Out of The Woods #1: Hardwood vs Softwood

What is the difference between hardwood and softwood?

Rachel thought it would be fun to answer a question we get often from clients. Little did she know how complicated the answer can be!

The quick, simplified answer to the question "What is the difference between hardwood and softwood" is that hardwood is the wood of broad leafed deciduous trees (the kind that shed their leaves in the fall), whereas softwoods are the wood from needle leafed evergreen trees (which retain their needles all year long).

You can stop reading there if you like. But if you wanna get your geek on, let's get technical!

Hardwood: a maple with seeds

Hardwood: a maple with seeds

We had to turn to our Tree Nerd friends to fully understand this, and what we learned is pretty cool:


The actual distinction between hardwood and softwood lies in plant reproduction.

Hardwoods are angiosperms, and angiosperms are flowering plants. So they reproduce by making flowers that produce pollen and ovules, and get busy either via wind (like maples, poplars, birch) or by attracting pollinators with showy flowers (like Rachel's favorite Magnolia).

Softwood trees (conifers) are gymnosperm. Get this: conifers are a much older group of plants - they are so old that flowers had not evolved yet.

[DUDE. That calls for a whole other post about the evolution of trees.]

In fact, 'Gymnosperm' means 'naked seed'. This means that they do not have that protective ovary around them and aren't in an enclosure.

At this point, I asked the Tree Nerds why a cone isn't considered an enclosure and they agreed it was pretty silly and confusing. They explained that instead of flowers, the conifers produce what we call cones, "but are really super specialized, modified leaf and stem tissue. Almost all conifers pollinate and disperse their seeds on the wind. The cone protects the developing embryo/seed just like the fruit does - from insects and drying out and the elements. It's just not as advanced, evolutionarily."

Softwood: a conifer wtih cones

Softwood: a conifer wtih cones

The Terminology

Now, it must be said: the terms “hardwood” and “softwood” are actually pretty misleading.

It sounds like they refer to material density, right?

But they don’t. Most hardwoods are indeed pretty dense - but pick up a piece of Balsa, a hardwood, and you’d think you were picking up styrofoam! It’s so light that Balsa is often the wood chosen for model plane building.

Be they technically hardwood or softwood, it turns out that interesting correlations can be drawn between the speed at which a tree grows and its density. Slower growing trees produce wood that is more dense while fast growing trees produce wood that is less dense. Cool.

Choosing Hardwood vs Softwood

So how do we decide which woods to work with? There are all sorts of things to consider when making the choice, like budget, rigidity, flexibility, hardness, coloring and “figure” (We'll explain figuring in another post!).

So usually it isn’t about choosing hardwood vs. softwood, but rather choosing a specific wood that best matches your various criteria.

When it comes down to it, we here at B&B tend to stick to a small selection of native and locally grown hardwoods that are available, durable, and gorgeous.

Big thanks to Carissa Brown at Memorial University of Newfoundland for the Tree Nerdery!

Lifting the veil...

Welcome, welcome! We are so very excited to unveil the brand new B&B website, store, blog & Love Letters!

The most important change is that our website is now BEAUTIFUL & FUNCTIONAL, just like our B&B goods. No more of Rachel's shoddy half-baked HTML hackery, hooray! 

But it doesn't stop there...

SHOP for your favourite B&B products right here on the site!

EDUCATE YOURSELF with our blog: there are fascinating articles about wood, features on awesome independent eco designers, and much more to come!

BEAUTIFY your day with snapshots of life here at Silverwood.  

INJECT GOODNESS in to your inbox by signing up for Our Love Letters.

BONUS! We're celebrating by putting our ready to ship Bamboo Bath caddy on sale for 48 hours - and giving one away! Learn more here

We'd also love to hear what you think of the site, and please let us know if you stumble upon any bugs or glitches!


Green Wedding Dreams

Despite not having had a wedding ourselves (nor any plans to anytime soon), we've had weddings on the brain a lot lately. We've been best man/groomsman/bridesmaid/maid of honour/emcee, made many products for friends' wedding, strangers' weddings, and recently showcased our wares at Ottawa's Indie Wedding Show, Wed By Hand.

We love the current trend of rustic, nature-inspired garden weddings with an emphasis on being green. Weddings are notoriously wasteful and we commend all efforts to leave less of an impact on the planet with your special day. We have added a bunch of items to our line to cater to requests we've received. Here's a little wedding round up of our favourite items sprinkled with nuptial-oriented B&B goods.

Rachel is obsessed with this bespoke wedding dress from eco-indie fashion label Simone's Rose. Just imagine a barefoot bride walking across the dewy grass in this beauty!simones-rose-wedding-dressIn the summer here at Silverwood, we always have jars full of flowering herbs from the herb garden. You don't want to let all your herbs go to flower, but chives are one of the few that flower early, and they make the most incredible bouquets. Those purple blossoms and bright green stems would just pop from antique tinted blue glass jars, don't you think?


