Furniture Design Helpful Tips
Helpful Tips

Furniture Design

Are you designing or modifying furniture items, the following are some helpful tips and guidelines to consider.

Seating

There are so many styles & materials available providing endless design options but functionality & comfort is a key component of a well designed chair or sofa.

The following are general guidelines to help achieve a high level of comfort.

Fabrics

There are endless furniture fabric selections from polyesters and blends to PU’s, faux & real leather etc… Most fabrics from China are produced in Zhejiang & Jiangsu provinces with varying quality standards and some following std’s such as ISO & REACH. FDC can provide selections but for customers providing their own sources the following should be considered.

One of the biggest challenges for factories is the ease(or difficulty) to “work” the fabric during the upholstery process.

  • The appropriate backing should be used depending on item, pls check with FDC.
  • For semi or full PU’s, PVC or faux leathers there needs to be enough elasticity especially when material is fully glued on seat & backrest.
  • Pattern alignment requires more fabric then random or solid colors, more waste will be generated raising costs.
  • Colors will almost always vary from production lots, please consider this when planning your orders. If possible produce your requirements in one production provided it can be used within 6months.
  • There is a shelf life to most fabrics, don’t assume fabrics stored for extended time will react or look same as newly produced lots.

Types of Wood

Hardness is one of the simplest ways to distinguish the wood used for furniture. Contrary to the popular belief, hardwood is not necessarily harder and denser compared to softwood. In botanical terms, hardwood comes from flowering trees while softwood comes from conifers.

Hardwood

Hardwood comes from Angiosperms such as maple, oak, and walnut. These trees lose their leaves annually. As they grow slowly, hardwood has denser wood fibers (fiber tracheids and libriform fibers).

As hardwood is rare, it is relatively expensive compared to softwood. However, there are exceptions. For example, gum is a hardwood that comes at a price compatible with most types of softwood. Hardwood is durable, comes with close grain, and requires low maintenance. Not all types of hardwood are ideal for making furniture.

Softwood

Softwood comes from gymnosperms, which are evergreen trees. Softwood includes trees such as pine, spruce, fir, cedar, juniper, redwood, and yew. Evergreen trees tend to be less dense than deciduous trees.

Softwood consists of tracheids and wood rays. As vessels are absent, softwood is also called non-porous wood. It comes with loose grain, higher sap content, and lighter color. However, it comes with poor fire resistance. The fine and lightweight structure makes softwood ideal for making furniture.

Hardwoods

1. Mohagony

Mahogany is one of the most popular hardwood tropical trees. Mahogany wood is prized for its beauty, durability, and color. It is relatively free of voids and pockets. The color darkens over time. As a result, it is a popular choice for furniture.

  • Color – Reddish-brown to blood red.
  • Density – Medium texture and moderately heavy.
  • Grain – Straight.
  • Common Uses – High-end furniture, interior millwork, exterior doors, windows, and trim.
  • Finishing – Sanding sealer.

2. Walnut

Walnut (black walnut) is one of the most popular woods for furniture in the U.S. The dimensional stability, shock resistance, strength properties, and the rich coloration are the reasons behind its popularity.

  • Color – Lighter pale brown to a dark chocolate brown with darker brown streaks. Sapwood is pale yellow-gray to nearly white.
  • Density – Medium texture, fairly lightweight.
  • Grain – Moderately open grain.
  • Common Uses – High-end furniture, carving, flooring accents, musical instruments, and gun stocks.
  • Finishing – Should be finished with oil-based polyurethane

3. Red Oak

Oak trees are native to the northern hemisphere. There are around 600 species of oak, both deciduous and evergreen. Oakwood is remarkably strong, heavy, and durable. It is also resistant to fungal attacks

  • Color – Pinkish red to blonde
  • Density – Very hard and strong.
  • Grain – Varied and openly porous grain patterns.
  • Common Uses – Furniture, cabinets, molding, trim, flooring, paneling, turning.
  • Finishing – Natural finish or oil, but they may vary.

4. Ash

Ash trees are medium to large trees that grow in most parts of the world. Ashwood feels smooth to the touch. It is durable, tough, and flexible. It has excellent nailing, screw holding, and gluing properties. Hence, carpenters love to work with ash wood. However, it produces a distinct and moderately unpleasant smell while working on it.

