Know Thy Wood - Picket&Rail Singapore's Premium Furniture Retailer

Know Thy Wood

May 01, 2017

Know Thy Wood

Today's furniture is made from thousands of natural and man-made materials ranging from natural woods, engineered woods, bamboos, steel, glass, plastic, stone, marble and a host of modern man-made materials. Historically, however, wood has been one of the earliest and most popular materials for making furniture simply because wood has been easily available and easy to work with. Wood also has a pedigree – the biblical Jesus worked with wood as did his father. Woods used in modern furniture can be divided into 2 groups: natural solid woods and engineered woods. Solid wood furniture has a natural look and feel. The irregularities of grain in natural woods confer decorative interest and lend a warmth to furniture. The most popular solid woods used in locally available furniture are featured below. Rubberwood, Teak, Rosewood, Meranti, Chengal, and Nyatoh. 

 

Rubberwood

Contrary to its name, rubberwood does not bounce or stretch. Rubberwood is the wood of the rubber tree and is the most popular wood used in local furniture. It is also eco-friendly as rubber trees are available from renewable plantations and are only cut down after they are no longer able to produce latex. Rubberwood is a high density wood with a tight grain. The advancement of technology has enabled rubberwood to become a very versatile wood so much so that it has been used to mimic rosewood, oak, teak and other more expensive woods. 

 

White American Oak

We use American White Oak for certain pieces of high end furniture. It is used in our Sean Dix, James Tan, Luigi Garbarino, Copenn and Modern Classics collection. White Oak is expensive.

Quartersawn oak is made from sawing the wood at a ninety degree angle to the natural line of the grain. This gives the grain the look of straight lines that flow parallel to the wood's cut. Quartersawn Oak is usually made from White Oak. White oak is very popular because it can stand up to liquids, which is the reason it was very popular among boat makers. The sapwood of white oak is usually light colored while the heartwood ranges from light brown to dark brown. It usually has a straight grain with a coarse texture. White oak is a hard wood that has medium bending strength and low stiffness. It has great resistance to wear and tear.

We do not use Red Oak. The grain is less beautiful and the color less desirable. Red Oak is considerably less expensive.

Black American Walnut

This wood is used primarily for our high end furniture. It is used for our Sean Dix, James Tan, Luigi Garbarino, Starbay Avantgarde collection, Modern Classics and Copenhagen Collection. It is our signature wood.

 Juglans nigra, the Eastern Black Walnut or American Black Walnut, is a species of flowering tree in the walnut family, Juglandaceae, is native to eastern North America. It grows mostly in riparian zones, from southern Ontario, west to southeast South Dakota, south to Georgia, northern Florida and southwest to central Texas.

The black walnut is a large deciduous tree attaining heights of 30–40 metres (98–130 ft). Under forest competition, it develops a tall, clear bole; the open-grown form has a short bole and broad crown. The bark is grey-black and deeply furrowed. The whole fruit, including the husk, falls in October; the seed is relatively small and very hard.

While its primary native region is the Midwest and east-central United States, the black walnut was introduced into Europe in 1629. It is cultivated there and in North America as a forest tree for its high-quality wood. Black walnut is more resistant to frost than the English or Persian walnut, but thrives best in the warmer regions of fertile, lowland soils with a high water table. It is a light-demanding species. The wood is used to make furniture, flooring, and rifle stocks, and oil is pressed from the seeds. It is very expensive.

Black walnut drupes (fruit) contain juglone (5-hydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinone), plumbagin (yellow quinone pigments), and tannin. The brownish-black dye was used by early settlers to dye hair. Extracts of the outer, soft part of the drupe are still used as a natural dye for handicrafts. The tannins present in walnuts act as a mordant, aiding in the dyeing process and are usable as a dark ink or wood stain (walnut wood stain).

