Solid Wood Handbook

Experts at working with wood

Before understanding furniture construction, style design or color combinations, a furniture builder must understand wood species.

The Palettes by Winesburg Wood Guide is meant to educate you about each individual species of wood: their history, usage, natural markings, coloration and other common facts. Also included is a special section covering proper care for your wood product, including the use of polish and cleaner, to ensure your investment will last for years to come.

Every piece is like a fingerprint

The beauty of solid wood is that it is a natural product and no two pieces are alike. Trees endure long winters and dry summer heat, grow at various rates, and suffer broken branches and other disfigurements- all of which give each piece its own unique fingerprint. These natural markings are why people buy solid wood.

Wood changes over time

Did you know that most woods, even cherry, darken in open light? For example: if you put a placemat on a new cherry table, even in normal room light, the exposed surface can darken one shade in as little as a few days.

Wood species will also naturally expand or contract if exposed to high or low humidity levels. In most cases, these changes make no noticeable difference, but extreme humidity can cause problems for your furniture. For more details, see the maintenance tab on this page.

We hope you enjoy the furniture as much as we enjoyed making it for you!


Prunus serotina

Cherry’s heartwood appears in shades of brown with strong or light hints of red, and the sapwood is cream colored. The wood has a fine, uniform, straight grain and a satiny, smooth texture. It may contain naturally occurring brown flecks and small gum pockets. Cherry has long been considered the gold standard for fine furniture, wood doors and millwork.

History: Historically, the cherry tree has been heralded for fruit and home furnishings, but it is also used for medicinal purposes such as the production of drugs that treat bronchitis from the bark and creation of tonics from cherry stalks. Printmakers have also created their engraving blocks with cherry.

Current uses: Furniture, paneling, flooring and millwork, kitchen cabinets, moldings, doors and musical instruments.

Characteristics: Only a small percentage of all cherry logs qualify for standard cherry and contain only a small amount of gum streaks and pin knots. Both red heartwood and white sapwood colors will darken with age.



50 million years ago the glacial epoch in eastern North America drastically altered or exterminated many plant species, but the hickory tree survived, which is why it is known as first strictly American hardwood species. This wood is extremely strong and resilient with a high shock threshold, has an even texture and is quite hard despite being only moderately heavy.

History: The weight to strength ratio of hickory made it a popular choice for transportation purposes, being used in wagon wheels by pioneers and also in early plane models by the Wright Brothers. The sawdust and chips from hickory are smoked while cooking meat to add distinct flavor.

Current uses: Tool handles, furniture, cabinetry, flooring, paneling, wooden ladders, dowels and sporting goods.

Characteristics: Hickory is the hardest, heaviest and strongest American wood. The sapwood of Hickory is white and tinged with inconspicuous fine brown lines, while the heartwood ranges from pale to reddish brown. Both have a coarse texture, although their fine grain can be straight or wavy.



Maple is usually straight-grained and offers a fine, relatively even texture. Its sapwood is cream colored, and the heartwood is beige.

Common names: Red maple, silver maple, box elder, scarlet maple, swamp maple, and water maple.

History: A maple’s fruit are called samaras or maple keys. Often called whirlybirds or helicopters, they contain a seed attached to a flattened wing of fibrous, papery tissue. Their shape allows them to spin as they fall and to carry the seeds a considerable distance on the wind. In the early spring maples are tapped for sap, which is then turned into maple syrup, maple sugar or maple taffy. It takes about 40 liters of sugar maple sap to make a liter of syrup.

Current uses: Furniture, paneling, flooring, millwork, kitchen cabinets, moldings, doors, musical instruments, kitchen utensils, toys, sporting goods, crates, pallets, furniture framing and turnings.

Characteristics: Maple grain may contain wavy patterns known as tiger maple or curly maple. The heartwood is tan or medium grey.

Red Oak

Quercus rubra

The red oak a native of North America, specifically the northeastern United States. It is characterized by its orange reddish hue with white to light brown sapwood.

