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ID 123: Decorative Arts and Soft Furnishings

by Avila, Balberona and Guerra


Wood is a hard, fibrous material that forms the major part of the trunk of a
tree. It is the starting point for any woodworking project.


1. Fibrous - Wood is composed of cellulosic fibers.

2. Durable - Wood does not wear out easily.
3. Hygroscopic -Wood takes up and retains moisture.
4. Viscoelastic -Wood becomes viscose and elastic at a certain level when
undergoing deformation.
5. Doesn't corrode -Wood does not rust/oxidize in the presence of


1. Sapwood
The sapwood is located at the periphery of a living tree, next to the bark,
and is lighter in color than the core. It contains the living cells and takes
an active part in the life process of a tree. Since it contains more organic
matter than the core, it is more susceptible to insects and fungi.

2. Heartwood
The Heartwood is located at the core of a living tree and is darker in color
than the sapwood. It contains inactive cells and serves only as mechanical
support in the life process of a tree.


1. Softwood
Softwood comes from coniferous or cone-bearing trees with needle-
pointed leaves. It has a fine texture. It has no pores and is moisture-
Common Softwoods
Cedar, Cypress, Douglas Fir, Hemlock, Pine, Redwood, Spruce

2. Hardwood
Hardwood comes from deciduous trees with broad leaves. Its texture
ranges from fine to coarse. It has pores and is moisture-conducting.

Common Hardwoods
Alder, Apitong, Ash, Basswood, Beech, Birch, Cherry, Ebony, Hickory,
Ipil, Lauan, Lignum Vitae, Mahogany, Maple, Molave, Narra, Oak,
Padauk, Poplar, Rosewood, Tanguile, Teak, Tindalo, Walnut, Wenge,
Yakal, Zebrawood

Though hardwoods are usually harder, some softwoods like Southern Pine
and Douglas Fir are harder than hardwoods like Poplar and Lauan. "Hard"
does not always mean strength or weight while "Soft" does not always
mean unreliability and lightness. However, the terms have now become a
standard in distinguishing the two types of wood.


1. Timber is a piece of wood with not less than 5 inches in any dimension
(length, width or thickness).
2. Lumber is a piece of wood with more than 2 inches but less than 5
inches in any dimension.
3. Board is a piece of wood that is less than 2 inches thick and at least 8
inches wide.
4. Plank is a piece of wood that is __ thick and less than 8 inches wide.
5. Strip is a piece of wood that is less than 2 inches thick and less than 2
inches wide.


1. Plainsawn is the most common cut. It cuts the wood into long strips along its length and
creates the least waste.
2. Quartersawn cuts the log into four "quarters” and produces less square feet than
plainsawing making it more expensive.
3. Riftsawn is somewhere between plainsawn and quartersawn. It creates many wedge-
shaped scraps and results in boards with similar grain patterns .

Bow - a curve along the face of a board that usually runs from end to end
Wane - presence of bark or absence of wood on corners of a piece of lumber
Crook - warping along the edge from one end to the other
Cupping - warping along the face of a board across the width of the board
Split - a crack in the wood structure of a piece
Blue Stain - discoloration that penetrates the wood fibre
Machine Burn - darkening of the wood due to overheating
Pitch - accumulation of resinous material on the surface or in pockets below the surface
Loose Knot - a knot that cannot be relied upon to remain in place in the piece
Tight Knot- a knot fixed by growth or position in the wood structure
Wormholes - small holes in the wood caused by insects and beetles

1. Air Drying - stacking timber and letting the heat of the atmosphere and the natural air
movement remove the moisture
2. Kiln Drying - timber is stacked in much the same way as for air drying, and is placed
inside a chamber
3. Solar Drying - offers a compromise between the low energy requirement of air drying
and the speed of kiln drying
4. Microwave Seasoning - pulsed microwave energy is directed into layers of timber in a
manner that will drive the moisture out of the timber
5. Chemical Seasoning - soaking the green timber (as soon as it is cut) in a hydroscopic
chemical for about a day


A. Softwoods and Hardwoods are sold either by the lineal foot or by the
board foot.

1. Lineal foot is used for small orders. It considers only the piece's
2. Board foot is the equivalent of a board that is 1 inch thick, 1 foot wide
and 1 foot long. It considers the piece's thickness, width and length. It is
used for volume orders.