  • Color – Light, creamy-brown.
  • Density – Tough, flexible.
  • Grain – Open-grained with occasional brown streaks.
  • Common Uses – Flooring, millwork, boxes/crates, baseball bats, and other turned objects such as tool handles.
  • Finishing – Takes all finishes.

5. Birch

Birch trees are widespread in the Northern Hemisphere. Though it is closely related to Oakwood, it is much harder. Birch plywood is probably the most widely used as it is hard, stable, affordable, and readily available.

  • Color – Heartwood is light reddish brown with nearly white sapwood.
  • Density – Hard, medium weight.
  • Grain – Usually straight or slightly wavy with small pores.
  • Common Uses – Plywood, boxes, crates, turned objects, cabinets, seating, millwork, furniture, interior doors.
  • Finishing – Takes all finishes.

6. Maple

Maple trees are mostly native to Asia. But they are also found in Europe, North Africa, and North America. The maple wood is sturdy, resistant to splitting, and durable. It can be wiped clean with a damp cloth, making it ideal for kitchen furniture.

  • Color – The heartwood is typically a darker shade of reddish brown. Sapwood color ranges from nearly white to an off-white cream color. But it can be reddish or golden hue.
  • Density – Moderately hard but strong.
  • Grain – Closed and generally straight, but may be wavy.
  • Common Uses – Everything from furniture and woodenware to flooring and millwork.
  • Finishing – Takes all finishes.

7. Cherry

Cherry wood comes from the cherry fruit tree. Cherry wood has rich color, smooth grain, and flexibility, making it a popular choice for furniture manufacturers.  It also steams easily, making it ideal for use in curved designs.

  • Color – The color is light pinkish brown when freshly cut. It darkens to a medium reddish brown over time.
  • Density – Stiff, strong, medium weight, and moderately hard.
  • Grain – Closed and straight.
  • Common Uses – Cabinetry, fine furniture, flooring, interior millwork, veneer, musical instruments, paneling, turned objects, and small specialty wood items.
  • Finishing – Light to natural finishes are recommended.

8. Beech

Beech trees are deciduous and native to temperate Europe, Asia, and North America. Beechwood is quite durable and resistant to abrasion and shock. Because beech steam-bends as readily as ash, carpenters love to work with this wood. It also provides an elegant and dated look to furniture. However, it is not dishwasher safe.

  • Color – Pink to reddish brown heartwood, sapwood is creamy to pink.
  • Density – Very hard and heavy.
  • Grain – Straight with a fine to medium uniform texture.
  • Common Uses – Chair legs and backs, crates/pallets, railroad ties, flooring, food containers, toys, musical instruments, and woodenware.
  • Finishing – Takes all finishes.

9. Teak

Teaks are tropical hardwood trees native to India, Myanmar (Burma), and Thailand. Teakwood is one of the hardest and most durable of all natural woods. It is resistant to rotting, sunlight, rain, frost, and snow, making it suitable for outdoor construction and furniture. However, it is expensive and sometimes hard to find.

  • Color – Heartwood is golden or medium brown and darkens with age.
  • Density – It is heavy and strong.
  • Grain – Grain is straight. Occasionally, it can be wavy or interlocked.
  • Common Uses – Boatbuilding, veneer, furniture, exterior construction, carving, and turnings.
  • Finishing – Finishes best with wood lacquer.

 

  • Color – Heartwood can vary from golden brown to deep purplish brown, with darker brown streaks.
  • Density – Hard, heavy and strong.
  • Grain – Usually narrowly interlocked.
  • Common Uses – High-end furniture, musical instruments, veneer, and turned wood objects.
  • Finishing – Finishes well, but requires initial seal coats.

Softwoods

1. Parana Pine

Parana pine trees also called Brazilian pine are native to southern Americas, especially Brazil. Parana pine wood is free from resin ducts, pitch pockets, and pitch streaks. It has a higher shear strength and nail holding capacity compared to other softwoods. However, it tends to warp and distort during drying and compression.

