Industry and business

Types of natural and artificial wood and their main features

Types of natural and artificial wood and their main features

The World of Woods is vast, thanks to the diversity of trees from which wood is derived. Ultimately, all woods come from a single source, which is natural trees that God has provided on Earth to be a source of food and aid in our work and industries. Therefore, many people search for the types of natural or engineered woods that may suit their specific uses. Let us now explore the most important types of wood in detail.

Firstly, what are woods?

Woods are porous, hydrated, and moldable organic materials that can take on different forms during their growth in response to external influences. They are obtained from woody plants, specifically trees, shrubs, and timber.

The Importance of Woods in Our Lives

Wood is one of the most diverse natural raw materials on Earth and perhaps the most common. The crucial role it plays in our daily lives is often noticed by everyone. Millions of people around the world earn their livelihood through the use of wood, and the quality of our lives has been greatly improved due to this remarkable resource.

A Chemical Perspective on Woods

Wood is a complex polymeric structure consisting of lignin (an amorphous and insoluble organic polymer that is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to isolate in its natural state) and carbohydrates such as cellulose and hemicellulose. Additionally, small amounts of other organic chemicals and minerals exist, primarily calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, manganese, sulfur, chlorine, silicon, and phosphorus.

Types of Woods and Their Categories

Woods can be classified into two categories: natural woods and engineered woods.

Natural Woods:

These are woods that are naturally produced, meaning they grow as trees, and have not undergone chemical treatment. Natural woods can be further divided into softwoods and hardwoods, each having distinct characteristics. They are generally expensive and costly compared to engineered woods.

Engineered Woods:

Engineered woods are manufactured by bonding or gluing wood fibers, particles, veneers, or panels with adhesive materials or other fastening methods to form composite wood. These products are designed according to precise design specifications that are tested to meet national or international design standards.

Engineered woods are economical as they are cheaper compared to natural woods, but they are generally of lower quality. They are easier to shape compared to natural woods.

One of the characteristics of engineered woods is that they are of lower quality and durability compared to natural woods. They are prone to breakage and have a shorter lifespan, typically lasting from 4 to 6 years. Repairing them can be challenging if they are broken.

Types of Natural Woods

  1. Oak Wood: Oak wood is one of the most popular and widely used types of hardwood. It comes in different varieties, including European oak, Turkish oak, American oak, Russian oak, and Romanian oak. It has a light brown color with a reddish tint and a uniform texture in all directions.
  2. Ebony Wood: Ebony wood is a rare and highly valued hardwood known for its dark black color. Due to high demand, limited and slow growth, it is classified as one of the rarest woods in the world, making it one of the most expensive types of wood. Ebony wood has historically been used in musical instrument production, such as piano keys and fretboards.
  3. Whitewood: Whitewood, also known as softwood, is one of the most common and affordable types of wood. It has a white color and natural resistance to fire and white ants. Whitewood readily absorbs moisture and water. Varieties of whitewood include panel board, walnut imitation board, unstained board, ponty board, villary mirrors, half mirrors, Baghdadi, and Sultani bur-tum.
  4. Oak or Ash Wood: Oak or ash wood, also known as aru wood, is a dense hardwood with intricate and twisted grain patterns. It is renowned for its durability, beauty, and high price. Varieties of oak wood include Yugoslavian oak, which is the most affordable due to its moisture content, American oak (white oak) known for its extreme durability and high cost, English oak, which is dark and suitable for doors, windows, and stairs, Austrian oak, and African oak, distinguished by its hard red color.
  5. Swedish Wood: Swedish wood, also known as yellow pine or musk wood, is a softwood that is imported from Russia and Sweden. It has a density of 45 kg when the moisture content is 12%.
  6. Zebrawood: Zebrawood is a heavy and hard wood with a moderately coarse texture and open pores. It is named after its resemblance to the stripes of a zebra. It has beautiful and appealing colors, ranging from light brown to creamy with dark blackish-brown lines that resemble the mysterious lines of a zebra. Zebrawood is used in limited applications such as veneers, wall panels, custom furniture, furniture decoration, grafting bands, grafting, specialized items, and lathe work. It has been historically used in Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz cars due to its hardness.
  7. Pine Wood: Pine wood, also known as red pine or pine timber, is considered one of the strongest types of softwoods. It has a reddish color and is heavy and fragrant.
  8. Cedar Wood: Cedar wood is a softwood produced from cedar trees. It includes various types such as Turkish cedar, Kerman cedar, Canadian cedar, Douglas cedar, Polish cedar, Larch, Cedar, Walnut.
  9. Azizi Wood: Azizi wood, also known as beach pine, is one of the most beautiful and distinctive softwoods. It is dried and available in grades without any knots.
  10. Ash Wood: Ash wood is a light-colored hardwood with a fine grain that grows along the entire eastern coast and parts of Canada. It belongs to the olive tree family and is characterized by straight grains and light beige to light brown color. It is a lightweight wood with a distinctive smell.