B. Nominal and Actual Sizes

1. Nominal size is the size of the wood when sliced from the log.
2. Actual size is the size of the wood after it has been dried and surfaced.

Designation of Surfaced Woods depends on the number of faces or edges

that are planed/surfaced:
a. S1S means surfaced one side.
b. S2S means surfaced two sides.
c. S3S means surfaced three sides.
d. S4S means surfaced four sides.
e. S1E means surfaced on one edge.
g. S2E means surfaced on two edges.
h. S1S1E means surfaced one side and one edge.


1. Plywood is an engineered/composite wood made of wood veneers plied

together with an adhesive. The grain of each piece is laid at right angles to
those adjoining thus increasing the strength of the wood in all directions.
2. MDF or Medium Density Fiber board is an engineered/composite
wood made of fiber residues and an adhesive. It is denser than particle
3. Particle board is an engineered/composite wood made of wood chips,
wood shavings, sawdust and an adhesive.
4. Wood Veneer is composed of a thin layer of wood glued onto a core backer (ex. MDF,
particle board)


Primer/sealers work to eliminate stains (including stains from water and fire damage), cover
wood imperfections, and seal the surface evenly so a topcoat will have uniform gloss.

three basic types:

• alkyd based and latex based - work well as stain killers and general-purpose primers on
both interiors and exteriors.
• shellac based - blocks out the widest variety of stains, including knots and sap streaks in
new wood, and adheres to slick surfaces such as glass and tile. This type is recommended for
general-purpose priming on all interior surfaces, but should only be used for spot priming on
exterior surfaces.

Wood sealer is used on soft woods to help tame wild grain patterns and even-out stain
absorbency. The sealer penetrates the wood, slowing stain absorbency for a more even color
appearance and grain pattern.

Wood stains are generally used to enhance the grain of the wood and emphasize grain contrasts.
They may or may not protect the wood

two types of stain:

• Semitransparent - can be applied over bare wood or previously semitransparent stained
(but not sealed) wood.
• Semisolid - be applied over bare wood, previously stained and even painted surfaces in
sound condition.

Exterior stains are used primarily on wood siding and shingles, decks, outdoor structures
and furniture. They are available in latex and oil-based formulas. Latex stains do not typically
fade as rapidly as oil stains. Latex stains are often recommended for redo over previously oil-
based stained or painted surfaces due to their excellent adhesion properties.

Water-repellent preservative stains contain a fungicide and a water repellent,

protecting against decay, mildew, warping, splitting and cracking, as well as wood deterioration.
They can be oil- or latex-based stains in semitransparent and transparent finishes.

Interior stains, used for furniture and woodwork, come in either pigmented or dye
categories. Both can have oil or synthetic bases.

Pigmented stains color the wood with the same type of pigments used in paint. They
range in color from almost clear to semitransparent. They are easy to apply, usually brushed on
or wiped on with a rag, and then wiped off to control the depth of the stain. They leave no brush
or lap marks if applied properly.

Dye stains are more difficult to use and are more frequently used by professionals. Most
come in powders, to be mixed in a solvent. Most are highly flammable. Premixed dyes are most
often used by the d-i-y-er.

Colored oil finishes provide coloring and protection in one step. However, oil finishes do not
stand up to alcohol or water the way polyurethanes do, so they are not recommended for high-
traffic, abuse-prone applications. But oils make nice, low-luster finishes for furniture and other
fine pieces. Waxing can provide water resistance with these finishes.

