Wood Species' Qualities & Characteristics

When choosing a wood species for your cabinets it's important to understand the various qualities and attributes of the different wood species.  We have many wood species to choose from, each having various densities, colors and grain patterns.  Also understand that even two pieces of wood that are of the same species will differ from each other; the grain patterns, the colors, the shades, the weight, and their density will vary.  Nature and the milling process hold the reasons why there are differences in multiple pieces of wood from the same species.  There are a number of reasons for color variations between two pieces of the same species:  moisture content; minerals that were in the soil; the amount of sunlight exposure; the distinctive genetic makeup of the tree.  Some of the many reasons for variations in grain patterns include:  the trees size when it was cut and the methods used during the milling phase, these are two major factors that determine the grain pattern.  Below we provide a sample picture of each particular species, a brief description of that species and its qualities.


Alder is a member of the birch family, it's moderately light and is slightly soft for a hardwood species.  Alder is commonly used for furniture and cabinetry, ranking right there next to Oak.  With its consistent color, stability, and its ability to accept stains and finishes so well, Alder has proved to be an ideal species for the furniture and cabinetry industries.  Alder is fairly straight-grained with a smooth uniform texture; it may display pin knots, grain "fuzz" and mineral streaks.

Color: When alder is first cut it is white but quickly changes color as soon as its exposed to enough air. Alder is consistent in color, from a pale pinkish-brown to almost white.
Grain: Alder has a faint grain pattern, it's a straight tight grain with uniform texture.
Qualities: Alder is moderately lightweight, it machines well, nails, screws, and glues well. Alder has a medium density that has low bending strength and shock resistance.
Uses: Alder is used in cabinetry, furniture, doors, moulding, and turnings.
Finishing Alder: Alder will finish smoothly and takes stain well. Price Range: Mid-Premium Range


Poplar trees normally grow quickly into a tall straight tree, taller than any other U.S. hardwood species. The lumber produced from a mature poplar is lightweight and soft compared to other hardwoods. Poplar is a strong, durable hardwood that seasons well and it also resists warping once it is completely dried.

Color: Poplar has a white to yellowish color, sometimes with slightly greenish shades and it will occasionally have dark purplish streaks.
Grain: Poplar's grain is a straight grain that has an even texture and smooth feel.
Qualities: Poplar has a uniform texture, its a light to medium weight hardwood that is very strong and provides stability. Poplar cuts and sands well, maintains its edge and resists splitting during building phases.
Uses: Poplar is used in cabinetry, furniture, doors, siding, paneling, moulding, and turnings.
Finishing Poplar: Poplar takes stains well and it takes paint exceptionally well.
Price Range: Economical Range


Pine is a relatively light soft wood that has a tight grain pattern with a relatively smooth surface. Mineral streaks and water stains are common, and colors range from very white to yellow and reddish brown.

Color: Warm pale yellow with brown knots. Grain: Pine has a distinctive light and dark grain pattern.
Qualities: Pine works well and is easily shaped with hand and power tools. This wood accepts many types of glue well, making for tight bonding.
Uses: Pine is used in cabinetry, furniture, and doors.
Finishing Pine: Pine takes most finishes well. With some stains, a sealer helps prepare the wood to achieve a more even look.
Price Range: Economical-Mid Range


Oak is a strong hardwood and is commonly used in furniture construction. Oak has a prominent open grain that ranges in colors from white to yellow and reddish-brown. Sometimes oak is streaked with green, yellow or black mineral deposits. Red oak trees grow only in North America and the red oak species are found further north than any other oak species. A red oak takes approximately 20 years to mature and it lives an average of 300 years.

