowed to grow old, as the age will considerably improve the reliability of the wood. Redwood’s grain is marked by growth rings, which are visibly present and can indicate the age of the tree at the time it was cut down.

Like cedar, redwood possesses insect-resistant properties. But it also naturally does not decay, and repels moisture without needing any finishing. These qualities make it an ideal candidate for material used in outdoor furniture. Whereas other wood would either decay or need to be coated, this one will last a long time. The color, likes its name implies, is a deep red. Its cost will depend on where you are, as it grows easily in California but has to be transported to other areas.

Cherry: Used for Luxury

Cherry is a hardwood that usually is light brown with a slight red tint, and is not completely red like the name would imply. In fact, mahogany is closer to a cherry color. But often times a slight red tint will be applied to accentuate the color. It is expensive, and mainly used for cabinets and high ticket furniture items.

Hickory: Strength to Bear Weight

Hickory is one of the strongest woods available. Because of its strength, it can provide the foundation for pieces that will take a lot of wear and tear, like outside swings, rockers and outside pieces in general. It can be used for other purposes, but it’s most valuable when you put the strength to use. Its grain is uniform, small, and runs in parallel lines. It’s a light, almost gray brown color.

Softwood vs. Hardwood

Softwood is any tree from a specific family of trees, specifically the gymnosperm family. Angiosperm is the family of trees that are referred to as hardwood. Which means, it isn’t about the wood being physically soft of physically hard. It is just about the genetics of the tree, and not the innate qualities. But each of these different families do tend to have specific qualities, but that is not why they are classified as such. While the hardest hardwood is harder than any softwood, there is a huge range of options. The hardest softwood is stronger than a medium hardwood still.

Hopefully you now have a better idea of the differences, and can continue to make decisions about your furniture that are informed!