American Beech, to buy or not to buy.

I have the opportunity to purchase some American Beech, sawn last spring and stickered since at the dirt cheap price of $.40/bd/ft. I've never used the stuff before. Goolge tells me that it is prone to twisting an splitting when being dried, also not particularly dimensionally stable.
My question is: I can just expect 25% less yield out of a pile, or is the stuff just ill-behaved and likely to piss me off. I'm looking for a completely subjective qualitative 1st-hand opinion on this stuff. I would probably just use it as a secondary wood or painted (yes I do that from time to time) furniture. I'm guessing that "not dimmensionally stable" means - dont even think about it for shop fixtures.
So should I pick up 100-200 bd/ft becaue it's cheap and I'll eventually use it, or should I steer clear?
Thanks,
Steve
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Beech has become a common substitute for maple in chairs and tables. You can see some of the stuff at Starbucks. Once it is cured it should behave quite well. It tends to be 'springy' and resists splitting better than most furniture woods. It tends to split and warp during seasoning because it does not give up it's moisture very well, and is especially troublesome during kiln drying. Once it is dried, those problems are past.
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FF


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That's my experience as well. I bought a pile of American beech from a guy that had it sitting in his basement for about 8 years. It was really, really warped, twisted and cupped - but once jointed and planed it hasn't moved really at all. It's a nice heavy wood. I like it.
JP
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Thanks to both of you
That's exactly what I needed to know (hoped to hear :-) ). Perhaps a cinder bock or two on the pile it warranted while continues to dry
Cheers,
Steve
wrote:

That's my experience as well. I bought a pile of American beech from a guy that had it sitting in his basement for about 8 years. It was really, really warped, twisted and cupped - but once jointed and planed it hasn't moved really at all. It's a nice heavy wood. I like it.
JP
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Expect a LOT of waste. Fred might get beech that behaves, but none such up here where it's pretty abundant. American beech was used in the past for flooring, but even nailed and T&G couldn't tame it. It'll do the Borg 2x4 trick when ripping like as not. It's pallet lumber mostly.
The big boys up the road are steaming the stuff to try and equalize the stresses, but I didn't notice an awful lot of difference when we worked with their donated experiments at the school. Might have found the formula by now, but yours is air dried, so no help from new technology. European beeches are much better behaved.
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Air dried or kiln dried?

European beech was the preferred wood for wooden bodied planes and other hand tools in Europe. During the Colonial period and up to the early 1800's yellow birch was commonly used on this side of the pond. After that, (which corresponds to expansion past the Apalachians) beech became the dominant wood used for hand planes and wooden hand tools in general, with the most common exception being clamps, which still were mostly made of yellow birch.
Ohio Tools which was a major manufacturer of wooden bodied planes in/near Columbus used beech for almost all, though they made some high end planes of Rosewood and maybe Boxwood.
It is commonly accepted that kiln dried wood is more stable than air dried, but luthiers tend to prefer air-dried and the folks who make wooden-bodied planes in Europe claim to air dry their billets for 5 years or more. Maybe it depends on the species, climate, or the patience of the person drying the wood.
That, and the fact that there are several species of Beech in North America leads me to suppose that there are lots of reasons for personally experience to vary.
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FF

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Commonly accepted by people who have not examined the data. See Hoadley or the FPL Wood Handbook.
The reason it was used in planes here, other than tradition, has more to do with its even and slow wearing characteristics than stability. Beech as was differs greatly from beech as is. Dimensional stability depends on the degree to which the the annual rings are parallel or perpendicular to the face(s). A big beech tree provided a lot of wood where a chunk the size of a plane could have them that way. The smaller stuff not so much. Now the bigger trees we've been "conserving" have caught some nasty virus, so we're pretty much limited to smaller stuff.
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That makes a lot of sense.
I'll add that beech has an interlocking grain that resists splitting, which is important when tapping a wedge into a square cornered mortise to hold a plane iron in place.
Even some of the old planes that show splits, the splits are only part-way through, whereas a wood like red oak or maple would have separated.
Beech has kind of a rubbery feel when handplaning or paring. Hand planing leaves a very smooth surface.
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*snip*
How is it hardness wise? Would it be worth turning a baseball bat out of it?
FWIW, I think most bats now are an ash or maple.
Puckdropper
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in

I didn't know about the maple, but it makes sense. Beech might work, but the grain is variable...interlocked in one area, straight in another. Too, it's another wood where quartersawing works best--and is the most attractive. Ash and maple have high elasticity. I don't know what beech does in that area (and can't find my research material right now), but it's the kind of thing needed to make a good ball bat, the ability to take a shock and rebound. So, if you can find your copy of the FPL wood book, check beech for elasticity and shock resistance. From what I'm told, it can be a bitch to turn, too, because of the grain.
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in
Quartersawn beech shows off the ray flecks. They are not as prominent as in oak more like sycamore but with an even finer grain. Once in a while a dufus one Bay advertises a plane made from 'bird's eye maple, with a photo that makes it clear it is really quarter sawn beech. I do recall seeing one plane, (a jointer?) that really was made from bird's eye maple. At one time bird's eye was considered to be a defect so probably some woodwright decided to use his low-grade lumber to make his planes....

It's not as hard as either and substantially lighter than both I think. My guess would be that it is not as stiff (lower Young's modulus) as either and thus would make a 'soft' bat, optimized for grounding out and infield flies, maybe OK for bunting.
I was a bit surprised to learn about the maple bats, maple splits rather easily.
A persimmon bat might be interesting.
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wrote: *trim*

I wonder if NL pitchers ever considered this?

It's a specific type of maple, Rock Maple. It's apparently difficult to find in baseball bat-friendly size and grain orientation.
http://www.redsoxsanta.com/article.cfm/id/58187
Apparently they also use Sugar Maple: http://www.baseball-bats.net/baseball-bats/baseball-bat - materials/index.html

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Yep, oily feel. As to resistance to splitting, dream on. The prominent ray figure provides the same express route to the firewood stack as the even more prominent rays in oak.
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Several sources concur with what you say about beech being easy to split. But given live oaks reputation as a difficult to split wood, I don't think the ray flecks figure into it one way or another.
You told us some folks you know were steaming it. I;ve read that turns it pink. Do you know if that color lasts?
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A big beech tree provided a lot of wood where a chunk the size of

I have an Ohio Tool beech wooden bodied plane that is 85+ years old and still in great shape. It only needed a small amount of sanding to flatten. It's hard to tell but it looks quarter sawn. Would the current "smaller stuff" still be classified as sons' of beeches?
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Dimensional stability is *much* better if it's quartersawn. If it's flatsawn, I think I'd stay away.
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Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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