I'm building a secretary desk (to fit under the model railroad) out of
"natural" birch. Thats where the white sapwood and the brown heartwood
are both used. I think it's a great effect, some think it's too garish.
But that's not the question. A lot of the heartwood has small tight
knots. Some of these knots have cracks (usually radial) but they're not
I've got two ideas for dealing with them.
One, and the way I'm leaning, is to fill the cracks with a clear epoxy
so they're still visible but the surface is smooth.
My other idea is to drill them out and put in a patch.
Any comments? Anyone got other ideas?
Hi Larry, I'd suggest the epoxy. I too, love the variation in
heartwood and sapwood. But then, I like it in cherry and walnut, also,
in the right piece or floor. I would like to comment on the knots and
cracks in the heartwood, which I personally like the look of but
wonder why so many people think that heartwood has superior quality
when it's actually the dead part of the log and where the knots,
cracks, and rot are? I'm thinking of the Lowe's commercial that says
all their framing materials come from heartwood. Like that's a selling
point?! I can tell that guy never spent a day on the sawmill. Another
one is "heart pine". Guess I should quit sawing cants.
One other little bit of information about birch that you may or may
not know is that "red pine" is just the heartwood sorted out of white
Interesting. I'm in Washington and the local birch has white sapwood
and brown heartwood. I'd never seen reddish birch till the other day,
when I went to Windsor Plywood (the only hardwood store in Spokane) and
theirs was reddish. I asked the manager and he said it was all shipped
in - one time it'd be red, next time brown. And he had no control over
what he got.
So I drove 80 miles to Colville, a much smaller town, which for some
strange reason seems capable of supporting a hardwood store. It's
Corbett & Speirs, and they've been there for several years. I keep
trying to get them to open a branch in Spokane :-). Anyway, they had
lots of locally cut birch and not a reddish tint in the bunch.
So our birch must be a different variety than what you're used to
Hi Larry, One possibility could easily be the region where it grew.
I know the soil can have a lot to do with the tone the lumber has.
Here in the Midwest, where the soil is rich and black, the grain tends
to be more true compared to where the soil is red, such as out East.
That's why all the veneer buyers are after the walnut and cherry that
grows here. That, along with, the tight growth rings. On the other
hand, I can't say I know everything. Jana
I'll agree with your last sentence.
Commercial varieties of birch are generally divided into "white" and
"yellow" for marketing purposes. This is loosely based on the color of the
bark, not the wood, with the yellow birch the harder, denser, and more
valuable. There is a yellow birch sport , according to some, a separate
species, according to others, called a "black" or "cherry" birch, which has
a much darker bark, and runs very pink in even the sapwood. Has nothing to
do with minerals in the soil, as the tree takes what it wants and leaves the
rest behind in the roots.
There is a chemical change which takes place in the sapwood, aging it into
the darker heart. The wood I was bucking up before dinner, cut last summer,
has had time to turn pink from center to cambium, and has an entirely
different smell when split. For a woodturner, it's a lot of fun to have
pieces from fresh yellow birch, aged, and spalted. You'd almost think it
was from different trees. You can do the same with soft maple.
Oh yes, red pines and white pines are pretty much the same - commercial
divisions, though there are "red pine" - Pinus resinosa - and "white
pine" - Pinus strobus - which are the two most commercially valuable
species in the east and midwest.
I don't know everything, but I know a damn good place to read up on wood:
Ok George, With 36 years combined experience between my husband and
myself in the lumber business milling between a million and two
million bf on any given year should say I know a little how the market
works. Weyerheauser will only take the heartwood of white birch and
they call it red birch. I never said the sapwood was yellow birch. If
you want to argue about the mineral comment....just open your eyes and
look at it. You should read the hardwood market report.
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