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About the material

Wood is a renewable material that is easily recycled. It can be used both as a material and as a fuel; it is low impact and a carbon store. Strong relative to its weight, wood is also tactile, versatile and visually appealing. It brings warmth to interiors and is beneficial for people's health. With the world facing ever-increasing damage from climate change and the excessive consumption of high-impact materials, emphasis must be placed on the environmental merits that arise from making greater use of the raw materials that nature provides us. .

The material choices made by consumers, designers and manufacturers have a direct effect on the composition and sustainability of forests. This project features three beautiful and underused species of wood (American red oak, cherry and maple) and questions whether the usual species are always the only "right" ones to use.

These three sustainable species grow abundantly in America's hardwood forests, ranging from Maine in the north to Mississippi in the south, spanning part of the Midwest. They make up over 45% of America's hardwood forest and contribute, like other species, to its diversity and sustainability: red oak is the most widespread, for example, while soft maple regenerates the fastest. With heat treatments and a variety of finishes, the wood of all three species is enormously versatile.

American red oak (Quercus rubra)

Warm, grainy, tough and bendy.

Reaching a height of 21m, with a trunk diameter of 1m, red oak is the most abundant species in America’s hardwood forests. Named for the colour of its leaves in the fall, this classic oak wood has a light brown sapwood, and a heartwood characterised by attractive warm reddish-pink tones. Red oak is strong, straight grained, coarse- textured and distinctive. Its porosity makes it a premium wood for bending and staining.

Find out more about American red oak

American maple (Acer saccharum, Acer nigrum, Acer rubrum)

Light, fine, hard and incandescent.

A close cousin of European maple and sycamore, American maple can reach heights of 23–27m, with a trunk diameter of 75cm. This project uses two botanical subspecies, hard and soft maple, which share similar characteristics and are both relatively abundant. Hard maple is a cold-climate species favouring the northern states, whereas soft maples grow more widely across the mixed hardwood forests of the eastern United States. Both hard and soft maple produce syrup.

Find out more about American hard maple

Find out more about American soft maple

American cherry (Prunus serotina)

Rich, smooth, vibrant and flexible.

A medium-size tree, reaching a height of around 20m, cherry has a relatively short rotation, taking less time to mature than other hardwoods. The narrow sapwood is a light pinkish colour, while the heartwood varies from rich red to reddish brown, and darkens on exposure to light. American cherry had a long period of popularity in furniture making; it became less popular but is on the verge of a revival.

Find out more about American cherry

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