Finding the right wood

For 40 years, Barbosa has worked diligently to establish trusted supply partners for a large variety of unique wood options.
Selecting the right wood for your project is one of the most important steps in the process. Understanding the differences in each species can be challenging. Be sure to visit the other informative pages in this section, including our Wood Comparison Chart, Wood Hardness Chart, Species Gallery and a detailed page describing the various Wood Grain Patterns.

Wood Comparison Chart

Australian CypressSometimes used as a substitute for heart/longleaf pineRustic, casualWide variation, golden tones; high knot contentTypically not stained; natural color6% harder than red oak
BambooConsidered a “green product”; is a grass, not a tree; plants regenerate quicklyContemporary or modern; often used where minimal grain or pattern is desiredLight cream or caramel colorAccepts stain wellSimilar to oak in hardness
BeechHigh crush strength, medium stiffness and resistance to shockBeech is used for curved parts of furniture and in Scandinavian type furnitureWhitish or very pale brown, darkening in time to light reddish brownDifficult as it does not absorb the stain evenly4% harder than red oak
Brazilian CherryExtremely durableTraditional to contemporaryDeep red/orange/brown tones; minimal knots; tight straight grainAccepts stain well; darkens with exposure to light; dominant red tones return82% harder than red oak
Domestic CherryBeautiful delicate grain with characterFormal/traditional for select grades; casual/rustic for character gradesGolden/honey tones; wide color variation common within a plankDifficult as it does not absorb the stain evenly26% softer than red oak
Hard Rock MapleDurable; minimal grain for a natural finish modern lookContemporary or modern; often used where minimal grain and no stain is desiredOff-white cream color to nearly white, on occasion has a reddish or golden hueDifficult as it does not absorb the stain evenly15% harder than red oak
HickoryPopular substitute for oak, walnut or mesquite; delicate grain with lots of characterCasual or rusticBeige/tan; wide color variation within a plankAccepts stain well; color stable41% harder than red oak
Knotty AlderSmooth hardwood with dark knots, lightens with ageChosen for its rustic, informal appearanceRanging from a light honey color to a reddish-brown hueNoticeable stain patina characteristics ranging in visibility from dark spots absorbing excessive stain to very light spots absorbing minimal stain45% softer than red oak
MapleMinimal grain; extremely tight color range in highest gradesContemporary, minimalist or modern; used where minimal grain or pattern is desiredCreamy white in highest grade; wide variation in lower gradesDifficult to stain evenly; ambers slightly with exposure to light12% harder than red oak
PineBeautiful character patina, grain pattern, tight growth rings, stableRustic, primative, Mission, casual, Old World, southwestern; pristine grades can be very formalNatural color is honey tonedDifficult to stain evenly; most attractive with a natural colorDurability is dependent on age; ranges from slightly softer than oak to similar hardness as oak
Red OakThe standard for basic cabinet material for yearsGrade and grain pattern can be manipulated to be formal or casualRed oak is slightly pinkAccepts stain very well; color possibilities are almost endlessOak is typically used as the benchmark for hardness
Soft MapleLower-priced than Hard Maple with a similar grain and figureContemporary, minimalist or modern; used where minimal grain or pattern is desiredLight to dark reddish brownDifficult to stain evenly; Paint Grade is color preferred25% softer than Hard Maple
WalnutRich deep color with delicate grain and lots of characterVery versatile; casual to formalNatural color is deep chocolate brownAccepts statin readily22% softer than red oak
White OakThe standard for basic cabinet material for yearsGrade and grain pattern can be manipulated to be formal or casualWhite oak is beige/tanAccepts stain very well; color possibilities are almost endless6% harder than red oak

Wood Hardness Chart

Durability is a major factor to be considered when selecting a cabinet. Barbosa is pleased to provide you with this valuable resource to assist you with your decision.

Our chart is based on the Janka Hardness Scale which is the industry standard for gauging the ability of various wood species to resist denting and tolerate normal wear. It also indicates the effort required to either nail or saw the particular wood species.

The woods are listed from hardest to softest, so the higher the number, the harder the wood.