Other natural types of wood

  1. Alder Wood: Despite being classified as hardwood, alder wood is one of the softer hardwoods and is often referred to as semi-hardwood. It has a light brown color with fine grain patterns that are straighter compared to other hardwoods like oak or ash. On the hardness scale, alder ranks above pine and birch.
  2. Aspen Wood: Aspen wood, also known as trembling aspen, has a pale yellow to almost white color. It is a solid hardwood produced from aspen trees. Aspen wood has a fine and uniform texture and generally lacks distinctive grain patterns.
  3. Balsa Wood: Balsa wood is one of the lightest and softest solid commercial woods. It is produced from balsa trees, which are fast-growing tropical trees.
  4. Holly Wood: Holly wood is a type of hardwood produced from holly trees. It is known for being soft and easy to work with.
  5. Birch Wood: Birch wood has straight and fine grains with a smooth and uniform texture. There are over twelve native birch tree species in North America, but the most common ones are white birch and yellow birch. Birch wood is commonly used in woodworking.
  6. Redwood: Redwood trees in California are known for their massive size and red color. Redwood wood has a highly interesting grain pattern, making it suitable for exterior applications due to its weather resistance.
  7. Cedar Wood: Cedar wood is a softwood known for its beautiful colors and unique aromatic properties. It is a stable wood that is resistant to expansion and cracking with temperature and humidity changes. Varieties of cedar wood include Western red cedar, Eastern red cedar, Northern white cedar, yellow cedar, and Spanish cedar.
  8. Cherry Wood: Cherry wood is a soft, fine-grained hardwood with a reddish-brown color. It is derived from the American black cherry tree. Cherry wood may sometimes have black spots, which occur naturally due to mineral deposits over time.
  9. Larch Wood: Larch wood, also known as tamarack wood, belongs to the larch tree family. It is a softwood but one of the strongest and hardest. It typically has a reddish-brown color and is resistant to decay and pests.
  10. Mahogany Wood: Mahogany wood is a stable and beautiful hardwood known for its straight grain and resistance to decay and pests. It has a reddish-brown color and a glossy finish. Varieties of mahogany include African mahogany, New Zealand mahogany, Chinese mahogany, Indonesian mahogany, and Indian mahogany.
  11. Teak Wood: Teak wood is an exotic hardwood with a distinct aroma. It belongs to the Asian rainforests, where it takes an extremely long growth cycle. Teak wood is highly valued and often difficult to find at very high prices. It is naturally oily, which can make it challenging to stain or glue in some cases.
  12. Walnut Wood: Walnut wood is a dense and hard hardwood produced from walnut trees. It has tight grains and is highly regarded by woodworkers for its strength, smooth grains, and distinctive color. Walnut wood can range from creamy white in sapwood to dark chocolate in heartwood. Occasionally, walnut wood may contain black streaks, which naturally occur due to mineral deposits.
  13. Hickory Wood: Hickory wood is a common and economical hardwood produced from fast-growing hickory trees. It has a very light color, almost white, and may not have highly distinctive wood grains. Therefore, hickory is often painted or used in non-visible areas. It is also resistant to insects. Among all hardwoods, hickory is considered a very tough wood, making it very durable and hard to work with.
  14. Rosewood: Rosewood is a richly colored hardwood known for its unique and appealing grain patterns. It often has a reddish-brown color with dark veins. Rosewood exists in various forms, including African blackwood, cocobolo, kingwood, and Brazilian tulipwood.
  15. Sapele Wood: Sapele wood is an exotic hardwood with a distinct aroma. It belongs to the Asian rainforests, where it takes an extremely long growth cycle. Sapele wood is highly valued and often difficult to find at very high prices. It is naturally oily, which can make it challenging to stain or glue in some cases.
  16. Walnut Wood: Walnut wood is a dense and hard hardwood produced from walnut trees. It has tight grains and is highly regarded by woodworkers for its strength, smooth grains, and distinctive color. Walnut wood can range from creamy white in sapwood to dark chocolate in heartwood. Occasionally, walnut wood may contain black streaks, which naturally occur due to mineral deposits.

