Woods and Finishes


We have no right to misuse wood. We did not make it. We found it, like air, water and grass. The only possible manner of acquiring any rights over it is by putting the stamp of character upon it. The theologians tell us of sins, as if we were under obligation to a spiritual world alone. But sheer wickedness in the use of materials ought to cause even a materialist to shudder. Wood is one of the best things we have. Whether Grinling Gibbons puts his tool to it or we make a milking stool of it, men will measure us by the manner of our handling it.

Only people with a sense of reverence for materials can make good citizens. A man must use wood well, or he will mistreat his neighbors.

Wallace Nutting (1861-1941)

Following are our standard woods. We’re able, in fact, to offer most frames in any domestic or sustained-yield tropical hardwood available to us. Inquiries about other species are always welcome. Read more about our woods and how we finish them…

White Oak—Quartersawn, Riftsawn and Plainsawn

By far our most popular wood is quartersawn white oak, usually stained, which features a coarse grain and wild and distinctive “ray flake” figure. The strong visual interest provided by this wood requires careful selection so that the figure is balanced over the whole frame and is appropriate to the character of the picture, since it can be distracting. While most of our customers prefer quartersawn white oak, we also offer plainsawn and riftsawn white oak. Finishing options are shown below. Learn more about why we like to use this wood so much…

Finishes for White Oak—


Next to oak, the wood we use most often is walnut—and for good reason: it’s been a favorite of frame-makers for centuries. During the Renaissance, this was the favored wood for ungilded frames. While gilded frames were made of basswood or poplar—good for carving but without character—and woods like pine were used for structure, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online essay on “Italian Renaissance Frames” notes that “The rich color of walnut was highly prized—other woods were frequently stained to imitate it—and its dense structure was excellent for carving fine details.”

Although a different variety from that found in the Mediterranean, the color and character of American black walnut which we use is equally suited to framing. Tighter in grain and smoother than the coarse and highly variegated grain of oak, its texture often makes it more suitable when framing works on paper. But we also love this wood for carving, and often choose it for creating interesting carved surface texture in harmony with patterns in the picture.

We love to use walnut with a clear finish—usually just oil and wax—but it also stains well.

Finishes for Walnut—

Honduran Mahogany

This wood has long been favored for its beautiful red-orange color and depth as well as its suitability for carving. Mahogany stains well. Please note that with a clear finish, mahogany starts out rather light and darkens with age.

Finishes for Honduran Mahogany—


This popular, tight-grained domestic fruitwood, like walnut, is tight in grain and smooth, making it especially suitable for framing works on paper. It too stains well. Please note that cherry starts out rather light and darkens with age.

Finishes for Cherry—


A beautiful blond wood, maple may be stained to a warm medium brown for a classic early American look. We offer figured maple as well as plain (learn more…).

Finishes for Maple—