Often times it seems the most difficult part of helping design a piece of furniture for a client is choosing a lumber type. Your average Joe off the street doesn’t know the difference between Oak and Walnut and honestly probably doesn’t care. They just know how they want their piece to look when it’s finished.
I always advocate for choosing lumber that is the color you want the finished project to be. So if you want a dark color I suggest walnut.
If you’re looking for something with more red tones I suggest Cherry or Mahogany.
If you want a lighter color Oak or Maple is a good choice.
I always suggest choosing a lumber that is the color you want because adding color to lumber isn’t very precise and it’s difficult to always get exactly what you want from it. The bottom line is that you can’t stain a piece of Oak with dark walnut stain and make it look like Walnut. It just doesn’t work that way.
Additionally, it’s my opinion that staining a piece of wood really reduces its natural beauty. Here is a photo of an oak table top and then the same table top after it has been stained. Personally I prefer the natural look of the oak over the stained look.
I certainly don’t mind staining lumber for my clients. The results are always just disappointing to me. For example, Here is that same stained Oak table compared to a naturally finished Walnut table.
To me there really is no comparison. The naturally finished walnut wins every time.
So why would someone want to stain a piece of wood instead of just buy the wood that is the appropriate color? Price. It’s that simple. Maple and Oak are relatively inexpensive compared to other types of lumber. In my area walnut costs about 3 times as much as oak.
When clients realize the price differences between different types of lumber we start talking about staining. Staining is fine and in most situations your average person doesn’t care if their table is real Walnut or some other lumber type that was stained to kind of look like Walnut. The most important thing to realize when choosing to stain lumber over initially going with lumber that is already the color you want is to know that Oak is Oak, Maple is Maple and you cannot make them look like anything other than Oak or Maple by adding color to them. Unless of course you paint them!
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.