Recently, I posed the question, “What would you like to know about kitchen cabinetry and household mill work?” One person responded with: “What are the best woods to use?”
This is not an easy question since the answer would vary according to each person’s needs. For instance, in a home with any number of children, I would not recommend cherry or alder cabinetry or trim. These woods are too soft and too expensive to withstand the constant barrage and abuse that children afford. Oak is a very strong and durable wood which will hold up well to constant use and can be made to look very nice. I usually describe oak to be a very utilitarian wood which lends itself to use in a home that is “lived in” versus a home that is a “show place”.
Maple is a very versatile wood. This wood also is hard enough to stand up to heavy use and, with the exception of the occasional blotch, will stain to most any color. Maple generally has a very straight, smooth grain which does not show when painted.
Walnut is a most beautiful naturally dark wood. It is easy to work with and looks great with or without a stained finish. The biggest drawback to walnut is its cost, often two to three times the cost of other woods. I would recommend saving walnut for the smaller projects, like the grandfather clock, hope chests and jewelry boxes.
Pine is a great wood for building rustic cabinetry. Much like cherry and alder, it is soft and can be easily scratched, dented and broken. Pine is very easy to work with and will make beautiful cabinets as long as you are willing to look at the knots.
These woods are, of course, not the only woods that are available. They are simply the most common and what I see in most homes today. There are of course many exotic, and more obscure woods that may work very well and look amazing in your home.
When it comes right down to it, the question does not have a clear cut answer. So, the generic answer to the question would have to be: “The wood that best meets the needs in your home.” My only recommendation would be to at least try to build using domestic lumber. This supports other American families and capitalizes on the resources we have in our own back yard (so to speak).
I will try in the near future to post some articles concerning the different strengths and weaknesses of these and other different types of wood. But until then, if you have any questions concerning your kitchen cabinets or the mill work in your home, be sure to give us a call, we’ll be glad to help.