Most woodworkers tend to favor darker-colored woods for various woodworking projects. But nowadays, there is a trend of going in for lighter colored wood. Pale woods give you a spacious and clean aesthetic.
The lightest-colored types of wood are gaining popularity and it’s easy to see why. Pale woods in a room give a spacious, airy, and clean ambiance. You can get a variety of colors in light-colored woods in countless types. Pale wood is beautiful and versatile, yet strong and easily workable, and often cheaper than most darker types of hardwood.
Pale-colored wood – Pros and Cons
Although darker woods are a popular option with woodworkers, pale woods have a unique set of characteristics that give them an advantage over darker colored woods. Statistically pale woods tend to be softer. However, there are some significantly hard and strong pale-colored woods like maple.
In this post, we take a close look at the best aspects of the lightest-colored types of wood. To provide an unbiased viewpoint on the subject, we also list out some of the drawbacks of this type of wood.
Pale-colored Woods: Pros
Beautiful and Versatile
Lighter woods have a lot more versatility than darker colored woods because they can fit into many different decors whether it is in an urban or country setting.
Pale wood is a great medium for architects, designers, and woodworkers alike to make a statement. It brings out the minimalist, Scandinavian looks that such lumber ushers in. It automatically imbibes an optimistic, light, calm, and airy atmosphere in a room.
Whenever you need a neutral backdrop where you have unique pieces of furniture that you want to highlight, pale wood provides suitable contrast.
Strong and Durable
There are many pale types of wood that are more delicate than the darker hardwoods, particularly in softwood. Nevertheless, there are many light-colored types of wood that are particularly hard. They resist abrasion and denting extremely well.
So, when you are looking for wood for your project, do not dismiss the idea of pale-colored wood. There are some good varieties of pale woods that have adequate strength and durability – as good as any darker hardwood.
Workability and Uses
When you look for a suitable type of wood for a project that is easily workable, there is a variety of pale-colored woods to choose from. You can easily glue, machine, cut, and drive nails into pale woods, especially the softer types.
Whatever project you plan, whether it be for flooring, making furniture, cladding for outdoor use, or even packing boxes, pale-colored wood can come to your rescue.
Cost-Effective Wood Source
Another great advantage of pale-colored wood is the cost of lumber. You can a project that not only looks good, is easy to assemble, but will also cost you a fraction of darker-colored hardwood.
Pale-colored wood is one of the most widely-available types of wood across the United States. You will see a considerable quantity of it in lumber yards and hardware stores.
So, you can be sure of getting an adequate supply of pale-colored wood for whatever woodworking projects you have in hand.
Pale-colored Woods: Cons
Shows Wear and Tear
Pale-colored wood, whether hardwood or softwood especially in high-traffic areas, tends to deteriorate fast if you locate them in high-traffic areas. Wear and tear can occur due to shoes and places where you move around furniture frequently.
Tends to Look Washed Out
The way faded clothes can undermine your appearance, pale-colored wood has a similar effect on a room. If you already have too many pale-colored objects in a room, then you would do well to use a slightly darker-colored wooden flooring.
Shows Up Dirt More Readily
Light-colored wood can show up grime easily. It is not recommended for flooring, especially if you have small children or pets at home.
Highlights Defects More Prominently
Defects like knots, gaps, and splits show up more easily in light-colored wood. If you have light-colored furniture or flooring, you may have to use wood fillers and a slightly darker finish to mask defects in the wood.
Tends to Fade
Surprisingly, light-colored woods tend to fade in contrast to darker-colored hardwood which tends to darken with age. The reason here is that light colors absorb light more readily.
If you have light-colored wooden furniture and flooring in a room brightly lit with natural light, the wood may fade quickly.
Challenges in Style Selection
When you consider using lighter-colored wood, exercise caution in selecting the type of shade and color. It is not always easy to match particular light shades with the existing décor and home, particularly when it comes to cabinets.
Lightest-colored Types of Wood
Now, let us take a look at some of the lightest-colored types of wood that you can get on the market. Most of these wood types are extremely popular and commonly used by woodworkers across the United States and the world.
American Hard Maple (Acer saccharum)
We call American hard maple different names like sugar maple, hard maple, and rock maple. It is one of the commonest light-colored woods used in the United States.
You will find hard maple growing in the northeastern region of the United States and Canada. The trees are tall at up to 115 feet with tree trunk diameters of up to 3 feet in diameter. American hard maple is one of the hardest light-colored woods with a Janka hardness rating of 1,450 lbf.
It is almost white to off-white cream. You may sometimes see a reddish tint. If you ask anyone for a typical light-colored wood, maple is the first likely type of wood that may come to mind.
Maple is a cold-weather tree with high durability. Thanks to its extreme hardness it has a high degree of scratch resistance. You can easily use maple in the high-traffic, high-impact areas in your home.
Maple is a pale-colored, straight-grained type of wood with a fine and natural texture. It is easy to work on with spectacular results.
Hard maple is good for use in flooring for bowling alleys and dance floors, high-end furniture, cabinets, and kitchen furniture.
American White Oak (Quercus alba)
Here’s another example of a pale-colored wood that is durable but with good looks. American white oak grows in the eastern region of the United States. The trees grow up to 85 feet and the trunks grow up to 5 feet in diameter.
