Can you tell one species of wood from another? More importantly, if you were about to spend your hard-earned money on wood furniture, a countertop, butcher block, or cabinetry, how do you know if you’re getting high-quality wood?

At Bison Woodworking, we use domestic hardwoods, like hickory, maple, oak, cherry, walnut and ash. And when we say “domestic,” that means we don’t have wood imported from other countries. We use American wood. Period.

We say “Made in the U.S.A.” with a great deal of pride. Also, the U.S. has more stringent environmental policies for logging than other parts of the world. When you buy from Bison, you know you’re getting high-quality, durable wood that was harvested in a sustainable way.

How’s that different from the wood you might find in a discount furniture store? Well, the cheap stuff typically is plywood or particle board with a veneer on top and a veneer band around the edges. The manufacturer can save a lot of money and make their wood go a lot farther by using low-quality wood and slapping a thin veneer layer on top.

Rubber wood, which doesn’t grow natively in the U.S. is often used to make furniture overseas. Rubber wood trees produce latex, which is used in manufacturing. When the trees stop producing latex, they’re harvested for the lumber, which is used to make furniture that’s softer and less durable than the American hardwoods we use.

Here’s the problem. It can be hard to tell the difference between cheap materials and real hardwoods. What you need to do with a table, for example, is look underneath. If you see plywood or particle board, you know you’re buying something that wasn’t made with the highest quality materials.

We make everything from solid hardwood. We typically use two-inch stock for tabletops and butcher blocks. To verify this, look at anything we make from every angle. You’ll see the exact same hardwood all the way through.

We’ll also explain what hardwood we’re using and why, based on the look and function you need. Hickory, maple and oak are your workhorse hardwoods. They’re the hardest wood species in the U.S., so we use them for butcher blocks and countertops that have to hold up to a lot of cutting. Cherry, walnut and ash are slightly softer and better suited to other applications.

Before you buy any wood piece, give it a close inspection. Look at the unfinished side. If it’s not the same as the finished surface, you could be looking at cheap, imported materials.