Distinguishing one wood from another can take time, but is necessary when it comes to purchasing and restoring antique furniture. Many antique pieces are covered with veneer, a precious layer of wood atop a lesser quality wood. Often, the wood can easily be identified by searching out an unfinished area. The following text discusses various types of wood used in many antique pieces of furniture.
Birch: First used as a veneer in the 1700s. A very fine grain and regular texture, birch wood is a creamy-white with golden hues. It has unique luster of its own.
Mahogany: Mainly derives from the West Indies and parts of Central America. A popular import, mahogany wood is a strong wood with a deep red color. Many antiques are made with mahogany as it was one of the most popular woods for furniture making in the nineteenth century. Today’s mahogany is more course than its former self that displayed more characteristic finesse.
Rosewood: Brazilian import, is somewhat similar to mahogany, but contains tell-tale nearly black streaks across its reddish wood. Common to nineteenth century European antiques (also used in 18th century), rosewood can be difficult to polish.
Kingwood: From the West Indies and dramatically resembles rosewood; however, its streaks are more purple-hued and fade to a light gray-brown when set in light.
Satinwood: From the East and West Indies. West Indies satinwood has a stronger gleam to its honey-colored wood. The paler, East Indian strains produce more delicate graining; this variety was used to make English Sheraton-style pieces.
Walnut: Commonly used wood, took a back seat to mahogany by the middle of the 18th century. Essentially used in cabinet-making, walnut enjoyed resurgence in popularity toward the latter half of the nineteenth century where it was used to construct everything from planks to chairs.
Tulipwood: Pinkish tint to grain and is a smoothly-textured wood of considerable beauty. Native to Brazil and Peru, tulipwood was very often used to produce parquet floors.
Amaranth: Dark brown wood of dense grain. It was most frequently used as a veneer in France. Amaranth is sometimes referred to as purple heart. It was especially popular in the 17th century.
Other commonly used woods that produced antiques were oak, pine and yew. Because different types of woods require individual kind of care, learning to denote the differences between them allows one to care for and restore them properly. Also, certain types of wood pieces fetch higher prices than other kinds. Knowing the difference means knowing what you are paying for. In other words, you do not want to overpay for a lesser antique and you will certainly want to snatch a quality piece at a bargain rate.
When assessing a piece of furniture, look it over carefully; pull out drawers to discover what type of veneer covers what type of wood. Antique furniture is a lovely investment and an emblem of its era of origination. Loving antiques means learning about their make up to give them the best possible care.