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Wood: Care and Glossary

A well-informed decision can add years of enjoyment and satisfaction to your purchase. We invite you to learn more about the quality, craftsmanship and construction details you will find throughout our Furniture and Assembly Required Collections.


At Crate and Barrel, we respect the origins, character and grace of the natural woods we choose in designing quality furnishings to enhance your home. Our craftsmen bring a skill and dedication to the fine art of woodworking that you will continue to appreciate over time.

We use timber harvested from responsibly managed forests, and we are committed to working closely with the FSC and TFT. Our sources are established, reliable and share our commitment to, and respect for, the replenishment and ecological practices essential to sustaining our natural forests. We use only plantation-grown teak that has been forested specifically to be harvested and milled. We believe furniture can be even more beautiful because it is made with bamboo, one of the world’s most renewable plants. And we are in awe of the natural character and grain of mango, which historically would not have been harvested after its short fruit-bearing life.

We responsibly showcase some of the more rare and beautiful woods in our collection by incorporating wood veneers. These veneers not only allow us to feature unusual woods and grain patterns, they also afford our customers the opportunity to own designs whose costs would be prohibitive if created from solid woods.

Solid Woods

Our craftsmen carefully choose woods for the durability and beauty they will bring to our designs. The traditional woods we use are timbers hewn directly from cut or recycled trees. The terms below include many of the durable hardwoods and design features you will find in our collection.


Veneers provide a thoughtful economy of natural resources and an appreciable economy of costs, not to mention new opportunities for creative design. Many of our collections achieve their substantial look at such an extraordinary value by incorporating both beautifully grained solid wood and veneers. State-of-the-art technology and modern new materials have also brought unprecedented strength and new aesthetic expression to veneers.

Wood Finishes

After final construction of our wood furnishings, we carefully choose the appropriate finish. The finish not only brings out the natural grain and character of the wood, it also preserves and protects it from daily spills, moisture, heat and light.

Care Information

The care of wood furniture varies according to the wood type, finish and function of the piece. Please consult your sales associate for more specific care guidelines, as some collections have supplemental care instructions for long-term maintenance. Wood is a natural material susceptible to climate and the elements. These guidelines will help you preserve the beauty and integrity of each and every piece.


Because wood is a living, natural material, joinery allows for its seasonal expansion and contraction with changes in climate and humidity. While joinery’s first line of responsibility is that of connecting two boards, it is a centuries-old craft that adds value and beauty to even our most contemporary wood furnishings.

Natural Fibers

Several of our exclusive designs feature handwoven natural fiber construction or accents from materials such as Rattan that add texture and character to the room.

Synthetic Fabric

The Addison bench features cushions upholstered in low-maintenance Sunbrella® acrylic.

Solid Woods

Acacia - A hard, dense wood with dark brown to dark-reddish brown active grain. It is usually finished with a high polish to bring out the beautiful coloring.

American Walnut - A durable hardwood with a highly figured grain and rich dark brown color.

Ash - A lightweight yet durable hardwood with a light-to-medium natural color and an active grain pattern.

Bamboo - One of the fastest-growing, most renewable plants. Solid bamboo has a fine grain and a silky texture.

Birch - A durable hardwood with a light reddish brown grain and a fine uniform texture.

Cherry - A durable hardwood with a characteristic warm, rich reddish color that darkens beautifully over time and with exposure to light.

Chestnut - A durable hardwood, similar to oak, with a warm, decorative grain.

Chinese Walnut - Walnut grown in northern China that is known for a finer, tighter grain than U.S.-grown walnut. Typically used in the construction of tables.

Elm - A tough, durable hardwood that resists splitting. Characterized by a light, natural color and an interlocking grain pattern.

FSC - The Forest Stewardship Council is a nonprofit organization that encourages responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC sets high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and conomically viable way.

Grain - The direction or pattern of the fibrous tissue in wood. An active grain can add desirable character to furniture.

Knot - The point at which a stem or branch grows from a tree, creating a round, often darker, feature in the grain of the wood.

Mahogany - A tropical wood with a dark, reddish coloration and handsome grain. Our collection features only plantation-grown mahogany.

Mango - An eco-friendly sustainable wood with a warm brown tone and characteristic open grain.

Oak - A durable hardwood with a light, natural color and beautiful silvery grain.

Peroba - A durable reclaimed hardwood with an overall light-brown coloring, often variegated or streaked with deep purple to dark brown. The texture is fine to medium with a straight grain.

