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June 18, 2022

House

How to Identify Different Types of Wood in Antique Furniture

Introduction

You may have recently scored amazing antique furniture in a yard sale. However, things start to get tricky when you have to refurbish it back to its former glory. That’s because if a leg or other part of the furniture piece needs to be replaced, you need to identify the wood accurately. You can take a shortcut by searching for “furniture repair near me” and let professionals handle it. However, if you’re DIYing it, here’s how you can identify the type of wood.

The Details

  1. Mahogany – Mahogany is a type of close-grained hardwood that originates in the West Indies and South America. Identifying Mahogany starts from the color. It usually varies from dark brown to red and will have a spotted effect at times. The mahogany tree has a girthy trunk and that’s why furniture makers were able to use a single cut of the wood to make large tabletops. Mahogany furniture rose to popularity in Britain back in the 18th century and quickly grew in fame throughout the rest of the western world.
  1. Walnut – Another closed grain hardwood that can be identified from its rich grain pattern and color that varies from light golden brown to light gray-brown. If you come across an antique furniture piece made from Walnut with knotty whorls on the grain do not be discouraged. Those spots are marks of injuries on the root or trunk of the tree. They don’t reduce the authenticity of the wood.

In fact, those whorls can increase the value of your furniture. They are referred to as Burr walnuts where injuries made the gran pattern grow in a deformed manner. Burr walnuts were initially used for veneering back in the 17th century. The species is native to Western China, Central Asia, and Southern Europe.

  1. Oak – Oak trees grow very slowly and take centuries to reach maturity. Moreover, there are hundreds of varieties of oak. However, most that were used in antique furniture from the mid-17th century are easy to distinguish. The wood was mainly used for drawer linings and carcasses of furniture during its popularity in both the Georgian and Victorian eras.

To identify the wood on antique furniture, look for a rich brown color. While oak starts out with a pale color, it darkens with polishing and age. That’s why antique furniture made from oak shouldn’t have a pale color unless they were stored in an extraordinary environment. Furniture made from oak usually has a simple design and feels quite heavy and solid.

  1. Rosewood – Rosewood is a type of hardwood that is very easy to identify due to its distinctive traits. It has a very unique black wavy grain and is dark brown in color. Do not be misled by its name since this wood doesn’t come from huge trees that grow roses. Instead, it comes from the pleasant flowery scent that comes from the wood. While it had been famously used for veneer and inlaid decoration for a long time, it wasn’t used for manufacturing solid furniture up until the 19th century.

There are two main variations of rosewood – the Indian rosewood and the Brazilian rosewood. The former was used in solid furniture during the 18th century and the latter was used in veneer during the 19th century. Apart from those two countries, rosewood can also be found in Southeast Asia, Madagascar, and the Americas.

  1. Satinwood – Satinwood is another type of wood that is very easy to identify. It originates from Sri Lanka and West India and became popular during the 19th century. You can identify it due to its distinct pale-yellow hue and close-grained patterns. The pale-yellow color made it an excellent surface for painting and that’s why this wood is more common in decorative antique pieces.
  1. Amboyna – Out of all burls used in antique furniture, amboyna was the most sought-after and expensive wood. The wood originates from Ambon Island in Indonesia and is usually seen on the finest pieces of furniture. It was so expensive that during the initial years of export from Indonesia, the wood was reserved just for making decorative boxes and veneers. It usually has a reddish-brown heartwood with whorls and knots all over the grain pattern. A few pieces of the wood also came in a lighter yellowish-brown color and that’s why they were referred to as Golden Amboyna.
  1. Teak – Teak originates in southern Asia and was mainly used as Victorian Campaign furniture. You can identify the wood from its long and straight grain patterns without any noticeable large knots. The color usually varies from a rich golden brown to a more subtle yellowish white. However, with exposure to the elements, the color of the wood may change.

Due to its resin content and natural oils, the wood has a leather-like smell that is very pronounced. You can also knock on an antique furniture piece to identify if it’s teak. Real teak is exceptionally hard and doesn’t break, crack, or splinter.

  1. Calamander – Another wood that was popularly used in antique furniture and is extremely easy to identify. Calamander comes in a hazel brown color and has grains in the shape of black stripes. It’s a heavy hardwood that has been unfortunately logged to extinction within the last couple of centuries. That means if you have antique furniture made of this wood, it can’t be repaired with the original wood. If you have furniture made from this wood, you should try to preserve and store it in the best conditions since it’s probably one of the most expensive pieces of furniture you own.

Conclusion

Antique furniture pieces built throughout the centuries across the world have a rich history attached to them. That’s why you want to keep them as authentic as possible. It starts by identifying the type of wood used in the furniture and doing justice with proper repair. If you need professional help for refinishing or repairing a furniture piece, you can search for “furniture repair near me” and hire professionals for the job.

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