What are the best types of wood for picture frames? Currently there are 12 different species of wood that are used across the industry. Of course, some wood species work better than others when it comes to choosing a particular finish, so it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the properties of the different wood species that we here at A Street offer.
Poplar – Grows across most of the eastern U.S.; softest of the hardwoods we offer, also the least expensive; easy to work with; works very well with veneers; yellowish-white in color
Maple – Grows throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada; extremely popular for its beautiful, smooth grain and blond color; very hard, heavy and strong; resistant to abrasion; sands beautifully, takes stain well; best choice for use with one of our opaque lacquers or a clear natural finish
Ash – Grows throughout eastern U.S. with exception of the Gulf and South Atlantic coasts; very strong and hard and has a beautiful grain pattern that can be straight and tight or nice and wide; most baseball bats are made from Northern White Ash; blond in color, boards stay very straight and are generally easy to work with
Cherry – Grows throughout eastern U.S.; reddish color and beautiful smooth grain; softer than Maple or Ash, but sufficiently hard to withstand hard use; easy to work with, sands and finishes beautifully; takes stain very well, very popular with our Rosewood and Sable stain colors, but perhaps most popular finished naturally; natural color deepens over time, resulting in a beautiful, lustrous finish
Mahogany – Imported, grows in central and South America; very popular and very easy to work with; reddish-brown color and flecked/pitted grain pattern; easy to work with, boards can be extremely long and straight; stains beautifully, or like Cherry, can be shown with just a natural finish
Fishtail Oak – Imported, grows in Southeast Asia and South America; remarkable “fish scale” grain pattern can be very tight or very wide/splayed; reddish-brown color, very heavy and hard, can be difficult to sand perfectly smooth due to honeycomb effect in grain pattern; looks beautiful in many different stain colors, but not a good choice for a natural finish
European Beech – Imported, native of western Europe; beautiful light color and pitted grain; fairly hard and moderately heavy; easy to work with, sands smoothly and finishes well; grain pattern similar to Mahogany; very nice when finished naturally but also looks great in a variety of different stain colors; looks great with a natural finish in a clean, contemporary frame
Padauk – Pronounced “PA-DOOK”; imported, native of southeast Asia; remarkable purplish-red color and pitted grain pattern, longer flecks that found in grain of Mahogany or Beech; as heavy as oak but stronger, Padauk takes stain beautifully and has a deep, lustrous finish; particularly vulnerable to UV light and has tendency to darken
Birdseye Maple – Not a separate species of wood, Birdseye Maple is the result of an unexplained phenomenon that results in the typical grain of maple becoming populated with a fantastic pattern of floating “eyes”; grain pattern varies substantially from board to board, tree to tree; rare, and quite expensive, especially finished naturally which requires the most select figured stock; in other respects properties mimic those of regular Maple
Tiger Maple – Like Birdseye Maple, Tiger Maple gets its name from the deviation in the grain of regular maple that resembles tiger stripes; in all other respects Tiger Maple demonstrates the same properties of regular maple with regard to strength and appearance
ASF always selects the best stock available when using figured hardwoods to make your frame, and we are experts at achieving a uniform grain pattern throughout the frame.
Quartersawn Oak – The result of what happens when a board of White Oak is cut at right angles to the grain, resulting in a spectacular pattern of decorative “rays”; more waste is generated when cutting a log this way, so Quartersawn boards tend to be more expensive; with its light brown tone and tough, heavy, and hard characteristics, White Oak is one of the preeminent hardwoods of North America
Walnut – Native to eastern North America; while lighter than Oak, it is heavy and strong; light brownish-grey in color; grain pattern is pitted, similar to that of Mahogany; highly valued for its darkly colored heartwood; sands and finishes very well, looks beautiful with a blackened oil or dark colored stain
A special note about exotic hardwoods:
ASF encourages the use of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified sustainable hardwoods. The vast majority of the wood moldings that we produce come from FSC certified boards, meaning that the materials employed originated in carefully managed forests. We continue to work with our suppliers to locate materials that come from environmentally responsible sources.