Furniture forms an important part of our lives and our households. Our identity is incomplete without the furniture at home and office. Today, modern furniture is mostly made using compressed wood or plywood. Traditionally our carpenters have used solid wood without much processing or industrial alteration to make furniture. Despite various synthetic alternatives Indian households still prefer solid wood furniture because of their durability, artistic value (they support fine carvings) and reparability. There are two main classifications – Hardwood and Softwood, based on their strength and it determined by its wood density.
We have listed below 10 most useful timbers used for making furniture in India.
(Scientific name: Tectona grandis | Color: Deep yellow to dark brown | Density :639 kg/m³ | Found in: Central India and Southern India)
Moderately hard, teak is durable and fire-resistant. It can be easily seasoned and worked. It takes up a good polish and is not attacked by white ants and dry rot. It does not corrode iron fastenings and it shrinks little. It is among the most valuable timber trees of the world and its use is limited to superior work only.
Image credits: Mnemosine
(Scientific name: Dalbergia sissoo | Color: Dark brown | Density :770 kg/m³ | Found in: Mysore, Maharashtra, Assam, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa)
Also known as shisham or tali, this wood is strong and tough. It is durable and handsome and it maintains its shape well. It can be easily seasoned. It is difficult to work but it takes a fine polish. It is used for high quality furniture, plywoods, bridge piles, sport goods, railway sleepers and so forth. It is a very good material for decorative works.
Image credits: Andy king50
(Scientific name: Chloroxylon swietenia | Color: Yellow | Density :960 kg/m³ | Found in: Central and Southern India)
It is very hard and durable. It is close grained. It is used for furniture and other ornamental works. Vulnerable
(Scientific name: Shorea robusta | Color: Brown | Density :880–1050 kg/m³ | Found in: Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa)
It is hard, fibrous and close-grained. It does not take up a good polish. It requires slow and careful seasoning. It is durable underground and water. It is used for railway sleepers, shipbuilding, and bridges.
(Scientific name: Dalbergia latifolia | Color: Dark | Density :850 kg/m³ | Found in: Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orrissa)
It is strong, tough and close-grained. It is a handsome wood that takes up a high polish. It maintains its shape well and is available in large sizes. It is used for furniture of superior quality, cabinet work, ornamental carvings and so forth. Vulnerable
Image credits: Ian Burt
(Scientific name: Pinus spp.)
Pine wood is hard and tough except white pine which is soft. It decays easily if it comes into contact with soil. It is heavy and coarse grained. It is used for pattern making, frames for doors and windows, and for paving material. White pine is light and straight grained and is used in the manufacture of matches.
(Scientific name: Morus spp. | Color: Brown | Density :650 kg/m³ | Found in: Punjab)
It is strong, tough and elastic. It takes up a clean finish. It can be well seasoned. It is turned and carved easily. Mulberry is typically used for baskets and sports goods like hockey sticks, tennis rackets and cricket bats.
Image credits: Roger Culos
(Scientific name: Swietenia spp. | Color: Reddish brown | Density :720 kg/m³)
It takes a good polish and is easily worked. It is durable under water. It is most commonly used for furniture, pattern making and cabinet work.
(Scientific name: Mangifera caesia. | Color: Yellow, darkens with age | Density :595 kg/m³ | Found in: Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala)
It is compact and even grained. It is moderately strong and easy to work. It takes a good finish and maintains its shape well. It has many uses including plain furniture, boat construction, well curbs, door panels, cabinet making and musical instruments.
Image credits: Thamizhpparithi Maari
(Scientific name: Cedrus deodara | Color: Yellowish brown | Density :560 kg/m³ | Found in: Himalayas, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh)
Deodar is the most important timber tree providing soft wood. It can be easily worked and it is moderately strong. It possesses distinct annual rings. It is used for making cheap furniture, railway carriages, railway sleepers, packing boxes, structural work and so forth.
(Scientific name: Family Poaceae, tribe Bambuseae | Found in: Throughout India, especially Assam and Bengal)
Not actually a tree, but a woody grass, it is flexible, very strong and durable. It is used for scaffoldings, thatched roofs, rafters, temporary bridges, and so forth.
Image credits: Bin im Garten