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Thread: Mix or not to mix woods and where?

  1. #1
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    Mix or not to mix woods and where?

    Mixing different woods on a piece of furniture?


    As far as I know it is common to use cheaper woods like beech instead of tropical or expensive ones for those structural parts of a piece of furniture that wonít be seen at all.

    Is this practice considered a synonym of a cheap piece of furniture?

    What about drawers? Does it make sense making the front in, letís say, hard maple and the sides and bottom in beech or other similar wood?

    Or even a more extreme example, the front in bubinga, cocobolo or burl oak and the sides and bottom in beech?

    Is there any common practice as far as that is concerned??

    Any input will be greatly appreciated.
    Best regards,
    Toni

    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ _________________
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    I also dream of a shop with north light where my hands can be busy, my soul rest and my mind wander...

  2. #2
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    I believe the common practice, even on the high-end stuff, is pretty much as you described. The interior wood such as drawer bottoms and sides is typically something plain and economical. (Keep in mind that compared to woods like bubinga or burl oak, something like maple is still plain and economical, but more durable than some of the softer woods.)
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

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  3. #3
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    Toni, if Beech is a "cheaper" wood where you are, it would do just fine for drawer sides, backs, etc. I use Poplar for most of my drawer sides and backs, but I have quite a bit of QS White Oak cut offs I got at a good price and I use that some too. I try to avoid using high priced hard woods for parts that are never seen, especially for things I make for just family. If I were building a high dollar piece for a client, I might stay with the primary wood used for the project for these to "protect" the value, but that's just me.

  4. #4
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    i`ve never seen "fancy" woods used inside or behind a piece...doesn`t make sense to me.
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  5. #5
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    From watching the twins on Antiques Roadshow and Roy Underhill, they often say that early American furniture was made with whatever wood was available. Frequently there was no consideration given to what was used where as they took a practical approach. They are the experts and get the big bucks. But, I don't know that I have ever seen a piece of furniture where the better woods were hidden and the less attractive, or less durable, were in front or on top. I think y'all have summed it up quite well.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  6. #6
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    The interior woods are called secondary wood, and are often of a cheaper species.

    Drawer sides are the borderline between primary and secondary woods. When I am being fancy, I use maple for drawer sides - especially with wood slides... I don't like the look of poplar, and I generally run a thinner drawer side (hard with poplar which tends to warp between planing and assembly).

    My favorite "traditional wood" is a windsor chair, where the curved back is steamed oak, the spindles rived oak, the seat pine (easier to carve the butt contour), the arms cherry, and the legs maple so the turned detail is sharp. The traditional black color is to hide the differences in the wood. So do different woods make a low quality piece? Hardly.
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at www.solowoodworker.com

  7. #7
    It is not a "Cheap" practice but more than a "Frugle" practice as there are reasons that "Secondary woods" are used in the carcass construction.

    The properties of the wood play a important part of the construction. Often we construct of woods selected for their beauty rather than strength or endurance. In those cases we need to construct the "backbone" of the piece of structurally sound material, also we need to use Stable materials that have a predictable behavior in changing climate conditions.

    Is it "Cheap" less expensive, yes but I have some fine pieces that are antique and well over 100-200 years old each of them have beautiful wood fronts but also have secondary woods in the rear, under, or behind. I also have new pieces that are of great quality which have secondary woods in the rear, under, or behind, etc. This is common practice.

    Of course, it is one way to determine if it is hand made, as few "Factory" pieces are solid, all the the way through, end to end, top to bottom, the same wood.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Burt View Post
    Toni, if Beech is a "cheaper" wood where you are, it would do just fine for drawer sides, backs, etc. I use Poplar for most of my drawer sides and backs, but I have quite a bit of QS White Oak cut offs I got at a good price and I use that some too.
    Hi Billy, well I said cheaper with respect to oak, hard maple, cherry and some other even more expensive than those mentioned. Poplar/Pine is more used on cheap and not so cheap sofa frames.

    Beech is used here, not as a cheap wood but the cheapest of the hard ones.
    A piece of furniture with a drawer with solid beech sides, is a mid/ mid-high range price level of furniture or a piece of furniture that is more than 20 years old.
    I always tend to look when people dispose off their furniture to salvage those drawers and I must say they they are getting scarce.

    Nowadays they are made either of chip board veneered with paper imitations of wood or MD board.

    I have the feeling that wood is much more expensive and difficult to buy here than there in US but that should be discussed in a different thread, shouldn't it?
    Best regards,
    Toni

    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ _________________
    web site:http://www.toniciuraneta.com
    I also dream of a shop with north light where my hands can be busy, my soul rest and my mind wander...

  9. #9
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    Trying to summarize what has been said already, for what I'm thankful to all of you my last question/comment would be:

    It is my feeling that when making a high priced piece of furniture, secondary woods as described by Charlie Plesums should be not the cheapest but obviously cheaper than the most priced woods/parts used.

    Making a drawer with a bubinga front with poplar sides and bottom I think it would make to perceive the piece as not "balanced" ( if I may say so) because the exagerated difference in price/quality, (although I have a 130 year old mahogany chest of drawers were their sides and bottom are made with wood that looks as if it's been salvaged from pallets or crates).

    Or what about the same bubinga drawer with plywood sides? wouldn't it make perceiving the piece as not so valuable?
    Wouldn't it be something like having a Ferrari with bike tyres

    What the "pros" of this forum do in their projects?

    I do not know if I'm conveying my thoughts properly or just thinking out loud.

    I hope that some of you will understand what I'm trying to say/ask and put it in a more understandable written form
    Best regards,
    Toni

    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ _________________
    web site:http://www.toniciuraneta.com
    I also dream of a shop with north light where my hands can be busy, my soul rest and my mind wander...

  10. #10
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    toni,
    if you`re building for the enjoyment of building and building pieces for family then i would place asthetics on par with function....
    but i`d draw the line at using burl or quilted wood as a secondary wood, using a like colored piece of the same species only without figure for your secondary wood should offer you the "balance" you`re asking about.
    tod
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

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