  • Color – Heartwood is light to medium brown, usually with red streaks. Sapwood is yellow.
  • Density – Light but hard.
  • Grain – Straight, uniform.
  • Common Uses – Framing lumber, interior woodwork, sashes, and door stock, furniture case goods, and veneer.
  • Finishing – Finishes well, but requires initial seal coats.

2. Eastern White Pine

Eastern white pine trees are widely available in eastern North America. It is one of the most valuable timber species. Eastern pine wood turns golden yellow when exposed to sunlight over time. Once dried properly, it becomes relatively stable. However, it is fairly porous. Thus, it will cup if it absorbs excessive moisture. It is relatively cheap and readily available.

  • Color – Heartwood is a light brown with a slightly reddish hue. Sapwood is a pale yellow to nearly white.
  • Density – Soft and very lightweight.
  • Grain – Straight and tight. However, winter wood and summer wood show a significant difference.
  • Common Uses – Exterior millwork, furniture, moldings, paneling, carvings, turning, pattern making.
  • Finishing – Finishes well, but must be sealed with water-based or oil-based polyurethane.

3. Lodgepole Pine

Lodgepole pine trees are commonly found in western North America and Canada. The trees can live to be over three hundred years old. However, they seldom do as they are susceptible to bark beetle attacks. The tangential surface of lumber shows a multitude of dimples, especially when stained. It is, therefore, a favorite for paneling.

  • Color – Heartwood is light reddish to yellowish brown and sapwood is yellowish white.
  • Density – It is moderately strong and lightweight. But heavier than eastern white pine.
  • Grain – Straight
  • Common Uses – Ideal for construction lumber, plywood, and paneling. It is also used to make doors, windows and furniture, railway ties, mine props, and fence posts.
  • Finishing – Finishes well, but must be sealed with water-based or oil-based polyurethane.

4. Pitch Pine

Pitch pine trees are also native to eastern North America. They can grow 50 to 60 feet in height with a trunk of 1-3 feet in diameter. The wood is resistant to fire and abrasion. The high resin content also makes it resistant to decay.

  • Color – Heartwood is reddish brown, sapwood is yellowish white.
  • Density – Soft and lightweight.
  • Grain – Straight grained.
  • Common Uses – Heavy construction, plywood, wood pulp, shipbuilding, fences, railroad ties, and veneers.
  • Finishing – Finishes well, but must be sealed with water-based or oil-based polyurethane.

5. Scots Pine

Scots pine trees are native to northern Europe and Asia. The trees are susceptible to red band needle blight. Scots pine timber is one of the strongest softwoods available. The wood is also resinous. It is less durable, but not susceptible to lyctid borer.

  • Color – Heartwood is light reddish brown. Sapwood ranges from pale yellow to nearly white.
  • Density – Reasonably strong and lightweight.
  • Grain – Straight grained.
  • Common Uses – Construction, paneling, boxes/crates, poles, flooring, and interior joinery.
  • Finishing – Finishes well, but must be sealed with water-based or oil-based polyurethane.

6. White Spruce

All the species of spruce trees are native to northern temperate and boreal (taiga) regions. They are also widely distributed throughout the mountain ranges in continental Europe. White spruce wood turns, planes, and molds nicely. It has excellent nailing and screwing abilities. However, it is only slightly resistant to decay.

  • Color – Heartwood is creamy white to light yellow or to red-brown. It is not distinct from sapwood.
  • Density – Moderately hard.
  • Grain – Fine and consistently straight.
  • Common Uses – Pulpwood, construction lumber, joinery, millwork, and crates.
  • Finishing – Finishes nicely, but when using a sanding sealer, gel stain or toner is recommended.

7. Red Cedar

Red cedar is a common name for various varieties of cedars growing in the eastern United States region. The red cedar wood (also known as aromatic red cedar) is remarkably resistant to both decay and insect attack. It is highly aromatic and planes and shapes easily. However, it only has moderate screw and nail holding properties.

  • Color – Heartwood tends to be red or violet-brown. Sapwood is pale yellow or whitish.
  • Density – Hard texture and lightweight.
  • Grain – Straight grain with many knots.
  • Common Uses – Fence posts, closet and chest linings, carvings, outdoor furniture, birdhouses, pencils, closet interiors, bows, and small wooden specialty items.
  • Finishing – Finishes well, but oil finishes are recommended.

