A is for:

American chestnut – A deciduous hardwood called Castanea, comprised of several species, commonly including dentata, that grew east of the Mississippi River. With the arrival of Europeans to North America, it was used for three centuries in building construction and furniture making.  When the chestnut blight fungus invaded from Asia, it spread quickly through the North American population causing that lumber market to fail. Remaining trees are too few and scattered to harvest. Efforts to repopulate the species with blight resistant stock are ongoing. American chestnut is generally available today only in the form of antiques or reclaimed timbers from razed buildings. The nuts were harvested as a food long before Europeans arrived in North America.

Anigre – An African hardwood, Pouteria spp. or Aningeria spp. The wood has a straight light yellow-brown grain, sometimes with a pink cast, sometimes with curly or mottled grain. It has an average died weight of 33 lbs per cubic foot and a Janka hardness rating of about 1000 lbf. It is available in solid lumber and veneer.


B is for:

Backer – Backers are used to “balance” veneered panels. Panels with a veneer applied to only one side of the substrate will absorb and loose humidity at a different rate than the opposite side of the panel; this leads to warping. A backer applied to the opposite side of the panel substrate will mitigate moisture differences between the two sides. A backer can be wood veneer (the same species or a less expensive species), paper, or heavy fabrics, depending on the application.


C is for:

Chestnut – See American chestnut.

Chestnut oak – A deciduous hardwood, Quercus prinus, that grows east of the Mississippi River. it’s part of the white oak group. The wood is brown with lighter sap wood. Many trees branch low down on the trunk and grow crookedly, making poor lumber. When the trunks remain straight enough to harvest, the wood is frequently sold as a mixed white oak.

Conifer – Nearly synonymous with softwoods. A type of evergreen tree that bears cones in which to carry its bare seeds. The leaves are thin, leathery, and needle-like. Some needles are quite short while others can reach 6 inches.


D is for:

Deciduous – Nearly synonymous with hardwoods. Deciduous trees shed their leaves for part of the year while in dormancy. In northern climates, the period of leaf loss occurs during the winter, in others, during a dry season. Unlike the thin, needle-like leaves of evergreens, deciduous leaves are broader. Another defining characteristic is the way these plants grow their seeds – encapsulated within a fruit of some kind.


E is for:

Evergreen – Trees that appear to retain their leaves all year round, but actually do not. Their rhythm of leaf fall does not coincide with dormancy. There are  deciduous trees that are considered evergreens, such as live oaks and trees that grow in tropical climates. All conifers are evergreens.


G is for:

Grain – The arrangement of annual growth rings and other structures and colors in wood that give each species its unique appearance and texture. Grain is the most prized aspect of a species, used to create the varying design expressions in woodworking.


J is for:

Janka Hardness Scale – The hardness of a wood as determined by the pounds of pressure required to press a steel ball 11.28mm in diameter half way into the wood. The unit of measurement used varies: pounds-force (lbf), kilograms-force (kgf), the newton, or simply the Janka. For example, lignum vitae has a Janka Hardness rating of 4500 lbf, Brazilian cherry is 2360 lbf, red oak is 1260 lbf, and chestnut is 540 lbf.


L is for:

Live sawn


O is for:

Oaks – A group of hardwoods, Quercus (with hundreds of species), found in the Western Hemisphere, Europe and Asia. It is frequently used in building construction, architectural millwork, furniture, and barrel-making. See: Red oak; White oak, Chestnut oak.

Open grain


Q is for:

Quarter sawn – A


S is for:



R is for:

Raised panel – A

Red oak – A North American oak, Quercus rubra. It is pinkish-light brown with a moderately pronounced brown grain. When exposed to sunlight or oxygen, the color will deepen. The grain has pronounced pores producing that open grain appearance. It can be found in in solid lumber or veneer. It has a Janka Hardness rating of 1290 lbf and is used as the benchmark wood against which the hardness of other woods are compared.

Rift cut


V is for:

Veneer – Thin slices of wood taken from a log. The way the cuts are made determine how the grain of the log will be displayed. Veneers are cut for various reasons. Utilitarian slices can be reassembled into strong plywoods. Inexpensive generic wall panels are frequently produced from long, rotary sliced veneers. And valuable logs that have exquisite characteristics can be made to go farther with the thin slices. Veneers make projects more affordable rather than using heavy, thick, expensive solid woods. (Some projects cannot be made from solid woods at all.) Solid wood and veneers are commodities, just like frozen orange juice or crude oil. Demand and scarcity drive up the price; disinterest and abundance drive down the price.


W is for:

Wenge – An endangered tropical wood from equatorial Africa. It’s characterized by a complex grain pattern of browns and black. In spite of its endangered status, wenge currently remains available as solid lumber and as veneer.

White oak – A