Pine - A durable wood with a light, natural color and straight grain.

Plain Sawn - A woodcutting technique that exposes the most grain and shows off interesting growth characteristics of the wood, such as swirls and waves. It is commonly used on tabletops and drawer fronts.

Poplar - A strong versatile wood with a blond-to-brown coloring and straight uniform graining. It is ideal for furniture with painted, enameled or stained finishes.

Quarter Sawn - Wood that is cut with a straight, uniform line to the grain. It is most often used on large planed surfaces, such as tabletops and drawer fronts.

Rubberwood - An eco-friendly hardwood that is ideal for furniture with painted finishes.

Sheesham - A member of the Rosewood family. An Indian hardwood similar to teak, but harder and heavier. It has a characteristic warm open grain, and a range of tones from golden brown to dark chestnut.

SFI - The Sustainable Forestry Initiative program oversees more than 150 million acres of forestland in North America to make sure wildlife, plants, and soil and water quality are protected during the growth and harvesting of trees.

Teak - An extremely dense, durable tropical hardwood. Our collection features only plantation-grown teak.

TFT - TFT is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote responsible forest onservation through sustainable and equitable social and economic development at all points in the supply chain of the wood, from harvesting to manufacturing. All of our solid mahogany and teak furnishings are supported by TFT.

Tulipwood - A lightweight, yet durable hardwood with a light grain. Ideal for furniture with a stained finish.

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Veneer - An overlay of hardwood often used to finish or decorate a piece of furniture. Veneers are usually applied to engineered wood or substrate materials. They may also be used over solid wood construction for a special design effect, such as marquetry.

Bookmatch - A veneer that is created by cutting successive pieces from the same wood band so that each piece has an almost identical pattern. The effect is used in side-by-side door panels that appear to be a mirror image of each other.

Burl - A visual effect resulting when wood is cut from an overgrown knot or outgrowth. Often used in decorative veneers, it is also known as a curl or swirl.

Engineered Wood - Any composite wood product, such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF), plywood or particleboard. These woods are incredibly strong, resisting the warping and twisting that can occur with natural solid woods. Engineered woods are usually finished with paint, or a wood or laminate veneer.

Laminate - A product made by bonding layers of wood or other material to a substrate.

Low-Emission Engineered Wood/Veneer - MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard) and veneers that are produced using the strictest low-emission standards established by the California Air Resource Board (CARB) as well as the European Union.

Marquetry - An Old-World, decorative craft in which patterns are formed by the insertion of pieces of material into wood veneer. One example of this would be a starburst on a tabletop.

MDF - Medium-Density Fiberboard is an extremely durable, warp- and twist-resistant panel product, widely used as a substitute for plywood, particleboard and solid lumber. It is manufactured by compressing wood fibers, resin and wax under high pressure to form a panel.

Particleboard - A structural material made of wood fragments such as chips or shavings that are mechanically pressed into sheet form and bonded together with resin.

Plywood - A structural material made of layers of wood glued together, usually with the grains of adjoining layers at right angles to each other.

Solid Wood Banding - A solid wood band is placed around the top edge of a veneered table or desk to help prevent task-generated nicks and dings. It is concealed with a smooth finish and stain to match the overall veneer.

Substrate - Any engineered wood product, such as MDF, plywood or particle-board, to which a veneer or laminate is then adhered.

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Wood Finishes

Bleaching - A method of lightening the overall color of the wood.

Distressing - Using various tools to create the scratches, dents and wear characteristic of aged wood.

Lacquer - A clear, hard, durable finish that is heat-resistant and comparable to varnish in strength. Pigments may be added to lacquer to enhance the wood’s appearance.

Oil - A clear finish that protects the wood and brings out the natural beauty of the color and grain.

Polyurethane - A clear, synthetic coating brushed or sprayed on to seal and protect the look of natural wood or to serve as a protective topcoat for more delicate finishes.

Stain - A natural or synthetic chemical used to color and highlight wood grain. Stains can be water-, oil- or spirit-based.

Wash - A light, diluted coat of paint that is handpainted or rubbed onto the wood before sealing.

Water-Based Coating - An eco-friendly clear topcoat that protects the look of natural wood. A low-emission product, it contains significantly less solvent than conventional finishes.

Wax - A "renewable" finish added to wood to protect and enhance its natural appearance. Wax may be used on bare or stained wood.

