What is a good contrast wood for oak?

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Forum topic by darthford posted 03-29-2014 04:28 PM 9558 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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582 posts in 1891 days

03-29-2014 04:28 PM

I’m suffering through a 2 week designers block on a simple project (quilt ladder). Now I’m thinking of introducing a contrast wood to ignite some ideas. Below is the color I’ll be shooting for, I know black hardware contrasts nicely with this color oak but I’m not sure about a black walnut, I don’t really imagine those two woods going together. I could go lighter I suppose, with a maple. I’m open to suggestions my local hardwoods suppliers have just about everything.

10 replies so far

View SWCPres's profile


29 posts in 1496 days

#1 posted 03-29-2014 05:50 PM

Are you using red oak or white oak? I would use WO and Walnut, they go well together.

This is a blanket chest I made years ago WO and Walnut with Pecan (minwax) stain. If your going to be heavy on the hardware like the picture above in your post. I wouldn’t use a contrasting wood. Cherry and Walnut also look good together as well. If only small accent pieces, use Jatoba or Sapele for a dark red accent.

-- Reinventing the "Wheel", one 800mg Ibuprofen at a time.....

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397 posts in 1866 days

#2 posted 03-29-2014 06:52 PM

My own preference would not be to have something with as stark a difference as oak and walnut. That is, unless you stain the oak. Since I’m not big on stains, I wouldn’t do it at all.

Rather than that, I’d choose something which compliments the wood in both color and grain.

Example: Quarter sawn cherry with panels of plain-sawn walnut with cathedral flames on it. Or straight-grained, if not QS walnut with cherry panels. Wild cherry can have some fantastic patterns in it. You’ll never know until you open it. If you have access to a supplier who will let you pick through the wood, you could probably find some figured cherry for the panels or drawer fronts.

I have a small treasure box which I made of beech with a cherry lid. The beech ended up a medium brown with tung oil, and the cherry darkened with the oil. It’s nice contrast, but nowhere near a black and white difference.

-- --Dale Page

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1488 days

#3 posted 03-29-2014 08:04 PM

Darth, I agree with Dale .. especially the complementary grain part. With oak, another wood species with an open grain would look good. To me, it’s disconcerting to see open-grained and closed-grained woods paired, unless it’s part of a concept design.

You didn’t say whether you’re using white oak or red oak and, while I don’t think I’d pair ash with white oak, red oak may be ok, unless it’s, like, a black ash or something with a tanner or browner color. I believe I’d look toward, say, sassafras, pecan, butternut, hickory, pretty much any of the “nut” woods, etc.

However, if you plan to stain any of the species, the original color, of course, changes the decision and more woods could be in play, as long as the grains remain complementary.

View RussellAP's profile


3103 posts in 2254 days

#4 posted 03-29-2014 08:09 PM

Oak is a good middle of the road color for wood, which limits the contrast you can use. It will however take a stain very well so you might consider the same wood with different stains. Sure would simplify things.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

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Jim Finn

2647 posts in 2889 days

#5 posted 03-29-2014 08:57 PM

No Stain Oak and walnut. Also Mahogany and oak. Plenty contrast with natural colors.

-- Website is

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914 posts in 1950 days

#6 posted 03-29-2014 09:11 PM

Curly maple is a good contrast and I like character wood in my pieces anyway, unless requested otherwise.

-- Nick, “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” – Vincent Van Gogh

View okwoodshop's profile


448 posts in 3142 days

#7 posted 03-30-2014 12:09 AM

Purple heart looks good as an accent wood with a color like what you are trying for, I don’t know how the quilt ladder would look with contrasting woods. would you be able to see them anyway?? Also think about part natural wood or stained and painted pieces mixed.

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1488 days

#8 posted 03-30-2014 12:54 AM

Here’s a quilt hanger of walnut and ash as an example of contrasting woods :

Maybe it detracts from the quilt. It’s hard to say.

View darthford's profile


582 posts in 1891 days

#9 posted 03-30-2014 01:31 AM

ARRG! Well I guess I can re-think the choice of wood. I had 2 pieces of 5/4 oak for the side rails, one was a bit warped, maybe a 1/8 inch bowed. Both had been in my shop for months. I jointed both flat on the jointer, so far so good. Then ran them through the planer and the warped board on the left went from flat to major BOING! Dang that’s like a 1/2 inch bow. (face palm) Heck with it I closed up the shop and I’m going to go cook spaghetti.

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Monte Pittman

28947 posts in 2305 days

#10 posted 03-30-2014 01:35 AM

I have used oak with black walnut and liked it.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

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