SpeciesPressure To Mar
(Kiln-dried)(in pounds)
Hickory, Pecan1,820
Hard Maple1,450
White Oak1,360
Red Oak1,290
Yellow Birch1,260
Green Ash1,200
Black Walnut1,010
Soft Maple950
Yellow Poplar540


Alder tends to be a light tan to reddish brown; color darkens and reddens with age. There is no visible distinction between heartwood and sapwood. The overall grain pattern and appearance is similar to Birch , though redder than Birch and both are derived from the same family, Betulaceae.  Alder grain is generally straight, with a moderately fine, uniform texture.


Beech is typically a pale cream color, sometimes with a pink or brown hue. Veneer tends to be slightly darker colored, as slicing the veneer usually requires the wood to be prepared with steam, which gives the wood a more golden tone.  Flatsawn surfaces tend to be very plain, while quartersawn surfaces exhibit a silvery fleck pattern.  Grain is straight, with a fine to medium uniform texture. Moderate natural luster.


Cherry’s smooth, tight grain, rich color, and stability have won high favor for use in kitchen cabinetry. Cherry ranges in color from white to deep red-brown. It is exceptionally stable & unsurpassed in its finishing qualities. Cherry’s color deepens and mellows with age due to its unique photosensitivity.


Maple is a strong, evenly textured wood with a natural luster. While it is very uniform, you will notice random mineral streaks, worm tracks, or birds-eye patterns. The grain is primarily straight, but can be wavy at times. Maple is a closed-grain wood that sands to a very smooth finish. As it ages, maple will take on a golden hue. Due to the density and hardness of maple, natural expansion and contraction may be more apparent at joints than with softer hardwoods.


Poplar is light cream to yellowish brown, with occasional streaks of gray or green. Sapwood is pale yellow to white, not always clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Can also be seen in mineral stained colors ranging from dark purple to red, green, or yellow, sometimes referred to as Rainbow Poplar. Colors tend to darken upon exposure to light. Poplar typically has a straight, uniform grain, with a medium texture. Low natural luster.


As the only dark-brown domestic wood species,  walnut wood is hard, dense and tight-grained. It's prized by woodworkers for its strength, grain and deep color. It polishes to a very smooth finish, and the color ranges from creamy white in the sapwood to a dark chocolate in the heartwood. Over the years, natural walnut wood develops a lustrous patina.


Oak is strong, warm, and open-grained. Because of oak’s open grain it has a semi-smooth feel after it has been finished. Oak stains easily and evenly with a pronounced grain. Some color variation from reddish-tan to medium brown is possible in its natural state. Occasional pin knots and mineral streaks are also characteristic of oak.


White Oak heartwood is light to medium brown in color, commonly with an olive cast. Nearly white to light brown sapwood is not always sharply demarcated from the heartwood. Occasional pin knots and mineral streaks are also characteristic of oak.

Wood Grain Patterns

To fully understand the differing patterns of wood grain, it’s important to compare various sawing methods. The way the log is cut is what creates differences between grains.

There are four cuts commonly used for cabinetry: plain sawn, quarter sawn, rift sawn and live sawn. Barbosa has extensive experience creating cabinetry with each of these cuts.

Plain sawn is the most common cut and was the standard for homes built the first half of the last century. Typically, two to three-inch planks of red oak were used, featuring a “cathedral” pattern in the grain. Annual growth rings were very prominent, at a zero to 35-degree angle.

Quarter sawn gets its name from the fact that the log is cut into quarters. This cut features annual growth rings at a 60 to 90-degree angle. This creates a visually appealing, somewhat tight vertical grain pattern, often with dramatic flecking.

Rift sawn produces a unique linear or vertical grain pattern with no flecking. The annual growth rings are typically between 30 and 60 degrees. Rift and quarter-sawn cabinetry are aesthetically more appealing than other cuts, due to the minimal grain activity. The cabinetry is also more dimensionally stable.

Live sawn starts with a straight cut through the log, which provides a full range of the wood’s natural characteristics. The grain pattern varies, with vertical grain on the edges. This result is naturally beautiful cabinetry. The wider the plank, the more uniquely beautiful the grain.

Exclusively for Builders. By Builders.  ©2022 Barbosa Cabinets, Inc.  |  All Rights Reserved

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