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Guide: Types of Furniture Wood | Descriptions & pictures |

Antique furniture care maintenance FAQ furniture wood guide identification

We know it can be hard to distinguish different types of wood especially under different furniture finishes. There are masses of different types (imagine all the species of tree in the world). Below are some of the common wood types originally used to make British Originals' pieces

Common furniture woods




Light – Dark


A slow growing tree, taking between 150 – 200 years to reach maturity. The wood is hard and pale in colour, but darkens to a rich brown with age and polishing. Furniture made from oak is usually heavy, solid and simple in design. From the mid 17th Century oak was mainly used for the carcass and drawer linings of furniture.

Medium - Deep Maroon.



A close grained hardwood, native to South America and the West Indies. It varies in colour from quite pale when sun faded to dark brown / Maroon. Flame mahogany has very visible grain in a flame shape. As the girth of the tree is broad furniture makers were able to use a single cut of wood for a table top. Furniture made from mahogany became very popular in Britain from mid 18th Century due to it’s exotic nature and plentiful supply as it was used as ballast in trading ships of the era.



 A pale, robust, hardwood often used in chair construction or as the body wood of furniture construction




A hardwood used in furniture and cabinet construction.

Light – Medium

Pine A softwood characterised by big grain and sometimes lots of knots. Colour varies with finishing product from very pale to a deep orange/red

Light – Medium


Pitch Pine An eastern North American pine tree (Pinus rigida) that yields pitch or turpentine.

Medium – Dark


Teak  Tropical hardwood popular for ship building and outdoor furniture construction.

Medium to Dark

Walnut  A medium to dark, close grained hardwood used for furniture construction and veneering. The colour varying between light golden brown and light grey brown, often with a rich grain pattern. Burr Walnut is the term for walnut with knotty whorls in the grain where injuries occurred on the trunk or the roots of the tree.


Sycamore Sycamore is a hard, pale wood with a fine even grain. It is also known as Harewood.



Bird’s–Eye Maple

Popular for veneers btwn 1800 & 1920 The wood is specked and polishes well.

It’s used as a decorative feature as it features small concentric circles resembling that of a bird's eye

Pale -Medium

Elm A hard and durable wood. Chairs were made from elm in the Georgian period. It has a particularly attractive grain and polishes well. More recently Elm was used in Ercol dining suites.


Alder  A light brown hardwood from the Birch family. Often seen with elm in Chairs.

Rarer woods used in furniture 






A close grained wood used in furniture and plywood construction.



Hardwood obtained from the cherry tree used in furniture construction.



Hardwood with a tight grain and blond color popular in furniture construction.

Light – Medium 

Yellow Pine

Any of several North American pines (as a Ponderosa pine or longleaf pine) with yellowish wood. Often seen in furniture of an older age ( when there was much importing of the raw materials)



A softwood from the Birch family often used as a secondary wood in furniture construction.




Kingwood is a rich brown colour with purplish tones. It was used as a veneer or for parquetry decoration, particularly in France.



Satinwood became popular in the early 19 th Century. It was used for veneers, inlaid decoration and the pale colour made it suitable for painting. It made a revival in the Edwardian era




Calamander is a member of the ebony family. Popular in the Regency period, it is light brown in colour, striped, mottled with black and was used for veneers and banding.

Very Dark 


A very dark brown hardwood, with an almost black wavy grain. The name comes from the scent released when the wood is cut. It is used for inlaid decoration and veneer, but was not used for making solid furniture until the early 19 th Century

Still not sure? Contact us with a good picture or two and our experts will try to help