I use both soft and hardwoods (English and foreign) to make my furniture and clocks. Whilst I use a lot of good quality pine (as that is what people often ask for), one of my favourites to use is English air dried Oak, especially Quarter Sawn Oak, but I’m equally happy to use good quality pine. My favourite by far is English Walnut, both in working it, and the amazing grain / colour it produces, but this is almost impossible to get hold of so don’t expect to have something made immediately from it!
I select all the boards by hand, finding the best ones to use – I don’t have just any boards delivered to me, this just doesn’t give me the quality I want.
I don’t use manufactured boards such as chipboard – except for things like drawer bottoms where I might use plywood (stronger than the hardboard used in many shop bought pieces), and sometimes on the backs of pieces, when discussed before hand.
Either, firstly, good quality pine from a local independent supplier, which has a lovely aroma when hand planed or hand sawn. These can give a good traditional furniture feel, sometimes using wider boards. E.g. on a traditional chest of drawers. This takes a wax, some stains and lacquer / paint well.
For other pine projects I sometimes use boards glued up from narrower strips by a third party company to form boards – still solid pine, but quicker for me to use so usually reduces cost of project a little. This takes a wax and all stains well, as well as lacquer / paint.
If you have a preference of which type of pine I use, do let me know.
I have experience of a wide range of hardwoods from various projects, including my clocks. Some are listed below – if you are interested in something else, then do let me know.
My finishes on hardwoods vary depending on the timber – but can include waxes (with sealer underneath), oils, lacquers and specialist varnishes (e.g. Kitchen & Bathroom varnishes). Some timbers, e.g. beech/ash can be stained. I wouldn’t stain interesting grain timbers, for obvious reasons!
I prefer air dried timber where possible and practical, as I feel it looks better and works better, but it isn’t always practical to do this as it can takes years for the boards to dry. It depends on the project.
When you see ‘American’ or ‘English’ listed here, it may also be possible to get ‘European’ as well.
Oak – English and American, my favourite is by far English Oak (especially when air dried), particularly Quarter Sawn English Oak. I have in the past been fortunate enough to buy some from the National Trust which I air dry myself – wonderful stuff, but difficult to get hold of, and takes 2 to 3 years to air dry. American Oak is (sadly I might say) easier to get hold of, but is harder to work than the various pieces of English Oak I have used.
Walnut – English and American. English by far my favourite to work and amazing grain, but very difficult to get hold of. American a blacker colour in contrast to the amazing grain of English.
Elm – English and American. Difficult to get hold of both types, but lovely timber to work with with a lovely colour – the English being more so than the American in my view.
Chestnut – English. Underrated, lovely grain not so dis-similar to English Oak. Softer than Oak, so not as widely used, but worth considering for some projects.
Spalted Beech – English. A highly decorative timber – difficult to get hold of and use and only suited to some projects.
Cherry – English and American. English hard to get hold of. American is a lovely red colour when waxed which changes in a few years to a slightly richer red. Lovely stuff to work. Available only in narrower planks, which need to be glued together, as Cherry trees tend to have smaller girths.
Ash – English and American. English tends to be whiter than American. Gives a hard surface, esp. the English pieces I have used, but harder to work than English Oak.
Beech – English and American. Hard timber which is harder to work, not the most interesting grain or colour, but can be used when required.
Sapele – Foreign imported. Red sometimes used a substitute to Mahogany, although the grain isn’t quite the same.
Zebra Wood / Zebrano – Imported from central Africa, (Gabon, Cameroon, and Congo). Wonderful contrasting grain, but consider that it is not the most available and could be leading to deforestation.