All About Solid Wood Furniture

What Does Solid Wood Furniture Mean?

We love all kinds of natural materials – and this includes solid wood. There is nothing like a piece of solid wood furniture to add to the decor of your home.

Solid wood furniture is furniture that is manufactured from lumber that comes directly from trees. The wood is cut, treated, kiln-dried, and then shaped to manufacture the furniture pieces. No two pieces of solid wood furniture are exactly the same as the wood will have natural grains, knots, and other characteristics that are similar but, not 100% the same.

Painted solid wood table
Painted solid wood table

What Is Solid Wood Furniture?

Solid wood furniture is furniture that is made of wood that is manufactured from the lumber or wood that comes directly from a tree. The wood is usually cut into boards, then kiln dried and then shaped into the shapes required before being made into A furniture pieces. The term solid wood is used to distinguish between lumber (which is wood that is not yet manufactured into anything as furniture) and engineered wood like plywood or MDF (medium-density fiberboard).

Solid wood is the wood that was used on all antique furniture, old doors, old wooden barns, and homes. It was the only wood that was available before composite woods or other engineered woods as plywood became popular. If you have ever lived in an old house you also know that those solid wood doors can sometimes crack. You can usually spot plywood since if you look at the side of the plywood you will see that the plywood board does not have any grains as a solid wood piece would have.

One of the most important aspects of any solid wood furniture is that the wood must be kiln-dried to the correct moisture content and be joined and processed correctly so that the wood will not warp or crack. If the moisture content is too high then the wood will crack with temperature changes. If the wood is really not dried correctly and there is a lot of moisture then the wood can also start to mold from the inside out. This is why for solid wood furniture, usually smaller wood boards are put together to make solid wood furniture pieces.

Also, pieces of solid wood furniture must be manufactured correctly. In some solid wood furniture and in particular, on China antiques, you can see where they manufacturer purposely left a gap in the panel so that the wood for something like a tabletop or seat would expand and contract with the temperature changes.

This is why working with solid wood and being able to manufacture solid wood furniture requires technical skills and knowledge and not everyone can correctly manufacture a solid wood piece of furniture in the required quality.

Check Our Short Guide Series Story About Manufacturing Solid Wood Furniture

The Characteristics of Solid Wood Furniture

For a piece of furniture to really be called solid wood it needs to made of solid wood. Solid wood furniture will have characteristics that are not the same as other furniture pieces.

Here are some of the basic characteristics of solid wood furniture:

  • Natural wood – Solid wood furniture uses wood that is cut from natural wood or from a tree. The tree is cut down and then usually cut into plank boards or lumber. The boards are used to make solid wood furniture.
  • Treated – Some solid wood must be treated before the wood can be used. Rubberwood is a great example of this as the wood must be treated with a pressurized immersion method before the wood can be kiln-dried or used.
  • Kiln Dried – Solid wood for furniture must be kiln-dried. A kiln is like a large oven where the wood is dried to a certain temperature or moisture level. Some people will air-dry the wood outside, but this is not as effective as using a kiln that controls the moisture content much better and faster than just air drying. The wood will usually be kiln-dried to 6-8 percent moisture content.
  • Natural Grains – Solid wood will have natural grains on the wood. These grains are part of the natural growth rings of the tree. Some kinds of wood will have more grains than others. Oak is an example of a wood that has a lot of nice grains. This is why many times oak flooring is preferred for hardwood floors.
  • Knots – Wood can have knots. Some people like to see the knots on their furniture pieces and others do not. An example of a wood that usually has a lot of knots is pine. Sometimes in manufacturing solid wood furniture we need to cut around the knots or use the wood that does not have many knots.
  • Color Variations – Some solid wood can have a lot of colors in the wood. This is due to the nature of the wood and has the wood has naturally grown. An example of a wood that can have different colors in even the same board is acacia wood. It can be common to see some strong differences in the light and darkness of the wood in a small area. This is not a defect but just the nature of the wood itself.
  • Oils – Other woods have a lot of oils in them. The oil content of the wood can matter as to how the wood will take the finish over a long period of time. An example of a wood that has a lot of oil is teak wood. Teak wood has natural oils and silica that make it a great choice for outdoor furniture.
  • Finish – Not all woods will take the finish the same. So sometimes when designing solid wood furniture the consideration of the best wood to use may have to do with which wood is able to give the finish and look that is required.
Example of an Antique Chinese Chair Construction
Example of an Antique Chinese Chair Construction

Hardwood vs Softwood

Woods are usually defined by two kinds of woods – hardwood vs softwood. You cannot tell if a wood on your furniture is hardwood or softwood just by looking at it. Many people may think that the word hardwood and softwood are pretty much self explanatory in that one is softer than the other. But it is really not that simple and the terms hardwood and softwood do not really always refer to the density or hardness of the wood but also to other characteristics as to how the wood is naturally grown.

Here are some of the attributes and characteristics of hardwood and softwood.

Hardwood

Hardwood will usually come from trees that are deciduous or tree which lose their leaves annually. Some of the woods that fit into this category are oak, teak, mahogany, maple, hickory, black walnut, cherry, beech, acacia, and rubberwood. These trees tend to be slower growing than their softwood counterparts so the wood is usually denser.

Hardwood is usually more condenses and a have a more complex structure which usually gives them a superior level of strength and durability. The wood is usually dark and the weight of the wood is heavy. It also does not burn as fast as a softwood. This is why most people prefer to have hardwood on the floors of their homes.

Hardwoods can be more resilient than softwoods. In terms of solid wood furniture, a hardwood piece of furniture will usually not scratch or dent like a softwood piece of furniture.

Some softwoods can have the same strength and durability as their hardwood counterparts. This is because the softwood may grow in some extremely cold climates so the trees grow slower and therefore the wood is quite dense and strong. An example of this is the Russian Larch (Larix-Sibirica) which is a coniferous tree and classified as a softwood, but the wood is about as hard as oak wood.

Softwood

Softwood comes from trees that are considered to be conifer or trees that remain evergreen. Some woods that are considered softwood are pine, cedar, spruce, redwood, and all kinds of fir. Most softwood trees will grow faster than the hardwood counterparts they are usually a softer wood.

Softwood is known for its versatility and also its strength. As the wood does not take as long to grow as a hardwood the price for softwood is usually cheaper. This is why a lot of softwoods are used for furniture, interior moldings, windows, and construction.

Softwood is usually a lighter color so this means for light finishes it may be better suited for a piece of furniture than a darker hardwood. It is also lighter in weight so the piece of furniture would not be as heavy as a dense hardwood piece of furniture.

Here is a chart to compare the softwood and hardwoods characteristics:

HARDWOODSOFTWOOD
Comes FromDeciduous TreesEvergreen Trees
Wood ExamplesOak, Teak, MaplePine, Cedar, Fir
CostUsually more expensiveUsually cheaper
Sap ConsiderationsLower SapHigher Sap
Wood DensityUsually Harder (not always)Usually softer (not always)
Wood ColorGenerally DarkerAlmost always lighter
Wood GrainCloser GrainLooser Grain
Wood WeightHeavyLight
Fire ResistanceGoodPoor
Comparison of Hardwoods and Softwood.

Conclusion

Solid wood furniture is a wonderful piece of furniture to have in your home. As it is made from solid wood it can also last for generations to come.

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Anita Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Hummel. I am the President of Mondoro. I am passionate about helping you CREATE, DEVELOP, and MANUFACTURE home decor and home furnishing products. I am also an avid blogger with a love of travel and riding my motorcycle around the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.

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