Lumber For Chinese Furniture
Right from the initial days, the Chinese have been using elm, Zelkova, walnut, birch, ash and pine lumber for making their furniture. Each of these varieties of woods has certain qualities which make them apt to be employed as the prime woods for manufacturing furniture. The most common of these qualities being the resistance these woods show to pathogens and other insects (like termites etc.) that feed on wood and reduce the durability of your furniture.
During the ancient days, people did not have chemicals and wood paints with antiseptic qualities; therefore, it was left on the basic nature of the wood itself to combat all possible dangers arising from pathogens. This is the main reason why these varieties of wood faired well.
Elm is a darkish brown wood and is one of the most preferred woods for furniture the world over, mostly because of the beautiful natural lines it gives to the underlying design. Elm is completely durable to water and will last a life time, even more when completely submerged under water. This is the reason why most under water ladders and ancient Chinese furniture items like buckets and other stuff which came in direct contact with fluid was made out of Elm wood. The elm wood is also termed as the 'unsplittable', because of a special property in the arrangement of the fibers and their interlocking within the wood. This property specially make it a very good option for furniture items like chairs, which have to bear a lot of weight and their legs don’t give way if they are made of elm wood. The Elm wood is also preferred these days due to a rather unfortunate reason. Elm trees suffer from a very common and deadly disease, known as the Dutch elm, because of which trees in tune of thousands are killed every year. Lumbers use the wood from the dead trees and therefore prevent the cutting and felling of trees that are of help to the environment. The use of Elm wood from dead trees is a very efficient way to solve the problem of demand of wood for furniture, without harming the nature in a direct way. Elm trees in China have often existed for many years, some living in tune of hundreds of years. Like many parts in the world, old elm trees in China have had a certain amount of folklore attached to them. 'TENOR' is the name of one of the most famous elm trees in China. Elm timber as such is not very easy work on. Actually there are two different ways of looking at it, for some it’s a carpenters’ heaven, because the wood bends easily and for the artist who wants to give moulds and grooves in his design, Elm wood is perfect. Looking at it from another perspective, Elm wood 'distorts' easily, for the designer seeking fine and exact lines, elm can be a nightmare to work with.
Walnut lumber is a really heavy hardwood category and is found in the temperate belt. The main USP of walnut wood is that it mixes rather well with other woods to make a dull looking piece of furniture light up. The amount of experimentation one can do with the textures in the base wood using walnut wood as a mixture is immense and walnut wood usage is a popular practice among modern Chinese furniture manufacturers. Walnut wood is highly resistance to shocks and the use of walnut oil over the finished good had multiple benefits – it gives good finishing touches to the piece, it saves the cost of varnishing and the combination of wood and oil give off a mesmerizing fragrance.
Ash lumber is a popular wood when it comes to making food containers because the wood has no taste of fragrance of its own, which means that your food gets to keep its distinct flavor. The ash wood is extremely elastic, yet strong, and has the ability to show resistance to high degree of shocks and force, making it a good option. Ash wood today, in modern Chinese furniture industry is used more than any other form of wood because of the relatively economical cost of input, good availability and a gamut of practicality associated with it.
Birch lumber is a hardwood, much like the maple, but it scores in the fact that birch wood can have many different textures, depending upon the method of drying, and if the wood stains, the stains are not as pronounced as they are in the case of maple. The main advantage of using birch wood is that it requires very few processes before ending up in the final product. Very little finishing and varnishing is required, as the wood is naturally a hard and resistant wood. The wood is not very durable when it comes to comparison with other woods over the long run, but because its cheap and easily available, this wood is still a good option for the modern lumberjack.
As we know that the character of wood and the finishing texture are the main elements in the furniture of China and this is primarily the reason why the Zelkova tree, which had a clear gloss, ends up in beautiful finish, has a relatively clear grain and provides a hard and heavy wood, is one of the most used trees for furniture, not only in China, but in the rest of Asia as well. The best part about making furniture from Zelkova is that the shaving process is easiest when compared to other hard woods. There are four main varieties of Zelkova tree found in China and these are basically differentiated on the basis of their location. These varieties are Taiwanese Zelkova and Schneider Zelkova, also known as quang yeju, the Japanese Zelkova and a fourth relatively unknown variety, which is known as the common Zelkova. The Schneider Zelkova is used for making furniture items in maximum quantity and the Japanese zelkova provides a classic and elegant finish to the end product, but it is a little expensive. Japanese Zelkova is also a landscape tree and is used to give beautiful topology to golf courses and other places where landscape needs to be refurbished.
Overall, Elm, Pine and Zelkova woods are the hallmark of traditional Chinese furniture because of the underlying beauty and ruggedness of the wood, but with changing times and increasing demand, timber from Walnut, Birch and ash are also being used, mainly because of the ease and speed with which these woods can be given shapes. Whatever the underlying wood, traditional proliferation of the art of giving life to wood has been passed on in such a way in China that the taste and charm of old school designing still remains fresh and lively.