Common Names: Northern red oak, eastern red oak, American red oak, gray oak, and mountain red oak.

History: Quercus, the Latin name for oak, translates as “a fine tree.” Oak trees were crucial to America’s industrial revolution: railroad ties, wheels, plows, looms, barrels, furniture and flooring. The red oak is the state tree of New Jersey and the District of Columbia.

Growth patterns: Oaks are the most abundant species in eastern American forests. They grow to 60-80 feet tall on average.

Current uses: Furniture, flooring, architectural millwork and moldings, doors, kitchen cabinets and paneling.

Characteristics: Normal characteristics of red oak include small knots (called pin knots) and a very distinct grain pattern, ranging from very tight to a very broad pattern.

Quartersawn White Oak

Quercus alba

The white oak is one of the preeminent hardwoods of eastern North America. From the family Fagaceae, it populates the Midwest, reaching south to Florida and as far north as Quebec. Specimens are known to have lived over 600 years.

History: White oak is impervious to liquids, and has been used extensively for ship timbers, barrels and casks. White oak is the state tree of Connecticut, Illinois and Maryland.

Current uses: Furniture, flooring and millwork, kitchen cabinets, moldings, doors, furniture framing and barrel staves.

Characteristics: The term quartersawn refers to the way the log was cut. Below is an illustration that shows how this is done. The reason for doing this is to capture the medullary rays or “flakes” that create an authentic old world look. With the right stains, the flakes take on a majestic shimmer.
Left: Quarter sawn log. Right: Regular sawn log.

Rustic Cherry

Prunus serotina

Cherry’s heartwood appears in shades of brown with strong or light hints of red, and the sapwood is cream colored. This wood will darken with age and exposure to light. Rustic cherry is cut from the same log as standard cherry, but only a small percentage of the log will yield standard cherry. Rustic cherry contains many natural characteristics including knots, small season checks and mineral streaks. When stained with a natural or light stain the wonderful detail of these characteristics is showcased.

History: Historically, the cherry tree has been heralded for fruit and home furnishings, but it is also used for medicinal purposes such as the production of drugs that treat bronchitis from the bark and creation of tonics from cherry stalks. Printmakers have also created their engraving blocks with cherry.

Current uses: Furniture, paneling, flooring and millwork, kitchen cabinets, moldings, doors, furniture framing and turnings.

Characteristics: Its beautiful markings include streaks, knots and white sapwood. With traditional cherry, the wood is cut to minimize knots, sapwood and pits. However, rustic cherry is cut to accentuate these features, so one can appreciate its natural beauty.


Juglans nigra

Black walnut is highly prized for its dark-colored, true heartwood. It is heavy and strong, yet easily split and worked. Due to its value, forestry officials often are called on to track down walnut poachers.

History: The national champion black walnut is on a residential property in Sauvie Island, Oregon. It is 8 feet, 7 inches wide at breast height; 112 feet tall and has a crown spread of 144 feet. Black walnut drupes contain juglone, plumbagin pigment and tannin. The brownish-black dye was used by early settlers to dye hair. Extracts of the soft, outer part of the drupe are still used as a natural dye for handicrafts.

Current uses: Walnut wood has historically been used for gunstocks, furniture, flooring, paddles, and a variety of other products.

Characteristics: The sapwood of walnut is cream colored, while the heartwood ranges from light brown to a dark, almost chocolate colored brown, sometimes with hints of purple and with dark streaks. Walnut sapwood can be darkened through a steaming process. Most walnut wood has a straight grain, although wavy or curly grain does occur and can create a very beautiful effect.

Finishes & Polishes

Our Conversion Varnish delivers the best long term quality finish for your solid wood products, hands down. It provides unbeatable durability when exposed to many solvents, household products, food items and oils. The high solid content of Conversion Varnish offers a denser wear surface to protect the wood. The coating is extremely clear.

