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Wood is a beautiful renewable natural resource. Different woods have radically different physical properties including their hardness, structural stability, strength, and of course color and grain structure. A client's primary concern with wood is often color closely followed by the patterns the grain makes in any individual board. The color part is a fairly obvious choice for most people. If you want a dark brown dramatic piece then oiled walnut is likely to be your choice. For a pinky red luster that matures over time to a ruddy brown then American Cherry is your wood. But sometimes a client asks for something like Red Cedar, but in a table top. This is where my experience and your education begin to interact, Cedar for all its wonderful qualities is a very soft wood and thus inappropriate for a surface such as a table top. Tables have to deal with extreme forces such as the tightly gripped ball point pen tip and the coarse bottom of a ceramic plate. So, instead I might steer you towards American Elm, which can have a similar toasted brown color and straight clean grain, but with a much harder surface that will age more gracefully.

Combining woods in a piece can also be a challenge to execute tastefully. I am often asked to match Walnut and Maple together in a piece and consistently talk clients out of such a plan. To my eye that particular combination is often gaudy, too dramatic, and overwhelms the subtleties of either wood themselves. I prefer to use different grain patterns or more subtly different wood colors so that the piece is attractive as a whole yet still showcases individual elements.

One technique I regularly use is to incorporate different wood types for internal components than that used for the main body of a piece. Thus I like to use a light colored and coarse grained wood like Ash for drawer backs and internal framing members, matched with a case built form Cherry or Walnut, or Mahogany. This serves several functions, first being that the two materials coming together in a dovetail joint is a very attractive combination. Second is that Ash is an extremely strong material, often used for shovel and axe handles. Thirdly, Ash is relatively inexpensive compared to a select board of typical hardwood.

I have even been known to use small scraps of exotic material like Birdseye Maple, for delicate little drawer backs, something that very few will ever see, but those who know its there will have a beautiful little secret to enjoy.