Best Wood For Dining Tables
At Hardman Design, we take pride in building handmade quality dining tables from locally-sourced and sustainable wood.
Our furniture is most commonly crafted from oak, walnut, and maple, although we do custom-made pieces, too.
These three natural wood types are quality choices in their own right - combining strength with gorgeous aesthetics - but which one is best suited to your needs?
It is an important question. After all, a dining table is a big purchase: a long-term investment, a focal point of your dining room or kitchen, and a gathering spot for your family and friends.
To help you decide, this blog explores the unique characteristics of oak, walnut and maple.
Classic, strong, versatile, and naturally beautiful - you can’t go wrong with oak.
This renowned wood has long been associated with use around the home, dating back many centuries, and is just as popular today.
As such, oak’s timeless nature looks as comfortable in contemporary settings as it does in traditional décor.
One of oak’s most distinguishing features is its durability; renowned for its strength and resistance to decay, liquids, heat, and surface blemishes. These characteristics make it a firm favourite, especially for people looking for a long-term investment. Oak is also a particularly good choice for families, and ensures maintenance is minimal.
Oak’s durability is a result of the trees’ slow growth, making the wood extremely dense, adding to its quality.
In fact, oak performs well in the Janka hardness test, which charts the resistance of different wood types to denting and wear. Or to be more specific, it measures the force required to partially embed a small steel ball into the sample of wood.
The results of this test show that oak is more resistant than woods such as walnut, teak, and cherry.
Natural oak can take on virtually any hue, from light beige and yellow through brown and red. This colour diversity makes it easier to match the colour palette of your dining room and kitchen.
Over time, oak pieces have a tendency to change colour, adopting more darker, amber tones. This is caused by exposure to oxygen and UV light. However, this shift is subtle, and can, in fact add to the character of the piece and even enhance its appearance over time. Depending on your preference, we can apply a UV protection finish to our oak tables, when requested.
Hardman Design also builds smoked oak tables, such as the Carolina Smoked Oak dining table. We use a special manufacturing process to fume the oak; causing it to darken and draw out the rich detail of the grain.
Thanks to its natural beauty and hard-wearing nature, oak is gorgeous in its natural state, especially with character pieces filled with knots.
However, oak’s light tones make it great for adding a variety of finishes; whether that is stained or with a clear, natural finish. This makes it ideal for both modern and traditional furniture.
Grain And Detailing
Oak has a swirling or striped grain. It also rates as open-pored, as it has wide, large cells, and many pores.
Oak can vary in detailing, with wild oak, for instance, having plenty of knots in varying sizes.
Oak trees grow in abundance, with around 450 species worldwide. Oak wood is generally considered to be an eco-friendly furniture choice because it is durable and long-lasting, helping to prolong its usability and keeping it out of landfills.
Hardman Design has also committed to a tree planting campaign, to ensure sustainability, and we use locally-sourced wood, where possible.
Walnut is one of the most highly-sought after types of wood; prized by woodworkers and revered by fine furniture lovers.
Indeed, walnut adds a touch of class and style to any décor, and as such, it generally comes with a higher price tag.
Its strength, grain, and rich tapestry of colours make it a popular choice.
Hardman Design handcrafts its furniture from two types of walnut, European walnut and American walnut.
Walnut is a strong, hard and durable wood that carves well and holds a good shape for much longer. This makes it ideal for statement furniture that requires a high level of craftsmanship.
Both North American Walnut and European walnut are more durable than cherry, but not quite as resistant to denting and wear and tear as hard maple or white oak, for instance.
One of the most distinguishing features of walnut is its vast and textured colour palette, stretching from light brown to dark chocolate. American walnut tends to have a darker, richer colour, while European walnut is lighter in tone, sometimes interspersed with wisps of delicious blonde, cream, or yellow, and the occasional note of red.
The middle of the walnut tree (known as the heartwood) produces the darker wood and the outer layer of the tree, just beneath the bark and known as the sapwood, produces the lighter wood.
The distinctive tones of walnut is perfect for making a statement and is ideal for a modern and contemporary look.
Walnut polishes to a very smooth finish
A natural walnut piece is rarely stained, as this process tends to wash out the grain and remove bits of character. However, walnut furniture is more likely to receive a clear coat finish; such as a wax or oil.
The walnut tables handcrafted by Hardman Design tend to be finished with a matt hard wax oil. This enhances the natural colour of the wood, intensifying the walnut tones and drawing out the grain detail and the varying shades of brown.
Grain And Detailing
Walnut wood can be straight grained, but can also have waves or curls, helping to enhance the character of the piece and creating a lively, textured look. Our walnut tables tend to be handcrafted from wavey-grained wood.
This beautiful grain pattern can be further enhanced by pairing it with furniture with clean lines or unique details.
The grain pattern makes this the perfect choice for a room where the furniture can take the centre stage.
Walnut is ideal for investment pieces and furniture you want to stay in your family for generations; therefore reducing the burden on landfill.