Examples: Danish oil, tung oil or Swedish oil

Varnish is a blend of oils and resins that coats the surface of wood and gives a transparent,
protective coating, allowing the beauty of the wood to show through. Depending on its
formulation, it can leave a gloss, semigloss or satin finish. Varnishes are typically mixed with a
tung oil or linseed oil.

types of varnishes:

• Phenolic varnishes of modified phenolic oils are the most expensive of the varnishes but
deliver the best performance in terms of durability, especially in exterior uses. They absorb
ultraviolet light and neutralize oxidation. The downside of phenoics is that they tend to yellow
faster than other varnishes.
• Alkyd varnishes offer flexibility and hardness in both interior and exterior uses, but they
oxidize more quickly in exterior use. However, they do not yellow as much as phenolics
• Polyurethanes are highly recommended for interior use because of their superior
protection. For interior use, phenolic or polyurethane stains are better for water resistance and
hard use, but customers may object to the plastic appearance they produce.
• Latex

Shellac provides a fast, hard-drying, durable finish for furniture, woodwork, hardwood floors
and other wood-finishing applications. It also functions as a sealer and stain killer on drywall,
cured plaster and new wood. Shellac is widely compatible with other coatings, and it can be
applied over old shellac, varnish or lacquer finishes that are adhering well.

Lacquer is a clear or coloured varnish that dries by solvent evaporation and often a curing
process as well that produces a hard, durable finish, in any sheen level from ultra matte to high
gloss and that can be further polished as required.

• Urushiol-based lacquers
• Nitrocellulose lacquers
• Acrylic lacquers
• Water-based lacquers

Wood Preservatives
generally classified as one of three types:
• clear alkyd or oil-based type without fungicide is sometimes called log oil or log-cabin
• the second type has the same base with fungicide additives of penta, cuprinol or a
• the third type consists of a non-paintable preservative containing wax or creosote oil,
primarily for farm use.

Water Repellent helps minimize water damage on pressure-treated and untreated wood. Some
water repellents also contain a mildewcide to help control mold and mildew growth. It's best to
use a water repellent that is formulated for immediate application to pressure-treated wood to
avoid premature cracking, splitting, splintering and warping. Periodic re-applications help
prevent water damage as wood ages.

Wood toners are water repellents that add color to highlight wood grain. Although
toners are not to be considered a stain, adding color to a water repellent gives wood the
benefit of ultraviolet light protection. Most toners on the market are designed for use on
pressure-treated wood. Not all repellents contain ingredients that cause water to bead.

Solid Wood Flooring

- can generally be recoated and refinished several times
- available in both an unfinished and a pre-finished version

Strip Flooring - denoted by the thickness and width of the wood

planks and has a set width, but the thickness can vary

Plank Flooring - only comes in two thicknesses, but unlike strip

flooring, the widths can vary

Parquet Flooring - made up of geometrical patterns composed of

individual wood slats held in place by mechanical fastening or an

Engineered Wood Flooring

- produced by laminating several hardwood plies together to form the

Laminate Wood Flooring

- designed for light traffic areas
- has the appeal of real hardwood, is more durable and requires less


Wainscot Paneling
- a paneling style applied to the lower 3' (900mm) to 5' (1500mm)
of an interior wall
- ornate and intricately carved wood panelling
- a strip of material with various cross sections used to cover
transitions between surfaces or for decoration


Wood is the traditional material for furniture. Whether it is sawn, carved, turned or laminated,
wood provides furniture with natural appeal. Used judiciously, wood has the advantage of being
tough, light and decorative.

Steam Bending is the process of weakening, stretching and reforming wood fibers to the desired

Bonding - Wide boards are often cut into long narrower planks and bonded back together. In
solid wood furniture, strips are carefully glued together to form the tops, sides and door panels.
The interior may be of another wood.

Combination wood panels are made by mixing wood particles, chips or flakes with
resins and binding agents. These sheets are formed under extreme heat and tremendous
pressure making them exceptionally strong, stable and resistant to warping. Called
chipboard, particleboard, fiberboard or engineered wood, this material is frequently
used on the backs of cabinets and doors or as cores for tops and panels.