These are just a few examples of the many types of wood available, each with its own unique characteristics and uses in various industries.

Types of industrial wood


Particleboard is made from wood chips, flax straw, or sugarcane bagasse, which are bonded together with specific chemicals. They are then pressed by machines to form wood panels. These processes are carried out according to certain standards to ensure quality. Sometimes, particleboard may have a veneer of natural wood, such as oak, mahogany, or maple.


Veneer refers to thin slices of natural wood, and sometimes bark, such as oak, mahogany, or maple. Typically, they are thinner than 3 mm (1/8 inch) and are usually glued onto the core panels, such as plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). There are three main types of veneer-cutting equipment that result in highly distinct grain patterns, depending on the tree species and the cutting method used to produce the veneer slices.

3- Plywood:

Plywood, also known as engineered wood, is made from small pieces of natural wood known as veneers. These veneers are placed adjacent to each other without leaving any gaps and are then bonded together through pressure and heat using adhesive tools. Plywood panels have light weight and strength because the direction of the wood grain in each layer is perpendicular to the adjacent layers. This enhances the strength of the wood, making it resistant to shrinking and warping.

4- Blockboard:

Blockboard, also known as lumber core plywood, is made from small pieces of natural wood known as strips. These strips are placed side by side without leaving any gaps. The blockboard panels are then covered on both sides with veneer, usually from the top and bottom. The panels are assembled using glue, pressure, and heat. Blockboard is characterized by its lightweight and strength because the orientation of the board itself is perpendicular to the strips, which increases the strength and resistance to shrinkage and bending.

5- Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL):

Laminated Veneer Lumber is a lightweight and easy-to-use material. It is made by bonding an odd number of layers of wood veneers together with adhesive in a way that the grain direction in each layer is perpendicular to the grain direction in the adjacent layer. The outer layers are called faces, while the inner layer or layers are called the core. The most common LVL dimensions are 1.2 meters in width, 2.4 meters in length, and thickness ranging from 6 to 19 millimeters. The dimensions of LVL panels usually range from 0.9 to 1.5 meters in width and from 1.5 to 3.7 meters in length. The thickness ranges from 5 to 30 millimeters, and the panels are usually made of three, five, or seven veneers.

6- Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF):

MDF is a wood product made from thin layers or fibers of natural wood, such as cedar, Douglas fir, pine, or redwood. These layers are glued together and rotated up to 90 degrees to each other, resulting in a strong and durable wood with different thicknesses. The layer thickness ranges from 1.4 mm to 4.3 mm. MDF is one of the most expensive and highest-quality manufactured woods.

7- High-Density Fiberboard (HDF):

HDF is similar to MDF in appearance and manufacturing but has higher density and, therefore, higher quality and cost. It is available in various thicknesses, including 2.5 mm, 5.5 mm, 6 mm, 7 mm, 8 mm, 12 mm, 15 mm, 17 mm, 18 mm, and 22 mm.

These are some examples of engineered woods commonly used in various applications, each with its own unique characteristics and advantages.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is natural wood?

Natural wood is wood that is cut from trees and used directly. It is sold in the form of raw wooden planks such as oak, mahogany, and teak.

What are the best types of softwoods?

Softwoods are easy to shape and therefore widely used in artistic craftsmanship. Some of the best softwoods include cedar, pine, and larch, along with spruce.

How can we identify engineered wood?

As mentioned, natural wood comes in the form of raw timber that is cut and assembled to achieve the desired size for the project. It is usually dense and heavy in some species like oak and ash. On the other hand, engineered wood has an artificial appearance and texture, such as plywood, ultra-thin veneers like abachi, or MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard) which resembles cardboard. It is very easy to differentiate between them through visual comparison or by testing the sound. Natural wood produces a solid sound, while engineered wood like plywood produces a louder sound.

What is the difference between natural and engineered wood?

Natural wood is generally denser than engineered wood, but that does not diminish the advantages of engineered wood. Each has its own unique characteristics and uses.

What is whitewood?

Whitewood, also known as white pine, is a type of softwood. It is characterized by its slightly yellowish color and light weight.

What are the advantages of engineered wood?

Engineered wood has several advantages that may not be present in natural wood, such as:

  • It can be produced for various purposes, making it easier for workers to manufacture.
  • It saves a lot of natural wood waste, making it more environmentally friendly.
  • It has excellent properties like texture, resistance to peeling, and more.
  • It is lighter in weight compared to natural wood.

What is MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard)?

MDF is a type of engineered wood made from thin layers of natural wood veneer. This gives it more strength and durability compared to other types of engineered wood.

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