8. Fir

Fir trees are located throughout most of the North and Central America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa. They usually grow in the mountains. It comes with low shrinkage and reasonable stability. It is also strong and elastic.

  • Color – Sapwood is yellowish to reddish-white. Fresh heartwood can be yellowish-brown to reddish-yellow in color. However, it darkens quickly to a brown-red to dark-red.
  • Density – Medium-weight and fairly hard.
  • Grain – Straight and plain, sometimes wavy.
  • Common Uses – Veneer, plywood, and construction lumber.
  • Finishing – Finishes nicely. However, you need to take into account the fairly high sap content, which may require a coat of paint.

9. Western Hemlock

Western Hemlock species are native to the west coast of North America, growing in the coastal rainforests of Alaska and British Columbia. The wood has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio. It can turn, plane, and shape smoothly. It has a moderate nail and screw holding ability. It also has a reputation for termite resistance. However, outdoor uses require good finishing for avoiding quick decay.

  • Color – Heartwood is light reddish brown. Sapwood is slightly lighter in color.
  • Density – Soft and light.
  • Grain – Straight, with a coarse and uneven texture.
  • Common Uses – Boxes, pallets, crates, plywood, framing, cabinets, joinery, and millwork.
  • Finishing – Responds best to clear finishes.

Qualities of Wood

Timber is the type of wooden material used for construction and furniture. Best quality timber comes from matured trees. However, to fulfill its function, timber needs to have certain qualities. Additionally, it needs to be devoid of any defects or imperfections.

Appearance

Freshly cut timber gives off a sweet smell and shining appearance, which are signs of high quality.

Color

It should also have a dark color. Light color usually indicates less strength.

Durability

High-quality timber is remarkably durable. It should be resistant to climatic changes, pests such as termites, and fungal attacks. There are 5 classes of natural durability to resistance against wood-destroying fungi.

  • Class 1 – Very Durable
  • Class 2 – Durable
  • Class 3 – Moderately Durable
  • Class 4 – Slightly Durable
  • Class 5 – Not Durable

Elasticity

Elasticity allows the wood to regain its original shape with maximum accuracy. This property plays a crucial role if the wood is to be used to make sports equipment.

Fibers

The fibers should be straight, compact, and firm. Wood with twisted fibers possesses little strength, as opposed to wood with straight fibers.

Fire Resistance

The wood should be resistant to fire. Usually, the denser the wood, the higher the resistance.

Hardness

It should withstand deterioration due to mechanical wear and tear and physical abrasion.

Shape

High-quality timber will always retain its shape and structural integrity during the seasoning or conversion process.

Sound

When struck, a high-quality timber produces a clear ringing. A dull heavy sound, on the other hand, is an indication of internal decay.

Strength

It should be able to withstand structural loads, especially in construction.

Toughness

It should be able to endure shocks and vibrations. Usually, woods with narrow annual rings are the toughest.

Water Pqualities-woodermeability

Timber should have low water permeability. If the wood has higher permeability, it will readily absorb moisture, leading to rapid decay.

Weight

Usually, heavy timbers are the toughest and hardest.

Workability

The timber needs to be easily workable. Woods with a high resin content often tend to be less workable as they clog the teeth of the saw.

Janka Wood Hardness Scale

A universal wood hardness scale was developed to determine the relative hardness of timber. The Janka hardness scale measures the amount of force required to embed a 0.444” steel ball into the wood to the half of its diameter. You can use the Janka scale to determine the relative hardness of both domestic and exotic wood samples (usually 1” or 2” thickness).

This scale is one of the best ways to measure the ability of the timber to withstand wear and tear. Usually, the higher the Janka scale rating, the harder the wood. The steel ball leaves a hemispherical indentation with an area of 200 mm2 in the wood sample. Different units are used to express the wood hardness scale rating in different countries. In the United States, the measurement is in pounds-force, abbreviated as lbf.

WOODJANKA HARDNESS (IN LBF)
Ebony3220
Ease Indian Rosewood2440
Brazilian Cherry /Jatoba2350
Mesquite2345
Santos Mahogany2200
Cameron1940
Purpleheart1860
Tigerwood1850
Merbau1840
Hickory and Pecan1820
Rosewood1780
African Padauk1725
Locust1700
Wenge1630
Red Pine1630
Zebrawood1575
True Pine1570
Sweet Birch1470
Hard / Sugar Maple1450
Kentucky Coffee Tree1390
Natural Bamboo1380
Australian Cypress1375
White Oak1360
White Ash1320
American Beech1300
Red Oak1290
Caribbean Heart Pine1280
Yellow Birch1260
Yellow Heart Pine1225
Carbonized Bamboo1180
Cocobolo1136
American Walnut1010
Teak1000
American Cherry950
Red Maple950
Paper Birch910
Cedar900
Southern Yellow Pine (Longleaf)870
American Red Elm860
Lacewood840
Mahogany800
Cumaru790
Sycamore770
S.Yellow Pine (Loblolly & Shortleaf)690
Douglas Fir660
Sassafras630
Pitch Pine620
Larch590
Cypress, Southern570
Chestnut540
Poplar540
Hemlock500
Lodgepole Pine480
White Spruce480
White Pine420
Basswood410
Eastern White Pine380
value-price-premium

7 Most Used Indonesian Woods For Furniture

1 Teak Wood

  • Density: 655 kg/m3
  • Hardness: 5140 N
  • Volumetric Shrinkage: 7.2%
Description

Teakwood (Tectona Grandis) is a tropical hardwood widely used for furniture, especially in Java, Indonesia. A Teak tree can grow up to 40 meters high with a diameter of up to 1,5 meter. Unfortunately these big diameters are rarely found since the trees are cut down long before that to make the furniture. The diameters used in Java are normally maximum 40cm.

The leaves of a teak tree are oval with sizes of 15 to 45 centimeter. Small white flowers with a nice smell grow on the tree.

The color of teak wood is somewhere between brown and gold. As the wood dries and ages the color will become more dark. Furniture that is used outdoors will turn to grey after long exposure to outdoor weather.
The sapwood of teak is white-yellow. The sapwood is much softer and not suitable for outdoor use.
There is naturally a lot of oil in teak wood which protects it for almost any circumstance. Sometimes the wood has dark lines running through it, this is the path of the oil.

Origin

All our teak comes from government controlled plantations in Java, Indonesia. The government controls the cutting of hardwood species that are cut down in Indonesia. This way the forests can be protected. Every log gets its own number which can be used to trace the log.

Uses

Teak wood is mostly used for outdoor furniture, but also a lot for high-quality indoor furniture.
Also for boat decks and flooring it is used a lot because of its strength. To get the looks of teak wood for a lower price many companies also use teak veneer. This is a thin layer of 1 millimeter teak wood, which is glues onto a cheaper species of wood, or even onto plywood.
Teak is also a very popular wood species to use in doors and window frames since it you withhold any weather.

 

2 Mahogany

  • Density: 785 kg/m3
  • Hardness: 3600 N
  • Volumetric Shrinkage: 17.4%
Description

Mahogany wood grows on many places in the world. The mahogany we use is Toona Sureni, which is native to Indonesia. The mahogany tree can grow up to 50 meter tall. The stems in Indonesia usually have a diameter of max 60cm.

The leaves of the mahogany tree are pinnate with a length of approximately 40cm. Mahogany trees have small fruits of about 3cm that contain seeds and can’t be eaten.

Mahogany is originally colored red. Since this color is not desirable the wood is mostly finished in a darker color. There’s also the option to bleach the mahogany and then finish it in a teak-like color.

Origin

The mahogany wood comes, like the teak wood, from government protected plantations.

Uses

Mahogany wood can be used with clear or colored finishing. With clear finishing you will still see the red glow that mahogany still has. A solution for this is to finish it with a dark brown stain. For colored finishing mahogany is our first choice because of its strength.

 

3 Mango Wood

  • Density: 675 kg/m3
  • Hardness: 4780 N
  • Volumetric Shrinkage: 8.9%
Description

Mango wood comes from the tree that grows mango’s. The trees are in general planted to harvest the fruit. After several years the tree will stop product fruits, and is ready to cut down to use the wood.

The trees grown until 40 meters tall, with a stem diameter of up to 1 meter.

Mango wood has to be treated before it can be used in furniture. If not, it will be eaten by termites in less than a year.

