If you prefer to begin with THE STORY OF FURNITURE, click on:

furniture header

primeval, enchanted habitat of birds, animals and man since Genesis

…… and the stuff of poets and playwrights.
            “I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree.”  Joyce Kilmer                                                

                    Early man found uses for wood as if it came with instructions!

Forests, covering our lands, were cleared during many millenniums
for planting crops, grazing and building communities.
Man later discovered tree by-products as:

tannin, dyes, rubber, and medicines.

Clearing forests created jobs in logging, sawmills and paper mills and we fast-forward to the Industrial Revolution that brought new sources of power and technology to logging, sawmills and paper mills —as well as factories making products of wood and factories making products of by-products of wood.

In addition to homes, furniture and paper— wood products are globally as
diverse as railroad ties, baseball bats —and products we consume: citrus fruits, nuts, olives, coconuts, maple syrup, etc.

Tree species and size, transportation routes and world markets impact forest industries, well established in the United States, Canada, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Brazil. Pacific Rim nations, Latin America and Africa.

Not only do forests shelter wildlife, man relies upon wood from forests to remain a renewable resource.  In Europe, as early as the 14th Century, it was recognized that trees had to be managed to assure sustainability of forests.  In 1885 the U. S. federal government established the Division of Forestry to conserve and establish forest reserves.

Ethical and sustainable forestry practices exist but environmental problems created by unscrupulous loggers continue as a major world problem. International scientists are concerned with the depletion of forests by hurricanes, fire and especially by irresponsible harvesting. Loss of tree roots quickly leads to soil erosion, flooding and mudslides.

The ecological significance of forests is enormous because they help control global temperature by absorbing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. Environmentalists say stricter regulation is urgent because deforestation is responsible for about one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Forest Stewardship Council, FSC, a global not-for-profit environmental network, was founded in 1993 in Bonn, Germany, to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. Its main tools for achieving this are standard setting, certification and labeling of forest products.

FSC labels 
verify the companies that felled the timber abided by sustainable principles


Hard and soft does not refer to the hardness or softness of wood.
Hard and soft refers to the type of tree the wood comes from.
Furniture is usually made from hardwood.

Softwood is from trees with needles or foliage that remain green all year as:
Pine, Fir, Spruce, and Cedar.

Hardwood is from leaf bearing trees as:
Ash, Birch, Oak, Cherry, Maple, Teak, Gum, Mahogany, Pecan, Rosewood, Poplar and Walnut.

Freshly cut timber is 30 to 50% water and must be carefully dried (seasoned) to prevent warping before being cut into lumber.

Wood is usually stacked and air dried from 3 to 6 months before it is cut into lumber of standard or specified length.  It is then slowly kiln dried for two to eight weeks to prevent warping and cracking. Timing varies according to the thickness of the wood.

Furniture manufacturers prefer wood with 6 to 8% moisture.
If too dry, wood absorbs glue and doesn’t develop a bond;
if too wet, wood may warp and twist.

Wood for furniture must also be dry enough to acclimate to the humidity of a home because wood shrinks and expands with changes in humidity. Stuck drawers are probably the result of humidity.  Humidifiers and dehumidifiers not only protect your skin, they protect your furniture.


After loggers cut trees and trim all branches, the remaining trunk is a log. Logs are moved to sawmills where they’re sorted and graded for quality.

Bark is removed and in a series of cuttings, each log is squared into a rectangular shape and cut with specific dimensions of length, width and thickness, now called lumber.

Bark, sawdust, wood chips, shavings and other residue
are usable wood by-products.

Dimension stock is wood cut by a lumber mill in sizes specified for end use by each furniture manufacturer. Quality furniture factories begin by ripping all kiln-dried dimension stock by machine to assure every edge is at perfect right angles.

The National Hardwood Lumber Association established a specific
and complex standard grading system for all hardwood lumber:

Wood grades for quality furniture are:
FAS:   Firsts And Seconds: The highest grade with clear face cuttings.
1C:      The next lower grade used for quality furniture.


Trees grow in spring and summer and their growth depends upon the rainfall and soil. This is why the rate of growth differs every year and forms different sized concentric rings within each tree. The season of growth determines the color of the rings from light to dark.

The pattern created by the rate of growth of a tree is called wood-grain. Different cutting techniques produce different patterns to reveal the beauty and color of the grain.

Straight or full-grain:
When a log is cut or sliced top to bottom (parallel to the axis),
the grain is called straight—or full-grain.

Cross or end-grain:
When a log is cut or sliced across its width,
the grain is called 
cross-grain—or end-grain.

WOOD CUTTING BOARDS: Full-grain or End-grain?
a marriage of wood & function.

The function of the knife is to cut.
The function of the board is to provide a surface to cut ‘against’.

Wood cutting boards are full-grain or end-grain.
Each looks and performs differently.

Do knife blades scar wood?
Do wood surfaces ruin blades?
It depends!

Cutting across full-grain wood not only scars wood fibers;
it damages the cutting edge of the blade.

End-grain wood protects blades because they slice across
fibrous endings
of wood grain– which are not scarred.

If you cut or slice an ‘onion’, you see its layered growth;
similar to the layered growth and development of a tree.

How a ‘log’ is cut, peeled, sliced or sawn,
determines the direction of the wood-grain,
and we see the difference between full-grain and end-grain

Cut an onion vertically.

The direction of the layers duplicates the grain direction of full-grain
or straight-grain wood

full onion for blog
When cut, narrow boards of full-grain wood are joined horizontally.
Cutting across full-grain wood can scar wood fibers and
damage the edge of the knife-blade.

Cut an onion horizontally.

The direction of the layers duplicates the grain direction of end-grain wood.

cross onion for blog
Small pieces of end-grain (also cross-grain) are usually joined as a mosaic.
Cutting across fibers of end-grain wood does not scar the cutting board
nor damage the blade of the knife.

End-grain surfaces are preferred over full-grain surfaces by butchers—known for fastidious care of both their knives and cutting boards and explains the designation, ‘butcher-block’.   End-grain butcher block is also excellent for kitchen counters.

How many times a day do you slice bread, meat or cheese on a humble,
non-mechanical board of wood?  

The next time you reach for a cutting board—stop,
and appreciate the beauty and function of :
  wood  •  wood grain  •  joinery techniques  •  wood finishing.