One of the most essential aspects of designing any custom piece is determining what type of raw material to use. This element will help to define the piece by assuring that you will get the look and feel that you want for your home or business. Whether it is traditional, rustic, farmhouse chic, industrial or a contemporary design, the material selected will help obtain that sense of style. More so, creativity and collaboration between the customer and CZ Woodworking will allow that raw material to come to life!

What do we mean by “Raw”?
Raw material is a concept. A concept that we describe as any material that has yet to find its final home. It is a material that is en route to becoming something interesting, creative and more permanent in the world. If it has yet to be worked and transformed to create a unique piece of woodworking or artisan craftsmanship, then it is still raw to us.

Types of Raw Materials


Because our artisanal workshop utilizes an extensive list of resources throughout the customizing process, each project takes on its sole character due to the specific selections of material used. Below are just a few examples of various types of materials and styles that we enjoy using in our custom designs.

After exploring this page, please continue to our customize questionnaire to start your project!

In the Rough

Raw Materials: African Ribbon-Striped Mahogany in the rough.

African Ribbon-Striped Mahogany in the rough.

In the rough is referring to the wood at its earliest stage in the woodworking process. When the wood is initially milled from very large logs into more workable slabs, it is then kiln-dried to reduce the moisture content. At this point, the wood is able to be machine planed to a finer finish or left in its more natural state. The wood, in its more natural state, reveals the unique tooth and saw marks from the mill, creating a more rustic look and feel in the wood.

Repurposed

Various repurposed materials at a local salvage yard.

Reclaimed Lath wood repurposed into beautiful paneling.

Repurposed materials are taken from their original intent and utilized in another fashion. This refers to barn beams or siding, old wood floors, paneling or even wood pallets that had an original purpose, but are then transformed into something completely new. The possibilities are endless, as every repurposed piece has a little piece of history that comes along with it, and gives unbelievable character to the new project.

Finished

Raw Materials: This Black Walnut Dining Table is an example of the crisp, clean look that is obtained from a finished piece.

This Black Walnut Dining Table is an example of the crisp, clean look that is obtained from a finished piece.

Finished materials start as in the rough slabs, which will be machine-planed and also joined (squared-off) to not only create a smooth surface and squared edge, but also a piece to be used in finer woodworking. To obtain a superior finish that is consistent, level and square throughout, a finished material is the ideal choice.

Live Edge

Raw Materials: Live Edge Poplar Dining Table and Benches.

Live Edge Poplar Dining Table and Benches.

This unique approach to woodworking was expressed by George Nakashima’s work throughout the mid-20th century. He became known for leaving the natural, or live edge of the wood in tact as part of the finished piece. The profile of this live edge reflects the curvatures and unique textures of the tree’s exterior silhouette, assuring that no two pieces are ever the same. The use of this wood creates a bold, artistic and natural feel that is an extremely interesting way of obtaining that “wow factor” in a piece.

Types of Wood and Finishes


The type of wood you choose will determine the overall strength, look and cost of the finished piece. Many varieties of wood exist, and CZ Woodworking will work with each customer to determine what wood will fit your needs best. Each wood has its benefits and can be utilized in a number of different ways to create various looks within a project. Explore the various samples below to determine what might work best for you.

Please view our portfolio to see further examples of various materials and finishes we work with.

Softwoods & Hardwoods


The two major classifications of wood that exist within the realm of lumbering and woodworking are softwoods and hardwoods.

Softwoods

Softwoods are often softer and more delicate woods in general, as the name would suggest, but aren’t necessarily always weaker than hardwoods. Although, they are generally less dense and not as durable as Hardwoods, which grow at a much slower rate than softwoods creating a denser and stronger grain in the wood. Softwoods come from coniferous (or gymnosperm) trees such as Cedar, Hemlock and Pine and lean towards a yellow to reddish tone by nature. Hardwoods come from angiosperm (seed producing) trees such as Oak, Cherry, Maple and Walnut and are generally darker toned woods. Softwoods tend to be less expensive than hardwoods, as they grow much more quickly and can be milled at a faster rate. While hardwoods are generally more expensive, the durability, strength and overall look is often worth the additional cost depending on your project needs.