Shaping is achieved by gluing blocks of wood together. These blocks can be machined for a
deep carved pattern or turned and shaped into a leg, pedestal or post.

Ply construction is achieved by adding layers, placed at cross grain, to a solid wood or
particleboard core. Adhesives are placed on each layer and this "sandwich" is permanently
bonded under high pressure. Modern glues and manufacturing techniques have made ply
construction very strong and resistant to warping.

Veneer construction is the application of this layers of highly decorative woods on top of solid
cores, plywood, particle board or medium-density fiberboard. Veneering allows great flexibility,
making it possible to match grain patterns or use inlays to create designs that nature can’t
produce in the solid wood. Today, wood furniture in all price ranges is made of veneer
construction which allows maximum use of beautiful, distinctive grain patterns and rare woods at
affordable prices.

Modern technology has produced a less expensive method of achieving the look of wood
veneers. Manufacturers can simulate a natural wood grain by printing or engraving a pattern on
surfaces such as density fiberboard. This beautiful furniture is easier to produce and available at
a lower price than genuine wood veneers. It’s attractive and durable but usually doesn’t provide
the same benefits as the real thing. However, printing and engraving offers you exceptional look
on a limited budget.

Joinery is simply the method by which two pieces of wood are connected. In many cases, the
appearance of a joint becomes at least as important as it's strength.
Mitered Butt Joints - A Cleaner Butt Joint
While the Butt Joint is the most basic method of woodworking joinery, a
Mitered Butt Joint is often more favorable, because the end grain of the
two pieces of stock are hidden. This is especially useful on picture frames
or when joining moldings.

Mortise & Tenon Joints - Simple and Strong

Mortise & Tenon joints have been employed by woodworkers for

Tongue and Groove Joinery

When joining two boards together lengthwise, the tongue and groove joint
is much stronger than a butt glue joint. Tongue and groove joints can be
created on matching boards using matching router bits, or on a table saw

Half Lap Joints

Half lap joints are a basic form of joinery where half of the material is
removed from two pieces of stock so that they fit together flush

Doweling - Woodworking Joinery

Doweling has been used for centuries as a method of woodworking
joinery. The principle of doweling is simple: a few dowels are glued into
matching holes in corresponding boards. The joint is clamped until the
glue dries, which yields a strong, durable, classic woodworking joint.

Biscuit Joinery
When your woodworking plans call for certain types of connections
between pieces of stock such as edge-to-edge joints, miter joints, T-joints
and corner joints, one of the simplest and most effective methods of
joinery is the biscuit joint

Pocket Joinery
Pocket Joints are little more than a screw driven through a diagonally
placed hole. While pocket joints can be difficult to create by hand, with a
special pocket hole jig, they are very easy to use.

One of the most useful joints, particularly when building cabinets, is the
dado. A dado is merely a groove cut into one piece of wood that will
securely hold another piece of wood.
Another very useful joint for connecting two pieces of stock, particularly
when building cabinets, is the rabbet. A rabbet is merely a dado cut into
one piece of wood at the edge that will securely hold another piece of

• Dovetail
Blind dovetails are often used in drawer construction because of the
strength the locking design provides. They can be cut by hand or with a
router and a special jig.

Simple joints – for light loads
Complex – when appearance matter
Superior – part of the craftsmanship


Woodturning is a form of woodworking that is used to create wooden objects on a lathe (see:
also antique wooden polelathe). Woodturning differs from most other forms of woodworking in
that the wood is moving while a stationary tool is used to cut and shape it. Many intricate shapes
and designs can be made by turning wood.

Common Woodturned Items

• Furniture parts - spindles, table legs, stretchers, finials, or other furniture parts
• Bowls - vessels with a large opening on top
• Platters and serving trays
• Hollow forms - similar to bowls, except usually taller and with a small opening, when
compared to the hollow interior
• Pepper mills and candlesticks
• Sculptural formsTool handles, especially those for files and lathe tools