Origin

Mango wood comes from either mango plantations or from villages where people grow their own mango trees. It is a not protected wood species since it is mostly derived from plantations after the tree stops delivering the fruit.

Uses

The wood from mango trees is widely used in cabinets. Since the cost are much lower than teak or mahogany a lot of money can be saved. For use in chairs or tables you must be careful since it’s not as strong as mahogany or teak. The grain can differ a lot per tree, so it is used a lot with solid color finishing.

 

4 Sonokeling (Rosewood)

  • Density: 830 kg/m3
  • Hardness: 9800 N
  • Volumetric Shrinkage: 8.5%
Description

Sonokeling is a very beautiful wood, with a more darker color. The color varies from darkbrown until dark purple. The sapwood is very white, which can be cut of, or used to make a beautiful contrast. The wood is also often used to make musical instruments.

The trees grow up to 40 meters tall.

(See our Lis Chair which is made in Sonokeling wood)

Sonokeling is now listed as an endangered species, and can therefore not be exported to the USA. The Indonesian Sonokeling is not endangered, but Rosewood has been added to the list of endangered species as a whole.

Origin

The trees grow on government controlled plantations. Since it is an endangered species it can not be sold as a raw material. Finished products can be exported worldwide, with an exception of USA.

Uses

Rosewood has a very beautiful grain. Therefore it is not only used in furniture, but also in musical instruments.

For furniture it can be used with or without the white sapwood. The finishing is mostly transparent, sometimes with a bit darker stain. Sonokeling is strong enough to use it in any kind of furniture.

 

5 Suar

  • Density: 605 kg/m3
  • Hardness: 4530 N
  • Volumetric Shrinkage: 7.4%
Description

Suar wood, also know as monkeypod is a large tropical tree. The color is originally brown, but will change to a gray color after a while, especially if it catches any sun. Suar wood contains a lot of water, which can be damage the suar but also other goods in the container. With the right drying oven it can be dried, but will still take more time than average.

The trees grow up to 25 meters tall, where the trunk reaches a diameter of up to 2 meters.

 Origin

The Suar tree grows all over Indonesia. An SVLK license is needed to export the wood from Indonesia. The suar tree grows on government controlled plantations.

Uses

Suar wood is mostly used in big slabs for table tops. Because the diameter can reach up to 2 meters, one solid piece of wood can make a very solid looking dining table.

 

6 Rubberwood

  • Density: 595 kg/m3
  • Hardness: 4280 N
  • Volumetric Shrinkage: 7.5%
Description

Rubber wood, also known as Hevea, is taken from rubber plantations after the trees stop producing the rubber. It is not elastic as the name might suggest. Rubber wood is often labeled as environmently-friendly because it is a waste product from rubber plantations. In the last decades the wood became more popular because there are more products available to protect it from being eaten and rotting.

The trees grow up to 40 meters high in forests, but from plantation they are usually smaller. The diameter is around 30 centimers.

 Origin

Rubber wood is collected from rubber plantations after the trees stop producing rubber. It is in fact a waste product which makes it a responsible choice for furniture. Rubber plantations are found all over Indonesia.

Uses

Can be used in different kinds of furniture. But has not a very nice grain so it is often painted or covered with veneer. Has to be treated against animals and fungus before use.

 

7 Acadia

  • Density: 730 kg/m3
  • Hardness: 7590 N
  • Volumetric Shrinkage: 10.2%
Description

Acacia wood comes from the Acacia tree, of which there are more than a thousand worldwide. The type of Acacia used for furniture in Indonesia is Acacia Mangium.
The wood is hard and strong by itself, but tends to bend a lot in the drying process. The grain is slightly similar to teak, but the color is different.
Nowadays Ikea uses a lot of Acacia in their furnitures.

The tree grows up to 30 meters high with a stem of up to 30 centimers.

Origin

Acacia grows in government controlled plantations, and is easy to find. The plantations can be found all over Indonesia.

Uses

Acacia can be used for different kind of furnitures. It has to be dried very well in order to prevent the bending in finished furniture products.

 

We recommend using the app from Furniture Facts to easily compare, sort and filter wood species.
Furniture Facts for android can be downloaded here.