The following is a list of common softwood varieties and their general characteristics:

Cedar (Hardness Level 1/5)

Western Red Cedar (Unfinished)

Western Red Cedar (Unfinished)

The most common type of cedar used today is the Western Red variety. Western Red Cedar, as its name implies, has a reddish color to it. This type of wood is relatively soft, has a straight grain, and has wonderful aromatics. Western Red cedar is mostly used for outdoor projects such as furniture, decks, signs and exterior siding because it is naturally resistant to moisture and water corrosion. Cedar also makes for a great closet or chest for storing clothes and other fabrics because of its resistance to moisture. Cedar is moderately priced and can be stained to a variety of tones.

Fir (Hardness Level 3/5)

Often referred to as Douglas Fir, this softwood has a rather straight, pronounced grain that has a reddish brown tint to it and is moderately strong and hard for a softwood. Fir is most often used for construction building materials, however it’s inexpensive and can be used for certain aspects of furniture-making as well. It doesn’t have the most interesting grain pattern and doesn’t take stain uniformly, so it’s best when used in projects that require a painted finish.

Hemlock (Hardness Level 2/5)

Reclaimed Hemlock salvaged from a Lancaster, PA barn.

Reclaimed Hemlock salvaged from a Lancaster, PA barn.

Eastern Hemlock, the state tree of Pennsylvania, is a softwood that has a naturally light-reddish-brown color. Although Western Hemlock (sourced from the Pacific Northwest) is often used in furniture building due to its straight grain and finer texture, which sands to a silky, reflective smooth surface. Hemlock gives some hardwoods a run for their money in terms of durability and strength, but at a more approachable price point. Reclaimed Hemlock has made its way into local salvage yards in recent years, and is being utilized in all aspects of woodworking and furniture building.

Pine (Hardness Level 1/5)

White Pine (Unfinished)

White Pine (Unfinished)

Pine is of the most common softwoods and comes in several varieties, including White, Knotty and Yellow – all of which can be used to make furniture. Pine is fairly easy to work with, as it is very soft, but it will show wear and tear more easily with everyday use (which could be a good or bad thing, depending on the look you prefer). Pine can either be stained or painted and often gives a more traditional feel to a piece – especially when using repurposed Pine flooring and siding. Pine is a practical and affordable choice for shelving, tables, closets, and cabinetry.

Hardwoods

The variety of colors and tones, textures, and grain patterns seen in most hardwoods create some of the most beautiful and unique furniture in the world. Hardwoods are generally more expensive than softwoods, but the finished look can be well worth the additional cost. Hardwoods are often more durable and are therefore generally recommended for tabletops and countertops. Many hardwoods do not need to be stained, but rather hand-finished with natural oils to enhance their beautiful grain and texture.

The following is a list of common hardwoods and their general characteristics:

Ash (Hardness Level 3/5)

Ash is a white to pale brown wood with a straight grain. It’s pretty easy to work with, is a fairly hard and dense wood, and takes to stain quite nicely. Ash has a medium to coarse texture similar to oak. The grain is almost always straight and regular, though sometimes moderately curly or figured boards can be found. Ash is becoming harder and harder to find, so it ranks as an increasingly expensive material to use.

Birch (Hardness Level 2/5)

Birch comes in two varieties: yellow and white. Yellow birch is a pale yellow-to-white wood with reddish-brown heartwood, whereas white birch has a whiter color that resembles maple. Birch is readily available and less expensive than many other hardwoods. Birch is stable and easy to work with. However, it’s hard to stain because it can get blotchy, so it is generally preferred to paint Birch.

