What is Wood?

Why is wood a good material for building homes and furniture? Why is it great for heating and cooking? Wood is among the most versatile materials on the planet.

It was one of the earliest materials to be used by our ancestors and no doubt it will still be in the future. Find out what wood is and why it is a prized building and heating material from this guide.

Composition of wood

Wood is from trees. The best way to understand what wood is to learn all about its composition. Freshly cut wood is made up of cells just like any other plant. These cells are composed of substances called cellulose as well as lignin which make up a fifth to a quarter of hardwoods and about a quarter to a third of softwoods and hemicellulose.

To make this simpler, cellulose is the fibrous bulk of a tree, while lignin is what holds the fibers together.

The strength of wood

Wood is strong but not as strong as steel and other metals. Wood is flexible and lighter which is why it is a popular building material. Other materials have a uniform inner structure and that makes them isotropic which means that these behave exactly the same way in all directions. But wood is different because of its annual-ring-and-grain structure.

You will be able to bend and snap a small, dead tree branch, however, it is impossible to do so if you are pulling or pushing it in the opposite direction. This principle also holds true if you are cutting wood with an ax. When chopping wood with an ax, you will be able to split wood easily when you slice with the blade along the grain.

It is extremely hard to do so when you slice with the blade along the grain, but it’s harder to chop the grain. This is why wood is called anisotropic, which means it has different properties in different directions.

The durability of wood

Possibly one of the best characteristics of wood is how long it lasts. An example of just how durable wood is the vast amount of wooden artifacts that were unearthed from many archaeological sites around the world.

There are wooden cases, boats, beams and coffins that are still intact despite being buried for thousands of years. The way that wood was buried or preserved plays a huge role in keeping these artifacts in good shape of course.

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Like other natural materials, wood is also subject to the natural forces of decay through a process known as rotting. This is when organisms such as fungi and insects like 0termites and beetles gradually eat the cellulose and lignin in wood and turn it into dust.

Therefore, provided that wood is cared for and treated with chemical stains or paint, it can be used for a long time.

About hardwoods and softwoods

Wood may be hardwood or softwood. Hardwoods are from broad-leaved (deciduous) trees that shed their leaves each fall. Hardwoods are also known as angiosperms because their seeds are encased in fruits or pods. Classic examples of hardwoods are ash, beech, birch, teak, walnut, mahogany, maple, and oak.

On the other hand, softwoods are from evergreen (coniferous) trees or trees that have needles and cones and retain their leaves all year round and are also called gymnosperms. The most common examples of softwoods are cedar, cypress, fir, redwood, pine, and spruce.

No doubt about it that hardwoods are harder than softwoods, however, this is not always true. One way to explain this is to check out balsa wood, one of the lightest woods and is a hardwood. Balsa is the most popular material to build model airplanes because of its very light, very soft and very versatile characteristics.

Hardwoods have lovely grains and are used for such things as making fine furniture and decorative woodwork used to decorate homes and buildings. Meanwhile, softwoods are from very tall, straight trees which are suitable for construction work in the form of poles, planks, etc.


Wood is a material that comes from trees. It is used for the construction of homes, buildings and other structures. It is used in manufacturing furniture and other wooden pieces.

Wood is one of the most versatile and no doubt the most popular material where the raw material is harvested. There are many interesting characteristics of wood that differ according to the type of wood species.

  • January 5, 2019
  • DIY