Wood Species

When designing a custom kitchen around the way you live, there is one simple thing you need to know — each wood has a very different character that will determine the feel of your kitchen. To help you better understand the various factors that affect the look of wood, we’ve put together a sampling of what you need to know. Communication is key. Express yourself with fine custom cabinetry from Specialty Kitchen & Bath.

 Cabinets with character

Select a wood species for your handcrafted kitchen cabinets that is in sync with your life — the drama of varied hickory grains, the reassuring hues of cherry, or the durable comfort of oak. So, if you were a tree — what tree would you be? Your wood. Your life. Fine wood cabinetry you can live with.

Alder (Red Alder or Western Alder)

  • Very consistent light brown with a reddish tint
  • Straight grain with no distinct grain pattern
  • Even texture
  • Hardwood that is softer than cherry
  • Porous, moderately light and soft wood that is less shock resistant than other species and may dent more easily
  • Sensitive to changes in humidity
  • Lightens with age, reddish tint diminishing and shifting toward a soft yellow
  • Finishes smoothly and takes stain well, absorbing more stain at the end grain because of its porous nature


  • Characteristics of bamboo are similar to hardwoods, although bamboo is not a wood.  It is classified as a grass
  • Bamboo is much denser and stronger than hardwoods, making it a renewable resource
  • Fine, even grain
  • Less susceptible to mold and fungus


  • Colors range from creamy vanilla to deep rich red
  • Darkens with age, mellowing to robust reddish-brown with golden luster
  • Straight, satiny, more subdued grain
  • Small gum pockets can produce distinctive markings
  • Distinguished by an occasional pitch-pocket or bird-peck
  • Fine, uniform, smooth texture
  • Sensitive to changes in humidity
  • Machines, glues and holds fasteners well
  • Good shock and dent resistance
  • Excellent finishing qualities because of its uniform texture

Coconut Palm 

  • Fast growing tropical wood
  • Will naturally range in color from pale caramel tones to deep browns 
  • Deep, distinctive grain pattern which naturally separates as the wood ages
  • Unique surface texture and appearance
  • Fibrous wood, as can be seen in the distinctive end grain texture of the wood  


  • Color varies dramatically from white sapwood to near-black heartwood, sometimes with inconspicuous fine brown lines
  • Use of both sapwood and heartwood provides striking contrasts called “calico”
  • Generally fine and straight-grained, but may also have flowing variations in grain
  • Can exhibit dramatic and random burls, mineral streaks or specks
  • Course and even texture
  • Extremely tough and resilient
  • Sensitive to changes in humidity
  • Stains and finishes well with natural grain pattern accentuated by medium to dark finishes

Maple (Hard Maple)

  • Color ranges from cream to light reddish-brown
  • Light, creamy brown color accentuates mineral streaks and color variations
  • Usually straight-grained, but sometimes has highly figured bird’s-eyes that resemble small circular or elliptical figures
  • Color will take on a golden hue with age
  • Sometimes exhibits a burl grain – clusters of round curls
  • Fine and uniform texture
  • Extremely durable, strong and stiff with excellent resistance to shock, dents and abrasion
  • Sensitive to both ultraviolet light and changes in moisture
  • Machines and holds fasteners well
  • Uniform texture and tight grain make it excellent for stains and paints
  • Mineral streaks darken with stain

Oak (Red Oak)

  • Color varies from rich wheat to warm yellow and rich reddish brown
  • May be streaked with green, yellow or black minerals
  • Medium-coarse to coarse texture
  • Straight prominent open grain distinguished by rays that reflect light and may vary from sweeping arches to tight grain patterns
  • Very high dent and shock resistance
  • Machines and glues well
  • Holds nails and screws well because it is heavy, strong and hard
  • Sensitive to changes in humidity
  • Responds well to a wide range of finish tones

Quarter Sawn Red Oak

  • Harvested from northern red oak by a special sawing process, with boards cut along the radius of the log
  • Hallmark of the Arts & Crafts and Mission style, prized for the medullary ray flecks that are revealed by this specialized cut
  • Distinctive patterns include wavy and interlocked grains, flake figures, pin stripes, fine lines, leafy grains and watery figures
  • Appears darker than regular oak due to the tight grain
  • Reduces twisting, warping and cupping
  • Holds finishes better
  • Does not allow liquids to readily pass through it

White Oak

  • Dense, durable hardwood
  • Wood color ranges from a greenish gray to a light brown, occasionally with a slight pink hue
  • Arching grain and porous texture
  • Some small pin knots and mineral streaks are common


  • Strong versatile wood 
  • Consists of a mix of heartwood and sapwood
  • Ranges from light brown to dark chocolate, with some blonde or yellow as well
  • Color lightens over time
  • Beautiful rich color with a unique grain pattern

Character Cherry, Character Oak, Character Maple and Character Alder

  • Known as “rustic” or “knotty,” these fine wood species have the added character given them by the random size, quality and placement of knots within the wood
  • Character wood is specially selected to have more knots, mineral streaks, sapwood and color variations
  • Knots vary in size, quantity and placement, but are sound