Cherry (Hardness Level 3/5)

Cherry is appreciated for its natural beauty and versatility.

Cherry is appreciated for its natural beauty and versatility.

Cherry is a very popular and an all-around great wood. Cherry stains and finishes beautifully, bringing out the natural figure in the grain of the wood. Cherry also ages beautifully, giving you a consistent look year after year. Cherry’s heartwood has a reddish-brown color to it, while the sapwood is almost white (we prefer to utilize mostly heartwood in our workshop). This is an excellent choice for almost any woodworking project, as Cherry is a solid wood choice all around.

Mahogany (Hardness Level 2/5)

One of the great furniture woods, Mahogany has a reddish-brown to deep-red tint, a straight grain, medium texture and is moderately hard. It takes stain very well, but looks great with even just a few coats of oil on it. For an even more distinguished look, exotic African Ribbon-Striped Mahogany adds amazing grain and texture elements to this already beautiful species of wood.

Maple (Hardness Level 4/5)

The wavy grain and unique burls of Birds Eye Maple make this exotic wood standout.

The wavy grain and unique burls of Birds Eye Maple make this exotic wood standout.

Maple comes in two varieties: hard and soft. Both varieties are harder than a vast majority of other woods and are moderately priced. Because of their fine, straight grain, both varieties are more stable than many other woods and perfect for tabletops. Exotic varieties of Maple exist – such as Curly, Tiger and Birds-Eye Maple – which are used in fine woodworking for an unparalleled finish, with grain patterns that are extremely unique and distinct but come at a higher cost.

Oak (Hardness Level 4/5)

White Oak stained in an “Early American” tone.

White Oak stained in an “Early American” tone.

Oak is one of the most widely used and respected hardwoods in furniture making. Available in two varieties — red and white — oak is very strong and also quite heavy. White oak is sometimes preferred for furniture making because it has a slightly more attractive figure than red oak, but either variety can give you a beautiful finish that stains very well. Oak can be used for almost any woodworking purpose, and is an excellent choice for pieces that will last a lifetime – literally! As they say, it is “solid as oak”!

Poplar (Hardness Level 1/5)

Poplar is one of the less expensive hardwoods. It’s also fairly soft, considering it is a hardwood, which makes it easy to work with. Poplar is very light in color (almost “white”) with some green or brown streaks in the heartwood (the wood that comes from the center of the tree). Because poplar is not the most beautifully grained wood, it’s almost always painted as it does take to paint very nicely for a uniform finish. Poplar makes for great table bases (often painted, with a stained tabletop of a different wood), drawers, cabinets, hutches and more. Poplar is a very common wood that is versatile and cost efficient.

Teak (Hardness Level 4/5)

Various boards of Teak wood are joined together to create a natural finish in this tabletop.

Various boards of Teak wood are joined together to create a natural finish in this tabletop.

Teak is an excellent choice, the “crème de la crème”, for fine outdoor furniture. Teak is highly weather-resistant by nature, which means that it does not have to be weatherproofed when used outdoors – although it often is finished and stained for aesthetic purposes. Teak is one of the most expensive exotic hardwoods there are, but it will look absolutely beautiful and maintain its integrity over time.

Black Walnut (Hardness Level 3/5)

The unique grain of Black Walnut is one of the most interesting in all of woodworking.

The unique grain of Black Walnut is one of the most interesting in all of woodworking.

A personal favorite of Chris’s, this wood is the ideal choice for woodworking pieces that want to showcase beautiful grain and an excellent finish. The naturally wavy grain of Black Walnut creates a look that is artistic and abstract, with a density that also gives weight and strength to the piece. Black Walnut stains wonderfully, but is almost best when the natural elements are emphasized with an oil finish only – and it should never, ever, be painted!

