Basic Technology

Wood, Characteristics of Hardwood and Softwood

David - 07th February, 2019 @ 11:58 AM

WHAT IS WOOD?

They say money do not grow on trees but interestingly, wood does, and they make up the trunks and branches. A wood is an organic material and a structural tissue composed mainly of cellulose, making up the stem, roots and branches of trees. The outermost skin or covering of the wood is called the bark. On peeling off the bark, next you will see the sapwood which contains the plant's transport system called the xylem. Also seen inside the sapwood is the heartwood, but here, the xylem is blocked with gums and does not function. The cambium is seen around the edge of the sapwood.

Wood can be put into two types. They are

  • Hardwood
  • Softwood

Note: Woods are porous and fibrous and the term (hardwood and softwood) don't always refer to the wood's actual hardness or softness.

 

Hardwood

Image Credit: Pinterest

Hardwoods are always derived from angiosperms with broad leaves. (angiosperms are flowering plants that produce seeds encased in fruits or pods). Most times, hardwood are stronger than softwood but there are exceptions. For instance, Balsa is a hardwood that is actually soft. Hardwood has the following characteristics:

  1. They usually have a higher density than softwood. Balsa is an exception.
  2. They are usually more costly than softwood.
  3. They grow at a slower rate than softwood.
  4. Hardwood trees shed their leaves in certain times of the year.
  5. Hardwood are more fire resistant than softwood.
  6. The leaves of hardwood trees are evergreen.
  7. They are used to make quality furniture (in terms of strength). For example, decking in buildings.
  8. Hardwood trees always have divided trunks which are sometimes referred to as a dendritic form
  9. In terms of price, many hardwood are more expensive than softwood

Examples of hardwood include hickory, ash, beech, alder, teak, birch, mahogany, maple, oak, balsa and walnut.

 

Softwood

Image Credit: Narangba Timbers

Softwoods are often derived from coniferous trees, that is, trees with needle-like leaves and whose seeds are covered in cones. These trees are classified under gymnosperms. Softwood trees are very tall and straight. They possess the following characteristics:

  1. Most softwood have a lower density than hardwood (weighs lower).
  2. In terms of price, they are often less expensive than hardwood.
  3. Their growth rate is faster than hardwood.
  4. Most do not shed their needle-like leaves during the year. The softwood larch and cypress are exceptions.
  5. They are less fire resistant.
  6. Their leaves are evergreen, just like hardwood.
  7. Softwood serve various purposes, For instance many doors, windows and papers are made from softwood.
  8. They normally have a single dominant trunk referred to as excurrent form.
  9. Most are cheaper than hardwood.

Examples of softwood include cedar, larch, juniper, yew, cypress, fir, pine, spruce, douglas fir and redwood.



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