It is a moderately hard type of wood with a Janka hardness rating of 1,350 lbf. This wood is light or medium brown and may have an olive-green tint to it. It has a straight wood grain pattern with a coarse, uneven texture.
White oak is an extremely durable wood. We use it to make boats and tight cooperage applications (like wooden barrels). We also use American white oak for flooring, doors, and windows.
European Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
European beech is native to Europe. The trees are quite high growing up to 130 feet and the tree trunks may grow up to a diameter of 5 feet.
This wood is as hard as sugar maple with a Janka hardness of 1,450 lbf. European beech is pale cream and the lumber has a fine, even texture. The fine, straight wood grain shows beautifully in polished flooring and furniture.
We consider European beech a non-durable and perishable type of wood because offers no resistance to insect attack. Nevertheless, it is an easy wood to work with and also responds well to steam bending.
We use European beech in construction and also for making cabinets, furniture, musical instruments, veneer, flooring, boat building, and turned objects.
White Ash (Fraxinus americana)
White ash is native to the eastern parts of the United States. The wood is beige to white with an occasional light brown. The trees are high growing up to 100 feet with tree trunk diameters up to 5 feet.
White ash is quite hard with a Janka hardness rating of 1,320 lbf. The grain is medium to coarse. It has a straight grain, although you may find figured or curly patterns in some of the boards.
The heartwood of white ash is perishable but is has slight durability and resistance to decay. It shows no resistance to insect attack.
White ash is an easy wood to work with using hand or machine tools. You can also steam bend it easily and apply a finish with satisfactory results.
We use white ash in millwork, to make boxes and crates, baseball bats, flooring, tool handles, and other turned objects.
Pine Wood (Pinus strobus)
When we talk about light softwood, one of the first types of wood that comes to mind is pinewood. There is a wide variety of pinewood that you can find. Most types of pinewood are light-colored, with a few exceptions.
Some of the most popular types of pine are eastern white pine, lodgepole pine, red pine, and western white pine.
The most popular type of pine used in the United States is eastern white pine that we can consider a prime example of light-colored pinewood.
Eastern white pine grows in the eastern region of the United States. You can also find it grown widely in plantations. The eastern white pine tree grows to up to 100 feet with a tree trunk up to 4 feet in diameter.
This wood is typically soft, with a Janka hardness of 380 lbf. Eastern white pine has a light brown heartwood with a pale yellow to almost white sapwood. This wood has a straight grain with a medium, natural texture.
The wood is moderately resistant to decay. Like all other pines, it has a mild, resinous odor when you work it. Eastern white pine is easy to work with using various tools. It glues and finishes quite adequately.
Being a widely-available wood, the price is moderate to cheap. We use this type of pine for millwork, construction lumber, boat building, and making carved objects.
Fir Wood (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
Fir is another wood is another variety that includes many light-colored types of wood. The most prominent type of fir is Douglas fir. Other species like western larch and Abies fir are also significantly light-colored woods.
Taking Douglas fir as a prime example of light-colored fir wood, it grows primarily in the northern region of the United States. The trees are huge growing up to a whopping 250 feet, with tree trunk diameters of up to 6 feet.
Douglas fir is one of the harder softwoods with a Janka hardness of up to 620 lbf. It varies in color depending on the age of the tree and where it is located.
This wood is light brown with occasional yellow and red with darker growth rings that give the wood grain its characteristic stripey appearance. Douglas fir has a straight grain, but patterns may differ according to the way the wood is cut. Douglas fir has a natural, moderate luster.
It is moderately durable but prone to insect attack. It is an easy wood to work but it tends to have a blunting effect on cutting blades. Douglas fir however accepts glues, finishes, and stains well.
Like most evergreen lumber, it has a characteristic resinous odor when you work with it. Douglas fir is easily available and reasonably priced but some of the old-growth boards can be rather expensive.
We use Douglas fir for construction and to make plywood and veneer. Douglas fir gets its name from the Scottish botanist, David Douglas.
Spruce (Picea glauca)
Spruce is generally a light-colored wood. The group includes Engelmann spruce, white spruce, Norway spruce, and ironically, black spruce which is among the fairest of them all. The commonest in this group is white spruce which we shall consider as an example here.
White spruce grows in the northern-most region of the United States. The trees are high and grow up to 110 feet with tree trunk diameters reaching up to 3 feet. It has moderate hardness amongst the softwoods with a Janka hardness rating of 480 lbf.
White spruce is uniquely creamy-white with a tint of yellow. It has a fine, even texture and the grain is straight and consistent.
The wood has a moderate resistance to decay and is easy to work with except at the sections with knots. You will find it easy to finish and glue spruce easily and also to drive nails and screws into it.
When you apply a finish to spruce, however, you need to take a bit of care because of the tendency to form blotches. Using a sanding sealer, toner, or gel stain can help you to impart a better finish.
We use spruce as pulpwood for making paper, in millwork, as construction lumber, and for making wooden crates and boxes.
The lightest-colored types of wood are some of the most attractive ones in the world of woodworking. You can gain immense satisfaction by using this type of wood but it is useful to know a bit about these woods, their price, and their various characteristics.
Now that we have given you ample information about some of the lightest-colored types of wood, we hope that you can procure some and try it out in your future woodworking projects.