Northern White Cedar Benches
White cedar has been a popular lumber choice in New England and the eastern seaboard since Native Americans first used it to make their strip canoes. Since then, white cedar has been used in the manufacture of everything from barns in Pennsylvania to furniture in New York. Like all cedar wood, northern white cedar boasts exceptional decay and weather resistance.
With strength only slightly less than that of oak, along with a natural resistance to weather damage like rot and decay, cedar is an ideal wood for use in the making of outdoor furniture. The oils contained within cedar wood fibers also work as a natural insect repellant, making cedar a wise choice for furniture to be used both indoors and out.
It's not necessary to store cedar furniture indoors during the winter but if you want to protect it above and beyond its natural capabilities you can finish cedar furniture with an oil-based product to highlight the natural colors and tight grain of the wood. If left unfinished, cedar furniture will weather naturally to a handsome silvery grey patina. Cleaning cedar furniture is easy with a soap and water solution followed by a thorough rinsing with clean water.
Western Red Cedar Benches
A softwood with natural coloring in rich ambers, reds, and browns, western red cedar boasts a uniform, fine-grained texture. Western red cedar's high dimensional stability means that it will resist warping and cracking better than most other woods. Lightweight with a pleasing natural aroma, western red cedar is most often used for chests, closet interiors, and furniture. Thanks to its natural resistance to rot, decay, and insect damage, western red cedar is a popular wood choice in outdoor furniture making.
Brazilian Pine Benches
Similar in strength and hardness to yellow pine of the United States, Brazilian pine is a honey colored wood that features a straight grain and subdued growth rings. Because it holds nails and screws well and is easy to finish, Brazilian pine is often used for general construction such as door and cabinet framing, staircases and trim, and furniture making.
Treat Brazilian pine with a coat of Tung oil two or three times a year to camouflage small scratches and give the wood a soft luster while reducing the appearance of water rings on the furniture's surface. Regular dusting and application of furniture polish will keep Brazilian pine furniture looking great. Wood cleaner such as Murphy's Oil Soap and a soft, damp cloth should be used for more thorough cleaning.
Yellow Pine Benches
A harder wood than the closely-related white pine, yellow pine features a pale yellow color with a distinctive mixed grain pattern. Yellow pine's natural beauty lends itself well to construction applications, especially furniture making. Unprotected yellow pine, however, degrades quickly so it is recommended that you refinish pine furniture every year. Since yellow pine does not hold paint and other heavy-bodied finishes well, semi-transparent stains and clear wood preservatives are best. To avoid peeling with heavy finishes, several coats of latex paint are recommended.
A tropical hardwood grown in southeast Asia, shorea shares many characteristics with teak wood from the United States, except that shorea is denser and heavier than its American counterpart. Like teak, shorea is well suited for construction of durable outdoor furniture such as benches and tables because it stands up well to weather elements and will develop a naturally protective soft grey finish over time.
Brazilian Cherry Benches
Heavy and durable, Brazilian cherry hardwood may range in color from light brown to pink. Interlocking grain and a light golden luster are among the most desirable characteristics of Brazilian cherry's look. Brazilian cherry is prized for its remarkable beauty and is used to make beams, joists, and other interior finishing products, as well as fine furniture and luxurious flooring. In fact, Brazilian hardwood is the most popular flooring import from Brazil to the United States.
Lumber whose quality is suitable for use in furniture making is classified as furniture-grade hardwood, a category that is further divided into three more quality grades. The best type of furniture-grade hardwood requires that boards be at least four inches wide and six feet long and be at least 80% clear of bark and knots. Boards that are only two-thirds clear fall into the second category of furniture grade hardwood with the lowest grade being 50% clear.
Asian Hardwood Benches
Originally native to South America, Asian hardwood trees were introduced to Malaysia in the 19th century and have been popular for use in furniture making ever since. The durability and strength of Asian hardwood is comparable to American oak or maple. The pale color of Asian hardwood, along with its straight, even grain pattern, makes the lumber ideal use in furniture making. Asian hardwood is often referred to as rubberwood because before they are harvested for lumber the trees are used to produce a type of latex.
A pinkish brown wood that ages to a deeper reddish brown with prolonged exposure to light, eucalyptus wood comes from over 300 species of trees is South America, South Africa, Europe, and the United States. Eucalyptus is a heavy hardwood favored for its strength and decay resistance that is similar to that of teak.
A straight-grained wood with even texture and a white to slightly yellow or greenish color, poplar is lightweight and relatively soft compared to other hardwoods while still maintaining adequate strength and durability. Because branches don't grow on the tree's trunk, poplar wood is virtually free of knots, meaning that it cuts and sands well and is extremely resistant to splitting and cracking.
With a pale color that ranges from light cream to yellowish brown and a straight, even grain pattern, rubberwood is an excellent hardwood for use in furniture making. In addition to its attractive appearance, rubberwood is also naturally resistant to bacteria, fungus, and mold. Rubberwood's easy machineability yields a finished surface that is smooth and clear.
Unique because it bends easily while retaining much of its strength, beech wood is used to make chairs, benches, and other bent wood furniture. Beech is also commonly used to make drawer slides, as it features a smooth, slick surface. Beech wood ranges in color from nearly white to a dark reddish brown and takes finishes such as paint, stain, or bleach easily.
Identifiable by its light white or yellow colored bark that peels of in long, paper-thin strips, birch trees produce hardwood that is heavy and strong with a smooth, even texture. When assembled into cross-branded plywood, birch is even stronger and features a largely uniform surface appearance that paints and stains easily. Birch ply is most often used in applications where superior strength is required, such as vehicle floors and furniture.
Bass Wood Benches
Extremely soft and lightweight, bass wood is extremely workable with tools. Suited more for carving and gluing, bass wood is used most often to make veneers and fiber products though bass wood furniture is not unheard of.
Medium Density Fiberboard
A man-made hardboard fabricated by fusing together small wood fibers with heat and pressure, medium density fiberboard (MDF) is an extremely strong and versatile material. It's often used in home furnishing construction to make storage cabinets, shelf units, and wall panels. MDF is replacing particleboard in furniture-making and flooring applications, and its popularity as a molding and structural element is growing steadily. Because it contains virtually no surface grain, MDF can be cut, drilled, glued, and painted just like real wood while maintaining a smooth, even surface.