Wenge - A modern color reference to a dark chocolate wood stain that gives the impression of the naturally dark brown wenge wood. It appears primarily as a dramatic accent in modern, minimal furnishings, and is most often used in exposed upholstery frames, tables and casegoods.

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Care Instructions

Avoid placing your furniture in highly humid or dry areas, such as directly next to air vents. Direct sunlight may slightly darken or lighten wood furniture.

Note: Based on frequency of use and storage, dining table leaves may change tone at a different rate than the table itself.

Dust with a dry, soft cloth. Remove any soil buildup with a damp cloth and dry immediately. Wipe spills immediately with a soft dry cloth. If water is left standing, white spots can occur but should dissipate over time. Paste wax and 0000 steel wool can be used on a wax finish to remove surface scratches. Rub lightly over the entire surface then buff with a soft cloth. Do not use harsh chemicals or abrasives on any finish. Always use coasters or trivets to prevent heat and water from having direct contact with wood surfaces. Use felt pads on any displays or hard objects that are placed directly on the wood. Avoid contact with certain materials, such as rubber, which might react with the finish. Wax and oil finishes may be renewed by rubbing a light application of a penetrating oil with fine steel wool.


Butt - A basic joint formed by butting one piece of wood up to another and then reinforcing them with dowels or cornerblocks.

butt joint

Classic Chinese Joinery - Traditional solid wood furniture construction methods that do not involve the use of nails or screws. These centuries-old techniques include tongue-and-groove and mortise-and-tenon joints.

chinese joinery

Dado - A joint formed by inserting the end of one board into the cut side of another. This joinery is used in casegoods to secure fixed shelves, to install cabinet dividers, and to attach cabinet backboards and the bottoms of drawers.


Dovetail - A strong, decorative joint formed by interlocking wedges securing two planes of wood that meet at a right angle. This joinery may be beautifully exposed on drawer front corners, where it withstands constant pushing and pulling motions. We occasionally may use dovetailing at the top edges of a dresser or cabinet for its intriguing visual appeal.


Finger - A joint formed by notching small fingers into corresponding pieces of wood and interlocking them. This is most often used as a decorative or durable joint on chairs.


Lap - A joint formed by cutting the end of one board to interlock and lie flush on the lap of another cut board. While commonly used in frame construction, the lap joint is also used to create intricate wood lattices and interesting "X" configurations that are flush to the touch.


Miter - A precise, 45-degree-angle joint used to conceal end grain. While you may be most familiar with miters in frames and tabletops, we may effectively use a miter to create the visual effect of a flush open-grid pattern for a tabletop, chair back or headboard.


Mortise and Tenon - A skillfully executed joint in which typically no nails or screws are used. The protruding sawn edge of the tenon board is inserted into the matching routed opening of the mortise board. This functional joint is most often used to connect table and chair legs to crosspieces. Some designs intentionally expose the beauty of this precise joinery.


Peg - A traditional woodworking method of joining two pieces of wood together with a square or round peg hammered into a hole.


Tongue and Groove - A time-intensive, precisely fitted full-length joint in which typically no nails or screws are used. An extended tongue is shaped along the edge of one wood board, then inserted into an exact-fit groove routed along the edge of an adjacent board. This technique is often used in the construction of multiboard, planed tabletops and certain casegoods.

tongue and groove

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Natural Fibers

Rattan - A vine-like plant with distinctive solid stems, known for being lightweight, durable and flexible. Strands of rattan skin are peeled off the stem and used for weaving around furniture frames. The remaining core is a sturdy material also used in furniture-making.

Care Instructions

Dust regularly with a soft, dry cloth. Do not use harsh chemicals, abrasive cleaners, or silicone- or alcohol-based agents on any woven material. Clean spills with a damp cloth. Remove small particles or surface debris with a soft brush. Fiber furniture is intended for use indoors only and should be protected from exposure to sunlight.

Synthetic Fabric

Sunbrella® - A high-performance solution-dyed acrylic that looks and feels like cotton. It is fade- and mildew-resistant, and has a special color pigment treatment to provide up to 98% UV protection.

Care Instructions

Sunbrella Acrylic - Clean with a soft bristle brush using mild soap and water or our Sunbrella Fabric Cleaner (see the Outdoor Furniture Guide). Avoid abrasive cleansers. Stand cushions upright to air dry. Store indoors or use covers during heavy rain and inclement weather.

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