 Walnut furniture is very durable. There are pieces of walnut furniture that are hundreds of years old. Black walnut is highly prized for its dark-colored, true heartwood. It is heavy and strong, yet easily split and worked. Walnut wood has historically been used for gunstocks, furniture, flooring, paddles, coffins, and a variety of other wood products. Due to its value, forestry officials often are called on to track down walnut poachers; in 2004, DNA testing was used to solve one such poaching case, involving a 55 foot (16m) tree worth several thousand dollars. Black walnut has a density of 660 kg per cubic meter, which makes it less dense than oak.

 

Teak

Teak (named derived from Malayalam word Thekku) is a tropical hardwood tree native to the tropical rainforests of south and southeast Asia and is endangered in Myanmar and Philippines. The trees grow to 30-40m tall and lives for 100 years. Teak is able to bend without breaking in the face of high winds and can withstand changes in weather and seasons. Teak's natural oil also protects it from decay, insects and bacteria while rendering it water resistant. Teak is used for the decking of ships and both outdoor and indoor furniture. Its durability and oil gives the wood an aroma and a gleam. Teak is a very endangered species. At Picket&Rail we do not use teak for 99.9% of our products.

 

Rosewood

No, this has nothing to do with the wood of the rose tree. However, freshly planed rosewood timber does give off the sweet smell of roses. In fact, rosewood oil obtained by distilling steam from the wood chips of the rosewood tree is used in fragrances and deodorants. Rosewood is a heavy, close grained oily wood with a bright red and lustrous color that deepens in time to a deep red. Rosewood grows in many parts of the world, including southeast Asian forests but suffers from overexploitation. It is a popular wood used in classical Chinese furniture. 

Rosewoods are the most exotic of woods. Securing FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) rosewoods are becoming extremely difficult. Our Starbay Signature Collection, made in rosewood, may be too expensive to make in five years' time. Nowadays Rosewood refers to any of a number of richly hued timbers, often brownish with darker veining, but found in many different hues. All rosewoods are strong and heavy, taking an excellent polish, being suitable for guitars, marimbas, turnery (billiard cues, the black pieces in chess sets, etc), handles, furniture, luxury flooring, etc. In general, supplies are poor through overexploitation. Some species become canopy trees (up to 30 m high), and large pieces can seldom be found in the trade.

 

True Rosewoods

All genuine rosewoods belong to the genus Dalbergia. The pre-eminent rosewood appreciated in the western world is the wood of Dalbergia nigra which is now a CITES – listed endangered species. It is best known as Brazilian Rosewood, but also as "Rio Rosewood" or "Bahia Rosewood." This wood has a strong sweet smell, which persists over the years, explaining the name "rosewood".

Another classic rosewood is that yielded by Dalbergia latifolia known as (East) Indian Rosewood or sonokeling. It can be found in tropical America, Southeast Asia, Africa and Madagascar.

Dalbergia sissoo is also known as Indian rosewood. It is extremely dense, strong, and durable. It is stronger than teak and is comparable in price. The valuable timber is used for quality furnishings.

 

Mahogany

Mahogany is a very durable, insect and moisture resistant wood. It has a reddish brown color which darken over time and displays a reddish sheen when polished. It has historically been a very popular wood leading to deforestation of many parts of the Caribbean and Latin America. It is found in many countries of the world and is mainly used for making fine furniture, cabinets and decorative trim. It is also often used for musical instruments such as drums and the backs of guitars. Indonesian Mahogany is not of the same species and is of much poorer quality. Many of our competitors are not very forthcoming in informing consumers of this major difference.

 

Meranti

Meranti also known as Lauan is a southeast Asian wood that varies in color from pale pink to dark red. The large trees grow up to 70m high and are 1.5M is diameter. Malaysian meranti tends to be obtained from plantation whereas a lot of meranti from other southeast Asian countries contributes to the destruction of primary forests. It is a poor to medium grade wood and is generally used to make inexpensive veneers, plywood and door skins. 

