Shopping for wooden furniture can be a daunting process. There are many different types of wood available and it can be difficult to see, at a glance, the difference between them and more difficult still to see why there can be such massive differences in price. It is important, therefore, that furniture shoppers acquaint themselves with the properties of the various woods available and understand what constitutes good value and what does not.
While antique furniture comprises a wide variety of different sorts of wood, many of them have fallen into disuse because of supply problems. Contemporary furniture comes most often in one of three woods: Ash, oak or pine. In this article, we will examine the three of them and compare their relative merits.
Hardwood versus softwood
Generally speaking, wood comes in two varieties: hardwood and softwood. The former is produced by flowering trees, while the latter is produced by conifers. As the name might suggest, hardwoods are typically – though not universally – harder than softwoods. The characteristics of the wood will largely be determined by whether the tree is hardwood or softwood.
Oak is a hardwood which has been used for centuries in a wide variety of applications, from building boats to building churches. It has been used for furniture for centuries and can be found in a lot of antique furniture. In contemporary furniture, oak is perhaps the most widely sought-after of the three, however, it is the most expensive. This is because of a number of factors. An oak tree takes far longer to grow than ash or pine and is therefore harder to obtain.
Furthermore, because of its hardness, oak is more difficult to carve; it can easily chip if care is not taken while carving. Crafting a decent piece of oak furniture therefore requires a great deal of care and skill, as well as a sharp blade. The results, however, speak for themselves, as a well-crafted piece of oak furniture is beauteous.
Oak is also very durable and resistant to shrinking and warping which plagues other sorts of wooden furniture. This is demonstrated by the prevalence of oak in antique furniture, which has stood the test of time.
Ash is a term for a large family of flowering trees native to Europe and North America. Most of them are deciduous, though a few sub-tropical species are evergreen. Its wood is very strong and also elastic, which made it suitable for crafting longbows and catapults.
Ash shares many characteristics with Oak and as a result the two are often confused. Ash, like oak, is a hardwood, but Ash is even harder than oak, which means that it is even more difficult to achieve a smooth finish. Like oak, they are durable and resistant both to shock and to splitting; however, it is not as resistant to decay. Ash trees grow far more quickly than oak, which means that ash furniture is by far cheaper than Oak.
Pine trees are a family of highly distinctive conifers which grow at an extraordinary rate and are therefore an extremely cheap source of timber. Pine furniture is naturally a pale, neutral colour which makes it easily adaptable to any room. It can also be stained a darker colour through the use of oils.
Unlike oak and ash, pine is a soft wood. As such, it will more easily suffer scratches, especially in comparison with oak and ash. Pine will also shrink and warp as it ages. It is therefore not suited to exposed wood, and is often painted or oiled. White and ivory colours are particularly popular, though pine can be painted any colour.
One other benefit of pine is its lightness. Pine is far lighter than either oak or ash, which means that pine furniture is more mobile and can therefore be more easily rearranged.
When shopping for furniture from reputable traders such as furniturestyleonline.co.uk , it is sensible to buy whatever you think looks best. It is also worth bearing in mind the furniture’s longevity. Beware of veneered surfaces; while they might appear cheaper, they will degrade far quicker than a well-crafted furniture made from solid wood, as the interior will shrink and warp at a different rate than the veneer, which will lead to the formation of cracks and chips.
Furniture made from more desirable woods may seem like a considerable expense and this is often the case. However, such furniture is often available at heavily discounted prices, as retailers seek to empty their warehouses. Be sure to keep an eye out for these offers and shop around in order to make the most of them.