Color: White Oak- ranges from nearly white sapwood to a darker gray brown heartwood, Red Oak-ranges from nearly white cream color to a pale brown heartwood with a red tint.
Grain: Oak has a straight open grain that has a rough texture. All depending on the way the log is sawn (flat sawn or quarter sawn),there can be many patterns produced: flake figures, pin stripes, fine lines, wavy grains and watery figures.
Qualities:Oak is a heavy, very strong, very hard, and stiff wood. Oak is highly durable under great exposure, great wear-resistance, and it will hold nails and screws well.
Uses: Oak is used in cabinetry, flooring, furniture, moulding, doors, paneling, and decorative woodwork.
Finishing Oak: Oak can be stained beautifully with a wide range of finish tones.
Price Range: Economical-Mid Range

Soft Maple

Maple is divided into two groups: Hard maple, which includes sugar and black maple; and soft maple, which includes red and silver maple. Soft maple is much lighter than hard maple but its not as brittle as the other hard woods can be. Maple is a strong , heavy, stiff wood that has a tight grain pattern and a smooth surface. Maple is becoming more and more popular because of its tight grain and use with glazed finishes.

Color: Maple varies in color, from cream to yellow, pink, light purple and a light reddish-brown.
Grain: Maple most often has a straight-grain and sometimes is found with bird's-eye or burl grain. Bird's-eye resembles small circular or elliptical figures. Clusters of round curls are known as burl.
Qualities: Heavy, hard, strong, tough, stiff, close-grained and possesses a uniform texture. Maple has excellent resistance to abrasion and indentation, making it ideal flooring as well as cutting boards and counter tops.
Uses: Soft maple is used in cabinetry, furniture, moulding, doors, paneling, and turnings.
Finishing Soft Maple: Takes stain satisfactorily and polishes well.
Price Range: Mid Range

Hard Maple

Hard maple is a very hard, close-grained wood that is heavy and dense. Hard maple has an off-white color with light hues of yellow-brown and pink. Hard maple occasionally contains small mineral streaking which gives the wood a light tan or reddish streaking that will darken with stain. Maple will typically have a tight straight grain, but can be burled, wavy or even curly.

Color: Cream to light reddish-brown.
Grain: Usually straight-grained and sometimes found with a bird's-eye or burl grain. Bird's-eye resembles small circular figures. Clusters of round curls are known as burl.
Qualities: Hard maple is a heavy, hard, strong, durable, stiff, close-grained wood with a uniform surface texture. Maple has possesses excellent resistance to abrasion and indentation, making it ideal flooring as well as cutting boards and counter tops.
Uses: Hard maple is used in cabinetry, furniture, flooring, paneling, moulding, doors, butcher blocks, worktops, table tops, stairs and handrails.

Finishing Hard Maple:
Takes stain satisfactorily and polishes well.
Price Range: Mid Range


Hickory trees are members of the walnut family and produce some of the hardest, heaviest and strongest American wood in common use today. Hickory is a very heavy, very hard and dense wood. Hickory is known for its bold flowing grain patterns and wide variations in color-from nearly white to dark brown. Applying dark stains will tone down these wide color variations, but these variations of color are the very qualities that make each hickory project stand out from all the rest. Hickory may contain random specks, burls, water stains, knots and mineral streaks.

Color: White to tan to reddish-brown with fine brown lines.
Grain: Fine grain.
Qualities: Extremely tough and resilient, even texture, quite hard and only moderately heavy.
Uses: Hickory is used in cabinetry, furniture, flooring, paneling, handles, ladders, and dowels.
Finishing Hickory: The grain pattern welcomes a full range of medium-to-dark finishes and bleaching treatments.
Price Range: Mid-Premium Range


Cherry is a member of the rose family and just like a rose it's simply beautiful. Cherry has an appearance that stands out from all the other wood species. Cherry is a multi-colored hardwood, it has a pinkish-brown hue with occasional shades of white, green, pink or even gray. Cherry's color variations can be accented by applying natural or light stains. Small gum pockets, streaks, pin knots and figures are common with cherry. Unique figures and grains can be obtained through quarter sawing the logs.

Color: Rich, reddish-brown. Cherry darkens considerably with age and exposure to sunlight.
Grain: Straight-grained and satiny. Small gum pockets produce distinctive markings.
Qualities: Light, strong, stiff and rather hard. Cherry's grain is more subdued than some other hardwood species, with very interesting character.
Uses: Cherry is used in cabinetry, furniture, fine furnishings, flooring, paneling, doors, moulding, and turnings.
Finishing Cherry: Cherry is unsurpassed in its finishing qualities-its uniform texture takes a finish very well.
Price Range: Premium Range