Evidently, the most common material used for making furniture, woods are versatile and sturdy. Over long history of furniture crafting, woods have been used in various ways to give rise to plethora of styles. From classic to contemporary, wooden furniture has retained its top position in the market. But the basics always remain the same. Below we briefly look at different types of woods, their durability, and finish.
Woods used for making furniture can be divided in two prominent categories: Solid woods and Engineered or Composite Woods.
Solid wood is a uniform structured wood with no hollow spaces in it. It is made out natural woods. Most solid wood furniture are a unit manufactured from a single plank of wood. Hence, there are no visible lines or seams on the surface. Further, solid wood has several natural qualities which increases the life span of a furniture piece. Whereas, refurbished or composite woods, such as veneers, laminates, or particle boards are less resilient, but present a less expensive and flexible option against solid woods.
Further, solid woods can be sub-categorized into hardwood and softwood. Typically more expensive than softwoods, hardwood furniture is also more durable and compact. Most hardwoods depict a distinct grain, so every piece stands out from the other. However, to provide a uniform look, the wooden slabs can be stained or given a wooden finish. Some common types of hardwood are birch, sheesham, mahogany, and teak. In contrast, softwoods are easily available and easier to work with. Plus these are less expensive than hardwoods. More intricate designs and carvings can be done on softwoods due to their softer structures. However, it is always better to use softwoods combined with hardwoods, as softwoods tend to have low durability, but provide extremely well finish and design quality. Some common softwoods are cedar, white pine and yellow pine.
Engineered wood is also called composite wood. It comes in a variety of forms. Some composites are constructed from lumber and some make use of wood from poplar trees. Since, the methods of construction involve use of resins and adhesives, composite woods are generally resilient and durable, but require regular maintenance. Some commonly made engineered woods are plywood, laminates and veneers, MDF boards and particle boards.
These are two critical factors for determining the quality of wooden furniture. Durability means the longest period for which a wooden piece of furniture can hold its shape without warping or shrinking. And finishes are generally applied to wooden furniture to make them stand the vagaries of nature, such as moisture, heat, and light.
Hardwoods are the strongest contenders in terms of durability. Hardwoods can withstand the effects of time without showing much signs of change for up to two decades. Some engineered woods, such as particle boards are also relatively durable and can last up to five to seven years. Softwoods when combined with hardwoods show good results in terms of durability, but individually are much less durable. Plywood and veneers can also last a long time if they are properly maintained.
Talking about wood finishes, both solid and engineered woods can be stained for different colors. Protective finishes to prevent damage from moisture and heat can also be applied. Further, all wood finishes can be classified as one of two distinctly different types, based on how they dry, or cure. Firstly, evaporative finishes, such as lacquer, shellac and many water- based finishes, dry to a hard film as the solvents (water or alcohol) evaporate. Secondly, reactive finishes, such as linseed or tung oil, catalyzed lacquers and varnishes, also contain solvents that evaporate, but they cure by reacting with either air outside the can or a chemical placed in the can before application. Reactive finishes are more resilient and long lasting than evaporative finishes.
The original engineered wood plywood is manufactured from sheets of cross-laminated veneer and bonded under heat and pressure with durable, moisture-resistant adhesives. By alternating the grain direction of the veneers from layer to layer, or “cross-orienting”, panel strength and stiffness in both directions are maximized. This cross-graining also reduces the chances of the wood splitting when nailing at the edges, and it makes the wood resistant to warping, cracking, and twisting. The layers that make up plywood are glued together at alternating right angles. This is what gives it both strength and durability. The way plywood is made also ensures a consistent strength across the entire length of the wood. It is often used to create curved surfaces because it can easily bend with the grain. In addition to its strength, plywood is less expensive than similar boards made of full wood species, which makes it an ideal construction planking material.
Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is an engineered wood product made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibers, often in a defibrator, combining it with wax and a resin binder, and forming panels by applying high temperature and pressure. MDF is generally denser than plywood. It is made up of separated fibers, but can be used as a building material similar in application to plywood.
Using this type of material can provide you with a few advantages to ease our life. One of the biggest pros to using medium density fiberboard is that it is inexpensive. You can usually purchase MDF for a fraction of the cost of purchasing real wood. If you choose to use medium density fiberboard in certain areas of the house, you can save money to use on other things. Another advantage of medium density fiberboard is that it can be painted or stained to look just like wood. After you install it, you can apply paint, and the appearance will be same as that of original wood. Also, it is an excellent substrate for veneers. It is isotropic (its properties are the same in all directions as a result of no grain), so it has no tendency to split. It remains consistent in strength and size and shapes well.
Particle board, also known as particleboard and chipboard, is an engineered wood product manufactured from wood chips, sawmill shavings, or even sawdust, and a synthetic resin or other suitable binder, which is pressed and extruded.
Particle board is slick, smooth and very flat. For this reason, it is commonly used for floor underlay. Glue adheres to it readily and tile, linoleum or even hardwood can be placed on top of it for good results. One advantage to particleboard is its ready availability and variety. Particleboard sheets come in thicknesses ranging from 1/4 to 1 inch. There's a thickness for just about every project you can think of. Another huge advantage is the variety of particleboard densities. Particleboard is environmentally friendly. This is one often-overlooked advantage to using particleboard whenever possible. Particleboard is made from the scraps of other lumber products. This means that there is no waste when particleboard is manufactured, and no extra logging need be done to produce particleboard. Cost is the overriding factor and the main reason to choose particleboard over any other building material whenever it can be substituted.