Additional Materials

Although we focus primarily on the use of wood in our work, CZ Woodworking also incorporates materials other than solid wood into our workshop. We work with metalworkers, glass companies, designers and artisans alike to bring various materials together to create custom pieces. Examples of additional materials we use are wrought iron, steel, glass, stone and more. By combining various mediums together, we are able to achieve the specific look that fits your needs best. Please contact us directly to inquire further.

Finishes


As the final stage of any project, the finish will define your piece for years to come. Whether you choose to leave the material unfinished, stained, painted, or rubbed with oils, there are many options to choose from when it comes to finishing. A finish is meant to protect the wood from water damage, dirt, stains, etc., so the benefits are obvious. At CZ Woodworking we will finish the material to your exact needs and determine what will work best for your specific piece. A piece that will endure everyday use, such as a countertop or tabletop, would need a more durable finish than a display shelf. An exterior table, if not made from a naturally weatherproof material, would have to be finished with moisture resistant materials to endure the outdoor elements such as rain and snow. Some materials – such as repurposed barn woods – would be better left unfinished in order to maintain the naturally aged look that defines it.

Danish Oil

The hand-rubbed Danish oil finish makes the grain of this black walnut “pop”.

The hand-rubbed Danish oil finish makes the grain of this black walnut “pop”.

Danish Oil is an oil-based finish that soaks deep into wood pores to provide protection from the inside out. Generally made from a unique blend of penetrating oil and varnish that stains, seals and protects all at the same time, it enhances the natural look and feel of the wood, and creates the rich, warm glow. This finish is ideal for furniture, trim, molding or any other bare wood interior surface that calls for an accentuated look.

Lacquer

Lacquer is one of the best all-around finishes for wood because it dries fast, imparts an incredible depth and richness to the wood, exhibits moderate to excellent durability and polishes very smoothly. Lacquer is also strong enough to resist most stains, so the maintenance is rather carefree and simple.

Tung Oil

Tung oil is derived from the nuts of trees that are native to Asia but have been cultivated in other parts of the world. This is a durable finish that has a rather quick drying time and is very moisture resistant. Tung oil penetrates the woods surface, soaking deep into the wood grain for a fine finish. Tung oil is great for exterior furniture, tabletops and countertops.

Paint

These patio dining tables feature a painted base with a stained top.

These patio dining tables feature a painted base with a stained top.

Many home improvement projects and custom woodworking pieces alike call for a painted finish. Depending on the application process, paint can create either a rustic or refined finish, and it looks great when both paint and stain (or oil) are combined together in a piece (we love the look of a painted table base with a stained or oil-rubbed table top. See our portfolio for some great examples of this style). Paints are great for both exterior and interior protection and are available in an almost infinite number of color tones. Finishes include flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, and high-gloss depending on the amount of sheen you desire.

Polyurethane

This black walnut bench was hand-rubbed with satin polyurethane for durability and protection, creating a subtle patina in the finish.

This black walnut bench was hand-rubbed with satin polyurethane for durability and protection, creating a subtle patina in the finish.

Available in both water-based and oil-based finished, polyurethane is one of the most common practices used in woodworking today. Polyurethane can be sprayed, brushed or rubbed onto the piece to obtain either a satin, semi-gloss or glossy finishes. Polyurethane is a very versatile finish that will last for many years and is easy to clean and maintain.

Stain

Solid cherry wood dining table stained to a “medium walnut” finish.

Solid cherry wood dining table stained to a “medium walnut” finish.

Staining wood is a process of darkening the overall tone by adding pigment, or dye, to it. Stains come in all shades and colors, ranging from light golden oak to rich, dark espresso tones. This is a beautiful way to achieve the exact tone that will work best in your home or business and is a very common way to finish wood. Stains are applied by hand in our workshop, giving a natural finish to the wood and maintaining the integrity of the wood-grain by controlling the amount of stain that is applied. Stains are utilized for both interior and exterior applications, although not all wood species take to stain uniformly and evenly so there are some drawbacks. For the most part, stain is very good choice in the finishing process.