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Ramblings on Wood and Other Furniture Materials

I love working with wood. It is the primary material that I use to make my furniture. However, it is not the only material. I like stone tops or stone accents when appropriate. I do however draw the line at concrete as a furniture material. I grew up in a family business that makes concrete products and if that is what you want, I can highly recommend Petersen Mfg. Co. of Denison Iowa. My uncle is the president and is an accomplished furniture maker in his own right. He has even made a grandfather clock in concrete!

Glass is also a viable furniture material. See my Reflections Writing Desk.  Beveled glass adds a sparkle to cabinet doors (5 Section Wall Cabinets).  Glass shelves should always have a polished edge. Glass can be etched with interesting patterns. And stained glass can be used as an accent or a centerpiece of a design.

Metals are also a wonderful furniture material. From wrought iron to polished aluminum, there are many interesting way to incorporate metal into your furniture. See my computer credenza with stone top, polished aluminum legs and cross bracing and pommel grain Sapele wood that has the look of hammered copper.

Now, back to wood. There are so many choices - not only species of wood, but each can be cut in different ways and many woods are available with varying grain structures.

Cutting - Rift sawn lumber is most common. It produces a slice through the log that shows the grain in straight lines near the edge of the tree and has "cathedrals" (arch shaped grain structures) near the center of the board".. Sometimes this large cathedral grain pattern feature is not appropriate, in which case quarter sawn lumber would be used. Quartersawn is wood that is cut along the radii of the log. On some woods such as Oak, this cutting exposes the medullar rays in the wood. Such wood has been called "tiger' or "striped" oak. A lot of quarter sawn oak is found in antique furniture. It is more expensive because it does not use all of the log, but the results are appropriate for certain pieces.

  Grain Structure - not all woods are available with every grain structure. Some grain structures are fairly common to certain woods. For example "Birds Eye" is quite common in Maple, but rare in other species. Curl is found in most species. It is the result of a wavy grain pattern. The wood must be cut across the waves to get the desired pattern. Variations on the wave pattern accounts for most of the grain patterns. "Fiddleback" is made by small parallel waves. "Quilted" is the result of large staggered waves in the grain.  Other grain structures due to wavy grain are pommel. beeswing, mottled and peanut shell.  Other grain structures include crotch, swirl, button and burls. Examples of these can be seen at Wood Grain Figures


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