We are blessed to live in a country with such an abundance of natural resources. One of the resources we woodworkers appreciate the most is the wide variety of wood available for the home craftsman, the artist and the home builder. While there are many woods available in the sensitive rain forests around the globe, why not look at some of our homegrown wood, first.
There are two broad groups of oak trees in the U.S., the white oaks and the red oaks. In general, the white oaks are more rot resistant and more waterproof. They are most appropriate for outdoor applications, include boat building. The red oaks tend to be slightly less expensive and absolutely beautiful for indoor applications, including furniture making. Oak is a challenging wood to machine, but the results can be beautiful.
In addition to several varieties (primarily sugar maple, red maple and black maple) producing a sweet sap that can be boiled down to produce delicious maple syrup, maple trees provide us with a striking variety of colors and grains. From quilted to spalted to curly to tiger eye, it is sometimes difficult to imagine the patterns arising from the wood on their own. The colors range from bleached to rich. Maple can be as smooth as butter to carve or it can seem to chip and splinter with the lightest touch. The different maples are appropriate for all manner of furniture making, turning and carving.
This is a wood that is seldom available commercially, but is a true joy to work. It is a good solid wood appropriate for carving, which polishes to a translucent finish with depth. If you are lucky enough to live in the range of sycamores, keep your eye out for deadfall or a tree being taken down.