The “silky feel” of Conversion Varnish is unmatched. Conversion Varnish is chemically cured, as opposed to air drying, which gives a tighter molecular binding, protecting your furniture against solvents and water. This type of coating is not intended for “disposable” furniture. It is designed to safeguard the beauty and integrity of heirloom quality wood products.

The cross-linked, or catalyzed, film of our finish actually creates a solid wall that not only resists moisture and chemicals but also holds them in place so they can be wiped up and cleaned thoroughly.

Lastly, a good finish must be flexible so it can give with the wood. Our finish contains an additive very similar to that added to the new high-tech exterior sidings available on today’s homes. It is this additive that allows our finish to remain bonded to the wood, even if it is damaged by abrasion or impact. Just like your home’s siding, this keeps the moisture out.

Caring for your Product

Care after the application

When you receive our finished product, it is approximately 80% cured. Like cement, it is a hard, protective and ready to use right away, but complete hardening of the surface will not happen for 3 – 4 more weeks.

After 4 weeks of curing, the object should still be treated with care. Remember, just like the most durable automobile finish that gets keyed or scratched, our finish is not impenetrable. However, it is the best, most durable finish available, and it protects your furniture from everyday spills and stains. Treat it like a fine piece of furniture and use the correct products on it for care, and your furniture will look new for years to come.


Comparisons to lacquer – on a 1-10 scale

Lacquer Conversion Varnish
Water / Acetone 1 10
Mustard / Olive Oil 2 10
Alcohol 1 (for 1 Hr) 10

Quick Tips

  • Lift items rather than dragging them along the surface, and always have a protective felt pad on the bottom of furniture and accessories.
  • Dust and clean regularly with a slightly damp rag. Never use a product containing wax or silicone.
  • Blot spills immediately.
  • Avoid storing your products near extreme heat sources or extremely humid areas. Your home should be kept at 35-45% humidity.
  • Wood & finishes darken with time, especially with a natural or light finish. Leaving a placemat or other item on a table for a month or longer will leave a discolored outline, so rotate accessories regularly.
  • Avoid placing extremely hot items directly on the surface.

Palettes by Winesburg Assurance

5 year Warranty

Our warranty is simple:

This warranty is for the original purchaser, and we guarantee that our chairs, tables and cases are free of any defects in material and workmanship for a period of five years after the delivery to the purchaser under normal household use.

You cannot use care products that contain waxes or silicone and create a false “shine” on the surface. This protection shields your furniture better than any other finish available because it is not a coating but actually becomes a part of the wood’s molecular surface, bending with impact, and moving with the natural expansion and contractions that the seasons cause all wood products to go through. This finish uses the best technology available, and it is different than 95% of all the furniture in today’s furniture stores.


Register Your Warranty

Please understand that there are certain situations that are not considered defects:

Scratches and dents will damage our finish just like the most durable automobile finish that gets scratched. It is not impenetrable; however, it is the best, most durable finish available, and it protects your furniture from everyday spills and stains. What kinds of damages are not covered? Avoidable wear, such as tossing a set of keys on the surface, sliding a metal vase across the top with no felt pad protection, leaving a sopping wet rag on the surface overnight or putting a hot dish directly on the table: these kinds of situations are not considered “normal use.” The top layer is a protection that breathes and needs proper care just like our skin. It is not an impenetrable shield.

At Palettes by Winesburg we want you to be happy with your purchase, and if cared for properly, this furniture can last for generations. But we know that everyone has accidents, and we want to give you that extra assurance that the furniture will maintain its original beauty for years to come.

If you damage your table surface and it falls out of the “normal use” category, just e-mail us an image of your table, bring the table to an authorized dealer, and we will pick it up on our truck. For a small charge billed directly to the consumer, we will bring your table top back to its original luster in its original stain or color. We cannot change colors or stains. Please keep your original sales receipt, and enjoy this beautiful furniture for many years! If you have any additional questions, e-mail us Contact Us. Thank you for the opportunity to bring our work into your home.

From everyone at Palettes by Winesburg, thanks!