Other Timbers We Use
While we mainly use native timbers here at Beeline Design, we do sometimes use imported timbers as well. Though we’re happy enough to use timber from anywhere in the world, we tend to use North American timbers, or lumber as they refer to it over there. These imported timbers are generally used on bespoke or custom furniture pieces, or as special order upgrades to our regular furniture range. Americans love their lumber furniture and it’s not too hard to see why, as you will find out below.
Imported timbers can have their own challenges but, most notably, they come at a higher cost. After all it’s expensive to import heavy, bulky boards and flitches from the US to Australia. Especially when they are as highly regarded for lumber furniture as they are in their home country.
So without further ado, below are some of the other timbers we use.
This is one of the premier lumber furniture woods used in North America. It’s rich, chocolate like colour can be quite striking, and no two pieces ever look the same. The colours vary greatly, from deep purples, chocolate browns, grey, to lighter yellows and straws. Most of the straw or yellow colours appear at the edge of boards, but it can occur in the centre as well. These colours are due to the sapwood of the tree. The sapwood of most trees is yellow or beige in colour, regardless of the colour of the heartwood.
Because of these wide variances in colour and figure it can be very difficult to colour match the boards so that they are suitable for the job at hand. Please keep this in mind when ordering a custom or bespoke furniture piece for your home.
Americans use their oak in much the same way as we use Victorian ash or Tasmanian oak in Australia. It’s their standard hardwood timber and they use it for virtually everything – flooring, furniture, wall panelling. You name it! They even used it as body panelling on some of their cars from the 1920’s to 1950’s. These lumber-clad cars were known as ‘woodies’.
American oak is light brown or beige in colour, but can also have streaks of darker browns as well. It can look very different depending on the cut. Quarter sawn oak can be quite bland, whereas slab cut oak can be very busy in its figure, especially when it shows its medullary rays. These medullary rays – or med rays – can be quite striking to look at, as shown in images 3 and 4 below.
At Beeline Design we sometimes get asked to make our Calypso Stools from American oak, which we’re more than happy to do. It’s not the easiest wood to use as it can be quite hard and often has lots of built up tension within the board. This tension, when released, can play havoc when cutting it on the saw bench. However, once it’s made into a piece of lumber furniture it’s absolutely fine, and very stable.
American White Ash
To look at, American white ash is similar to American oak, or even our own Tassie oak or Vic ash. In the past we’ve used it for special orders of our Cuba Stools.
American white ash is not just used for lumber furniture. Most of the baseball bats that are produced in the United States use white ash as well. This is because it has excellent shock resistance. Not so important on a piece of lumber furniture but rather important when hitting very hard baseballs.
American Hard Maple
For some reason, American hard maple is not used a lot over here in Australia. It’s a shame because it’s a beautiful timber, and is used quite a lot for lumber furniture in The States. While mostly a creamy straw-like colour, maple can sometimes have streaks of darker browns that appear throughout.
Initially there can be a bit of movement when cutting and machining, but once maple settles down it is usually very stable. Maple can be quite hard and dense, depending on where it is sourced from and the species used.
While not so much used for lumber furniture over here in Australia, maple – both American and European – is very well regarded for making musical instruments. All of the necks on Fender guitars and basses are made from hard maple, for instance. While the European species is used extensively for violins, violas, cellos and the like.
This timber is a lot more subdued in figure than that of American walnut, but it still can be quite stunning to look at. The colour varies from light brown or beige, to pink and, overall, it has a generally light pinkish hue.
Like walnut and maple, American cherry was a favoured wood of The Shakers, a predominantly 19th century religious group renown for their simple lifestyle. Lumber furniture made by The Shakers commands very high prices – sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars – in the US and worldwide. A simple piece, such as a chair, might cost $15,000 or $20,000, for instance. Not bad for a piece of lumber furniture.
Keith Bootle’s excellent book, ‘Wood In Australia’ not only covers native Australian timbers, but also other timbers such as the ones above. You can find it at the National Library of Australia site here.