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 MAVIN 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 page.

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

Please always view an actual wood sample for accurate color representation. These images are for reference only.


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.

Rustic Cherry

We also offer Rustic Cherry which is a character grade option.

Characteristics: Cherry wood is cut to minimize knots, sapwood, and pits. However, Rustic Cherry is cut to accentuate these features, so we can appreciate its natural beauty.

A few stains are shown to the right on Rustic Cherry, but all our stain colors are available on this wood choice. See the standard Cherry options for all available colors.

Please always view an actual wood sample for accurate color representation. These images are for reference only.



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.

Wormy Maple

Even though we call it wormy, the darker streaks are not caused by a worm at all. This comes from a Maple tree that has been infested by the Ambrosia beetle. Ambrosia beetles infest soft maple trees leaving larvae behind that bore a shallow channel and deposit a fungus which causes the discoloration. The wood has a cream colored background with beautiful brown and greyish blue stripes with small worm holes. In most, or all of the streaks, there are tiny holes from the beetle burrowing into the wood. Neither the fungus nor the holes disturb the integrity of the wood. The oblong shaped color patterns that appear like worm holes are still structurally sound.

In recent years, Wormy Maple has become more of a requested item. The worm like variations are now regularly considered a decorative feature, much like a rustic or character grade, and is growing in popularity.

Please always view an actual wood sample for accurate color representation. These images are for reference only.


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.

Rustic Oak

Rustic Oak features all the same qualities of Oak and shows other characteristics such as natural knots, mineral streaks and natural wood checks. Applying a beautiful stain to this open grain can give options to stay traditional or make a modern piece come to life.

Please always view an actual wood sample for accurate color representation. These images are for reference only.

Quartersawn 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.

Please always view an actual wood sample for accurate color representation. These images are for reference only.



Elm is a gorgeous choice for your furniture when used correctly. The interlocking grain adds depth and interest to a tabletop or seat, and is stunning in the stains shown. We limit the stain colors available, and the furniture parts that we make with Elm, so we can give you only the best from this captivating wood species.

Elm can be used on tabletops, chair seats, and case good doors, drawers, and tops. The other parts of each furniture piece are crafted from Maple.

Finishing for Elm is done in Michaels and the Maple used for the remaining furniture pieces is standard in Onyx. For any variation requests, please consult with our factory.

Please always view an actual wood sample for accurate color representation. These images are for reference only.


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.

Please always view an actual wood sample for accurate color representation. These images are for reference only.


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.

Wood Expectations

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