That said, while not endangered, the number of walnut trees around the world has certainly reduced and they can take a century to mature. That’s why we select our walnut from local and sustainable sources.
Maple is a strong wood which looks great and stains nicely. It is ideal for capturing a stylishly elegant look and is popular for lovers of high-end furniture, thanks to its durability, colour, and smooth grain pattern.
The durability of maple does depend on the type used, but, as its name suggests, hard maple is, well, exactly that.
This type of maple is more durable than oak and walnut. Indeed, its long-wearing and ultra-durable nature makes maple an ideal choice for dining tables, and is stronger, stiffer, harder, and denser than all of the other species of maple commercially available in lumber form, such as red maple, which is less durable.
Compared to other hardwoods, maple is fairly unique in this department, in the sense that its sapwood is most commonly used, rather than its heartwood.
As a result, maple furniture tends to benefit from light hues, ranging from white and creamy tones. Sometimes, red or golden notes can be present. The colour of the sapwood deepens with age. In contrast, the heartwood of walnut tends to be a darker reddish brown, but will mellow as time goes on.
Grain And Detailing
Maple’s grain is generally straight, but it can also be wavy, which can add to the aesthetics of the piece. It has a fine, even and uniform texture and typically has a smooth grain pattern, but this can sometimes be more decorative, depending on the maple used.
Maple is extremely beautiful in its natural state. However, it can easily be finished in many different hues to suit any preferred style or décor. This process can help bring out the mineral streaks more, so you’ll not only see them more often, but they’ll be darker too.
Maple wood is an amazing option in terms of eco-friendliness. Not only do the trees grow in abundance, but those used by our craftsmen are also typically sourced locally and are always harvested in a sustainable way.
A light-coloured, straight-grained hardwood, ash is a very attractive option for fine furniture, especially Mid Century Modern pieces.
Highly versatile, it is renowned for its durability, strength, workability, light weight and ability to absorb wood finishes well.
As such, ash, with its aesthetically pleasing colour and uniformed grain pattern, is a very popular wood choice for home furnishing.
Ash is durable, tough and shock-resistant. In fact, it is one of the more durable varieties of wood, topping the likes of red oak, walnut and cherry.
Relatively dense, ash has good working and finishing properties. When combined with quality craftsmanship, ash furniture will last for generations, requiring little care or maintenance.
As well as its durability, ash is flexible, making it a popular choice for furniture which requires curves.
Simply put, ash is extremely pleasing to the eye.
Light in colour, ash often takes a beige-to-creamy-brown hue, giving it an understated and refined feel.
Ash is known to darken over time, but this is a natural and prolonged process.
Hardman Design uses an OSMO Matt Hardwax Oil to maintain the natural blonde tones of our ash pieces.
Ash absorbs wood stains well and can be finished in numerous ways, including varnish, wax, lacquer and oil.
It can also be stained without losing its original grain or texture.
Ash is known for its straight and smooth grain. As such, it is smooth to the touch, and has a uniformed look.
A big appeal of ash furniture is that it looks very similar to oak - sharing the same functionality and colour - and can therefore complement homes which are already styled with oak decor.
Ash is one of the most sustainable natural wood options: It is fast-growing, self-seeding, and is in plentiful supply.
Elm is a beautiful wood, offering refined durability.
Quintessentially English, elm is rugged and tough, but its stunning grain and lush colour tones, make it an ideal choice for modern furniture - especially statement pieces.
Throughout history, elm has been sought when a strong and durable wood is required.
Its interlocking grain adds to its toughness, ensuring elm furniture is robust and resistant to splitting and decay.
It also holds its shape well, making it great for supportive furniture parts like frames, backs, seats and legs that need to be structurally strong.
Elm is as stunning as it is rugged, thanks in part to its dramatic and unpredictable grain.
Elm has a prominent growth ring pattern and interlocking wood grain featuring unique swirls, spirals and waves that make it stand out.
A wood that doesn’t follow rules, elm furniture is bold and beautiful: Ideal for statement pieces.
Elm furniture can be enhanced with a finish: Adopting a gorgeous nutty brown sheen with oil.
Hardman Design uses a natural hard wax oil on our elm tables to draw out the natural colour of the wood.
Elm heartwood ranges in tone from reddish brown to light tan, while the sapwood approaches off-white.
Its light colour, coupled with its attractive grain, ensure that elm furniture is an ideal accompaniment for modern home decor.
Populations have dwindled in certain parts of the world over the years, and as such, elm-wood pieces hold a special place in our furniture-making portfolio.
That said, there are still more than 30 species found around the globe, including American elm which is abundant in parts of the US. Meanwhile, encouraging work involving the Future Trees Trust charity is ongoing to increase the UK elm population.
Oak, walnut and maple are all great choices for a dining table, offering the perfect mix of durability and beauty.
As all three for quality options, the type of wood you choose will likely come down to preference.At Hardman Design, we involve you throughout the production process, including sending you samples of your preferred wood, to help ensure we build you the perfect table. For more information, contact us.