These white birch place card holders make a lovely compliment to jars full of chive flowers. We rent these, just contact us if you're interested in details!


We love the beautiful artisanal letter press wedding invitations from Montreal's Tartine Paperie. If you are going the DIY route for your invites, why not use seed paper? A few summers ago, we enjoyed three large planters full of gorgeous wildflowers that started out a friend's wedding invitation.

Screen shot 2013-03-06 at 12.11.35 PMA really great way to incorporate a slideshow into your wedding reception is to use the picture frame function on your iPad - you create an album with your adorable romantic pictures in it, choose that album in the settings for the picture frame, then simply press the flower icon on the home screen of your iPad. It'll play an endless slideshow loop of that album, without going to sleep. Just remember to fully charge your iPad!

We created this tablet stand from a heavy maple log. A minimalist and sturdy way to hold your tablet on the reception table by your guest book.

tablet-stand-4Speaking of guest books, we make a wedding album that doubles as a guest book - the chicago bolts allow you to add more of the FSC certified archival quality paper. Why separate the photos captured on your special day from the heartwarming notes left by your guests?


We love all of Dallas Curow's wedding photography, and especially this snap from her styled wedding shoot, Underwater Garden.

Screen shot 2013-03-06 at 11.47.22 AM Our scrap veneer bunting is a really versatile decoration - use it decorate your walls, run it across the garden, cap the ends of each row of seating - and when you're done, simply compost it!


We love the current trend of using slices of log as a cake stand. Until we have a bandsaw big enough to slice logs, we have this vintage walnut cake stand that Rachel refinished and woodburned, as part of our new section "Refurbished by Rachel".walnut-platter-5When all is said and done, don't forget to thank all your friends and family who helped make your special day a reality! We had a "blast" (pardon the pun) making these custom rifle bookmarks with riveted recycled copper bullets for groomsmen who had organized a skeet shooting themed bachelor party. groomsman-bookmarks-4We also offer sets of chopsticks that make great wedding favours or even a wonderful wedding gift for your getting-hitched friends!


Window Treatment

window-trim-detail After two straight months without a day off, we were close to losing our minds - and so we self-imposed a real weekend.

What magic!

We spent Saturday walking around the lake and reading books on the couch. And then Sunday was spent learning to trim a window for the first time in our lives.

DISCLAIMER before you read the rest of this post - this is one of those "really boring mundane why would i want to know that and read about it" blog posts that's mostly meant to keep friends and family from feeling like Aaron and I fell through a hole in the lake. Consider yourself warned!

Many of the windows in our house are in the unsightly "framed by a raw edge of drywall, insulation and foam" stage - that is to say, untrimmed. It's been driving us nuts but we haven't been able to find the time to fix it.


We started with the kitchen window since it's the most public eye-sore. It took us the whole day since we weren't working from pre-milled stuff - we milled our own trim from large pine 2 x 8s, since we have the tools and the wood.


We decided on a built in shelf with a little half round detailing, and a lintel top instead of the standard miter corners. Maybe a bit ambitious, and we did almost give up half way through- but the thought of adding it to our already long To Do list for the coming week saw us through.


When we stepped back and admired our handiwork, we couldn't believe how good it looked! And satisfying. There's nothing like doing NOTHING for once, and then doing SOMETHING that isn't just for sale or someone else's enjoyment.

Super hard to get good pictures of a window frame when you have insane amounts of snow glaring off the camera lens so here you go. Oh, and the lovely tulips were left here  after a photoshoot for a magazine feature on B&B, details to come!


Gratuitous tulip shot.


Wed By Hand

postcardWe will be in Ottawa this Sunday, with a table at Wed By Hand! We will have samples of our wood wedding albums, centrepiece ideas, branch candles, customizable wedding favours like our chopsticks sheathed in gorgeous , and our new wood bunting! Screen shot 2013-02-07 at 12.43.12 PM

Our bunting is made from scraps of wood veneer. Veneer is wood cut very thin, intended for applying to plywood structures to give the illusion of being made from solid wood - it is challenging to work with as it is prone to breaking, so it tends to create a lot of scrap or waste material. We happily adopt veneer scraps and the bunting is a lovely way to turn otherwise wasted material into the icing on your party cake! We use natural fish glue, made in Quebec, to apply the veneer triangles (with the grain running diagonally to minimize breakage) to biodegradable cotton butcher twine, also made in Canada. Once the bunting has seen its share of celebrations, it can be simply be composted or burned!

Screen shot 2013-02-07 at 3.00.17 PM

Another goody we will be launching at Wed By Hand is our salvaged wood chopsticks, now available in vintage kimono scrap fabric holders, made for us by the wonderful Michelle of Simone's Rose. A lovely and light-on-the-planet wedding favour idea!