Antique Furniture – Types of Wood

Antique Furniture – Types of Wood

Here is a selection of woods used for antique furniture. We give you a brief insight into Mahogany , Oak , Walnut , Rosewood , Elm , Bird’s-Eye Maple , Satinwood , Calamander , Sycamore and Kingwood.

Mahogany is a close grained hardwood, native to South America and the West Indies. It varies in colour from dark brown to red and occasionally has a spotted effect. As the girth of the tree is broad furniture makers were able to use a single cut of wood for a table top. Furniture made from mahogany became very popular in Britain from mid 18 th Century, followed by the rest of Europe.
Oak is a slow growing tree, taking between 150 – 200 years to reach maturity. The wood is hard and pale in colour, but darkens to a rich brown with age and polishing. Furniture made from oak is usually heavy, solid and simple in design. From the mid 17 th Century oak was mainly used for the carcass and drawer linings of furniture. Oak was a popular wood used in the Georgian era and made a revival in late Victorian times.
burr walnutWalnut
Walnut is a close grained hard wood, the colour varying between light golden brown and light grey brown, often with a rich grain pattern. Burr Walnut is the term for walnut with knotty whorls in the grain where injuries occurred on the trunk or the roots of the tree.
Rosewood is a very dark brown hardwood, with an almost black wavy grain. The name comes from the scent released when the wood is cut. It is used for inlaid decoration and veneer, but was not used for making solid furniture until the early 19 th Century.
Elm is a hard and durable wood. Chairs were made from elm in the Georgian period. It has a particularly attractive grain and polishes well.
birds eye mapleBird’s–Eye Maple
Bird’s–Eye Maple was popular for veneers in the Regency period, and was also used in Victorian and Edwardian bedroom suites. The wood is specked and polishes well.
Satinwood became popular in the early 19 th Century. It was used for veneers, inlaid decoration and the pale colour made it suitable for painting. It made a revival in the Edwardian era.
Calamander is a member of the ebony family. Popular in the Regency period, it is light brown in colour, striped, mottled with black and was used for veneers and banding.
Sycamore is a hard, pale wood with a fine even grain. It is also known as Harewood.
Kingwood is a rich brown colour with purplish tones. It was used as a veneer or for parquetry decoration, particularly in France.

11 thoughts on “Antique Furniture – Types of Wood

  1. Hello

    Am a bit stuck
    I have been given a love seat – very old – that seats two people
    With a light sanding the dark brown finish that was on it has come off easily
    The actual wood is a pale blonde and is quite soft (easy to sand) and very light to lift
    Not sure if the design is Edwardian, but tiny copper like nails (about 4mm) pinned the braid to the material
    Help! I need to know which wood I am dealing with!
    Looking forward to hearing back from you
    Kind regards

  2. my dad brought this table back from the pillilpines it has a very dark brown look to it it has large carved flowers all over it what does this kind of wood sound like?

  3. I have a piece of furniture that was my grandma’s. It’s old I know that haha. It a dresser with 5 drawers and locks on each. I can’t find any markings of a maker anywhere on it. I’ve even taken the locks and drawer puller hardware off and can’t find anything there either… I have pictures. Some of the things I’ve researched date it Victorian but I’m not sure. Please help.

  4. I have a pair of nightstands, Drexel Touraine, 1978 is stenciled on the back along with the name. I believe they have the original finish, brownish, not real dark. Can you tell me what kind of wood it might be? I believe it’s a veneer. The tops have rings and the finish is old causing the wood to look dried out, I want to get them as close to original as possible. Thanks for any help.

    1. Hi
      We deal in pre 1900s so not sure on this maker and they will probably have a more modern spray finish, so you may have to get the tops re polished, i would seek the advice of a local furniture restorer.

  5. i have a davenport captains desk.i am trying to find out how old and type of wood.i have pictures i believe it to be walnut at least the inlay on the drawer fronts..but another question did the make the actuall drawer out of different wood than say tbe drawer front? any suggestions would be wondeefully appreciated

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