 

Chengal

Chengal has been such a popular hardwood that it is thought to be extinct in Indonesia and exterminated from easily accessible areas in Peninsula Malaysia. Chengal is heavy and extremely strong. Chengal is used for heavy duty furniture and heavy construction such as bridges and railway tracks. 

Nyatoh is a light hardwood that grows in southeast Asian forests. There is considerable illegal logging of nyatoh, especially in Indonesia, that contributes to deforestation so it is well to ask where wood was acquired from. Nyatoh is a popular timber for both indoor and outdoor furniture and solid door. 

 

Engineered Wood 

Engineered woods are also known as composite wood or manufactured wood. These are wood products that are engineered to precise design specifications and standards. This gives engineered woods a look of standardized perfection. They are made by binding together wood strands, particles, fibers, veneers with adhesives to form composite materials. Because of its standardized features, engineered wood is popularly used for flat packed, assemble-yourself furniture available at superstores such as IKEA, Carrefour and Giant. Plywood is one of the earliest example of engineered wood and was in use even in ancient Eqypt. Modern plywood panels are made out of thin sheets of wood called veneers. The veneers are glued together with its grain at right angles to adjacent layers and subsequently bonded under great heat and pressure. This makes gives plywood great strength. A vast number of plywood varieties exist. The main reason for using plywood instead of plain old wood is its resistance to cracking, shrinkage, warping or twisting, and its high uniform strength. Plywood is used to make flat panels such as doors, cabinets, parquet and furniture parts. High end plywood has been used as a material in marine and aviation applications. 

 

Fiberboard

Fiberboards made from the waste wood from lumber yards and workshops such as wood chips, wood shavings, flakes even saw dust. The wood particles are smashed into smaller pieces and screened to obtain uniform sized particles that are then mixed with resins. Urea formaldehyde, the cheapest resin is used for most non-water resistant boards whereas the more expensive melamime formaldehyde is used for moisture resistant boards. Other additives may be used to make the final board fireproof, insect proof, or waterproof. The mixture is subsequently cooled and compressed into fiberboards. Wood veneers or laminates or sometime even paper are glued to the surfaces to make particleboards more attractive. Particleboard (Chipboard) Particleboard is the lightest of the three types of fiberboards; the other two are medium density fiberboard (MDF) and hardboard. Particleboards are the cheapest fiberboards and use larger pieces of wood than MDF or hardboard. Particleboards are cheaper but heavier than natural woods or plywoods. Particleboards are prone to expansion and discoloration due to moisture if they are not properly sealed. Most of the cheapest furniture in the market is made of chipboard material. Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) The wood particles used in MDF is broken down into a powder hence MDF is denser and heavier that chipboard. MDF is generally less expensive but heavier and stronger than natural woods. Melamime is frequently used to laminate ready to assemble MDF furniture so as to prevent the material from moisture attacks. 

 

FAQs of Wood Furniture

Where is the wood from? A lot of the woods obtained from southeast Asia comes from illegal logging and contributes to serious deforestation of our planets rainforests. You can do your bit by making sure your furniture is made from wood obtained from legal concessions and managed plantations. Woods such as teak and mahogany are difficult to acquire legally so some furniture makers use wood salvaged from old buildings. 

How long can wood furniture last? Wood furniture made from rubberwood, rosewood, teak and true mahogany can not only last a lifetime but can be passed from generation to generation if properly cared for. Furniture made from rubberwood today lasts much longer that in the past due to technological advancements. 

Does effect does our weather have on wood furniture? In our humid climate, wood furniture can get moldy. The best protection against mold is to polish your wood with wax. 

How does airconditioning affect wood furniture? You should avoid leaving your furniture under direct air conditioning. Air conditioning tends to dry out the wood. To protect the wood, you could polish it when the wood looks dull or dry. However, you should note that for light colored furniture, excessive polishing will speed up the darkening of the wood.





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