Wood Species for Furniture

Back in 2015 I posted an ad for a furniture cabinet
I built. Still have the cabinet and last evening completed
the “install” of same on a shelf made for the purpose on
the wall of outer part of shop. This was due to fact I could
not squeeze it in on any existing bench or table.
Now I am going, as time allows, to mill up furniture
in sizes and lengths I don’t have. Which brings up the question:
What was the preferred wood to make furniture out of?
The “starter set” that came with my press is so stained with
ink that it’s hard to tell. In the past I have experimented with Red Oak, Poplar and #2 White Wood to get through a particular job set-up situation.

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Skyline sell furniture and state that theirs is kiln dried Birchwood that is hand rubbed with linseed oil.


Quite a bit of the older stuff here in the UK was mahogany, linseed oil rubbed as you say. Parkerboards were certainly mahogany blocks. You know, the stuff that is sort of a Boxcar bases grandfather, but much, much larger in area for really big presses, with an iron binding frame. You panel pinned your zincos on. Two heights of course, one for for originals and one for stereos and electros. Alll now long forgotten.

The lazy answer to me would be to look at a table of compressive strengths of various wood, like this one:


Comparing the data from this thread so far: (in units of pounds of force required to shove a ball of some known size some known distance into the surface of the wood)

I’m assuming ‘white wood’ is marketese for Spruce-Pine-Fir, which around here means Spruce.

Red Oak: 1,290
Birch: 1,260
Mahogany: 800
Poplar: 540
Spruce: 510

Appreciate input
Indeed, #2 White Wood is Spruce-Pine-Fir around here
as well. I will go this morning and see if I can pick up
some Birchwood. Can’t recall ever working with any in past.
I have a 2 Up numbering job where the machines are offset
(in the long axis of the sheet) from each other. Need to mill up a couple pieces of furniture 3/4” wide.
(Width of a Liebinger 13)
Then I can lock up my chase and keep even pressure.
Probably will try a longer quoin than I normally use.

If you can’t find any birch (hopefully yellow birch), then the big box stores which sell lumber always have maple. That is a fine grained, hard wood and should do ok. The old wood type is maple most of the time. Wood type is usually end grain and you would be using side grain, but I don’t think that would make a difference.

That being said, I highly recommend that you get furniture from Skyline. Furniture is hard to cut with the accuracy that is necessary. If it isn’t accurate, it is much harder and more time consuming to work with, because you have to compensate for the differences between the inaccurate furniture sizes and the type, metal spacing, lead and slug sizes which are very accurate.

Making my own furniture, with accuracy. I use a Hammond glider saw and a commercial table saw with laser accuracy. I also use the same furniture pieces to set up the different cuts, as a pattern. I even put the size on the end with a metal stamp.
I use hard maple. It’s tough and very light weight. I make reglets of any size.
Hard Maple is 1450 in strength. Maple was used by Hamilton.
It won’t let me attach a picture.

So, based on all of the suggestions so far, hard maple, red oak, birchwood, and mahogany have all been used. Poplar and Spruce are probably usable but are more likely to be deformed by pressure than the above.

For other woods, the higher the compressive strength the better.

Precise sizes are important when mixing wood furniture with metal type and furniture, but if only used on the periphery are less of an issue. The harder the wood the more accurate the size will remain. The list above is in descending order of hardness.

Wooden furniture is usually rubbed with linseed oil.

In the catalog No. 27, which dates from 1951, Hamilton states that its furniture was made from kiln dried Birch. It also offered reglet and furniture made from Basswood, a softer wood. I placed the last order for furniture made by Thompson a few years back and that included both Maple and Ash. Ed Thompson dipped into his private stash of wood which included bird’s eye maple to make that last order. And it was truly beautiful wood. We continue to make furniture for one commercial customer and we use Ash which makes a very nice item. We have a cabinet maker in our building who runs the wood for us and we use a micrometer to make sure the material comes out accurately. We also have a company in our building that makes snowboards and they use a laminated wood core of Ash and Poplar, so we have a ready source for the wood.

Thanks to all for info
I now have a list of wood species that has added to what I had been using and is available locally.
My shop is a combo woodchuck/letterpress setup so I have been taking advantage of any chance to make that work in a practical sense to include milling up my own furniture.

Now one additional question: the linseed oil was to seal the piece from excessive absorption of ink thus causing swelling/distortion of the intended size/s?
Seal to make clean-up easier?

In their catalog, Hamilton stated “This furniture and reglet is well oiled to prevent warping and absorption of moisture.” Simple as that. Oiling would not prevent ink from being absorbed and almost all used furniture, especially from commercial shops, is black from hundreds and thousands of washups over the years. Thompson used a paraffin oil for their furniture. Some pictures of the last furniture order made by Thompson back in 2006 are in this album: