Top 10 Best Woods for a Custom Table
Top 10 Best Woods for a Custom Table
There are countless species of wood that we could use for the tables we make, but there are a handful that we come back to over and over. Partly, this is because of their functional characteristics — all are hardwoods — and partly it’s because of their appearance. The species you’ll find here all have history in furnituremaking, and they’re also readily available in our area. Some are more expensive than others, but none are prohibitively expensive, and all build beautiful, durable furniture.
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With tones ranging from pale, creamy whites to reddish browns, maple fits the feel of many different sorts of space. The grain in a maple slab swirls fluidly, creating unique eye-catching patterns and the prized, light-bending effects known as figure. No two slabs are exactly alike and, as you can see, so a maple table top is like a piece of artwork. That’s what you get with a full live edge slab – a functional piece of art! The pale tans and golden ripples complement many color palettes well.
Tables built from milled maple boards, rather than single slabs, tend to be paler in coloration than the slabs, with more regular grain and typically much less figure. The drama and variety of a maple slab can be stunning, to be sure, but they aren’t the right choice for every space. The designer and her clients wanted a more subdued look for this table, and the creamy whites, pale tans, and soft golds of milled maple were just the ticket.
White oak is a material with a long, proud history in furniture making here in New England and beyond. Its light colorations and straight, identifiable grain are familiar, but we urge our clients not to dismiss this venerable species. After all, it’s become popular for a reason. Aside from all the physical characteristics of the furniture white oak builds – hardness, durability, stability – are the aesthetic considerations. With more natural finishes like the one we used here, oak suggests a warmth and reliability that feel any home in more classically-styled spaces. In spaces with more contemporary design, the cooler tones in washed-out grays and whites often look best, and the consistent appearance of white oak takes these tints extraordinarily well. No matter where the piece winds up, we will work with you to find the best finish for every situation.
Black walnut, is a consistent favorite for our clients across a huge range of design styles. The natural colors can occasionally range into purples and reds, but the furniture we turn out typically features warm, chocolate-brown tones. Beloved among woodworkers for its consistency, durability, and beauty, we find that walnut bears an inviting aura that homeowners always value. While many of our clients – and their visitors – are immediately struck by the coloration of the material, the subtleties of the grain and the figure present in the wood are equally arresting.
A variety of walnut, Claro – actually a result of grafting and cross-pollination between eastern European and native American walnut species – grows in the American Northwest, and offers some of the most dramatic figure and coloration of any walnut variety. With a natural, live-edge outline and the beauty inherent in the grain and tones of Claro, tables like these give us the chance to bring the elegance of the outdoors into our clients’ homes.
Bastogne walnut is a rare, naturally-occurring hybrid of English and Claro walnuts. The rich chocolate and caramel tones you see here are typical of Bastogne, as is the intense, curling and swirling grain and figure. When a client seeks out a warm, inviting slab with stunning visual effects, we often recommend Bastogne.
English and American elm are species making their way into more and more of our furniture all the time. We and our clients love the ruddy brown tones, but it’s the distinctive grain patterns, characterized by swirling and figure that we might expect on species like Claro walnut. The elm slabs allow our clients to get those striking grain patterns on furniture that might fit better in their homes, given that they’re much lighter in hue than their walnut counterparts.
Cherry is prized among woodworkers and homeowners alike for its beautiful reddish tones. When we first get the boards, they have a rosy pink hue that deepens and darkens over time to a warm, deep reddish brown. A very traditional choice, cherry will have a place in furnituremaking forever.
Ash has a similar appearance to oak, though it has more color variation within each board. A slightly more economical choice than oak, ash is similarly hard and dense, and build tables that are exceptionally durable. Like oak, ash takes color manipulation well.
You’ll often find hickory described as “rustic” and for good reason. It’s a wood that’s full of character and variegated coloration, so it recalls places like cabins and lodges, and aesthetics where uniformity is no simple virtue. This is a natural material after all, so why wouldn’t – shouldn’t – it have all the unpredictability of nature herself?
Mahogany and its Alternatives
There are many species and subspecies that are sold under the name “mahogany” – some truly mahogany and others close cousins. They all have incredibly rich, warm red and brown tones, and they create elegant, sophisticated furniture. The mahoganies also catch and throw light in endlessly interesting ways.