North American wood

Page 1 of 3  
This question pertains to what's available from North American wood dealers. This may well be a naive question, but why is it that there doesn't seem to be much available in terms of other North American trees such as Elm, Sycamore, Willow, Birch (not counting plywood), Beech, etc.?
Or to phrase the question a different way, why is Cherry, Walnut, Oak, Poplar, Maple, etc. what's predominately available?
--

If you want to reply via email, change the obvious words to numbers and
remove ".invalid".
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It is not economically viable to to sell the others. There isn't much available and little demand. So, it would be expensive with no one buying it at all. I bought a quantity of Viraro from an importer closing it out. Beautiful wood, but nobody ever heard of it, so he couldn't sell it. Same idea with Beech. Do you want to buy a beech table or a maple table? They look about the same and around here beech is much cheaper, if you can find it, because no one wants it.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I can understand it's not economically viable if there's little demand. But is there a reason for the lack of demand? Is it a case of inertia/tradition? As in, Cherry/Walnut/Oak/etc is what's been used in the past, so that's just what everyone wants and thinks about. Or is there little demand because these other types of woods wood be too expensive to turn into lumber for general consumption?

I understand what you're saying, I've never heard of Viraro either. So if I was looking to buy/use some type of exotic/import wood, I would probably skip Viraro for something else I'd heard of before. But where North American wood is concerned, I think most people in North America have heard of Sycamore, Willow and Elm. I've just never really seen these types of trees available as lumber.

I can't really say whether I'd rather have a table made of Beech or Maple--I've never seen Beech (that I was aware of). Which is part of my musing about what it is that makes these other types of woods less available.
--

If you want to reply via email, change the obvious words to numbers and
remove ".invalid".
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Beech vs maple is an easy one: unless quartersawn, beech warps all over creation. Quartersawing is a PITA for the sawyer, and the yield is lower. Using maple is just easier all around.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Well, since I wrote that message, I did some looking around and I've seen some Beech now. It reminds me of Oak, but without the open pores and a little softer. I rather like the look of it myself.
So I guess if I were to see two tables, constructed and finished in a similar fashion, I'd probably opt for the Beech table if it was less expensive and I didn't need the table to withstand a lot of abuse. If this was to be dining table--definitely Maple as that should stand up better to abuse.
--

If you want to reply via email, change the obvious words to numbers and
remove ".invalid".
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I do too -- and quartersawn, it's really pretty.

Depends on which type of maple. Beech is not as hard as hard maple (sugar or black maple), but it's a *lot* harder than soft maple (usually red maple, sometimes silver or bigleaf). For a dining table, given the choice between soft maple and quartersawn beech, IMO the beech wins, hands down. Hard maple vs. quartersawn beech depends mostly on visual appeal; either one is plenty hard enough for a dining table.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On May 11, 10:14 pm, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

Beech is hard enough to make plane bodies from, which by design have to withstand abuse, by being dragged over miles of rough lumber and by being smacked with a hammer on ends and topdeck. Interesting that you see more old beech planes than maple if the latter is significantly harder or more stable.
Looks like those old plane bodies were cut from split lumber, which would be even more expensive than QS. Split lumber is the most stable, since the fibers all run parallel to the surfaces.
Both woods age beautifully, with beech taking on a deep ivory color and glow.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

What can I say? It *is* a fact that sugar maple is harder than American beech, although I don't think I ever said it was "significantly" harder. It is also a fact that beech is more prone to warp than sugar maple unless quartersawn.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I'm not sure that split beech for planes would be all that expensive, since at the lengths required (generally less than 12"), firewood is sufficient.
scott
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Thats my point, you haven't seen beech and would be skeptical of furniture made of it. People know oak, maple, cherry, walnut, mahogany, and teak. That is what they will buy, so that is what woodworkers use, lumberyards carry, and sawmills process. I happen to love butternut and ash, but they are tough sells in furniture; people want what they are used to.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Me too, especially ash. Done right, it can really look cool.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Michael Faurot wrote:

You can buy pretty much anything you want if you look in the right place. Google is a good start.
--

dadiOH
____________________________
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I'm not so much looking to buy/find any of these types of wood, as I'm musing about why it is that they're not as available as things like Cherry, Walnut, Maple, etc.
--

If you want to reply via email, change the obvious words to numbers and
remove ".invalid".
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Mostly because they're not in nearly as much demand as cherry, walnut, maple, or oak.
The reasons for that are probably a whole 'nuther discussion, but I'd suggest primarily ignorance (most folks have no idea what sycamore, elm, hackberry, etc. look like), habit (people are accustomed to seeing furniture made from cherry, walnut, maple, and oak, and they buy what they're accustomed to), and preference (cherry, walnut, maple, and oak do look nice, after all).
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
[Availability of Elm, Sycamore, Willow, etc.]

That's the general impression I got. People don't know it's out there and there's a certain inertia/tradition that goes with Cherry, Walnut, Maple, Oak, etc. Those issues, coupled with things mentioned in other posts such as disease, workability, ability to cultivate/harvest apparently make these other types of wood less common.
--

If you want to reply via email, change the obvious words to numbers and
remove ".invalid".
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

I have noticed that the less known woods are used in the furniture that you find at the furniture store. Typically it is used in the pieces that are heavily stained and have the description of Cherry Finish, or Walnut Finish, etc. If the description of the piece has the word "Finish", chances are that the wood being used is not the type used in the Finish description. A classic example, "Fruitwood Finish".
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Michael Faurot wrote:

Because those are in plentiful supply, work well and are durable.
--

dadiOH
____________________________
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I guess you could ask why the grocery store does not carry fresh Kiwi, or Dates, or Tangerines. Then you might say the store I go to has those fruits. The lumber yards I go to have the limber that you described as scarce.
What ever sells well is what is stocked at most lumber yards. If your lumber yard does not sell what you are looking for you should look at other lumber yards.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I'm sure the principles of supply and demand play a part--regular economics. But why is there more of a demand for Cherry, Walnut and Oak, than say Willow, Elm and Sycamore? I've never actually seen lumber from a Willow, Elm or Sycamore or worked with this stuff. Are these types of trees inferior for typical woodworking type activities? Too hard to work? Ugly? They're not cultivated like the types other types of "common" woods? They're too hard/expensive to cultivate? There's just not enough of them? Disease (e.g., Dutch Elm Disease) has made them too scarce/expensive to turn into lumber?

I'm not looking to buy this stuff per se--I'm just wondering what's the bigger picture here?
--

If you want to reply via email, change the obvious words to numbers and
remove ".invalid".
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Willow isn't really suitable for most furniture uses; it's quite soft, and rather prone to warp.
Elm used to be used widely in furniture; it's attractive, fairly hard, and works well. I'm sure that Dutch elm disease is a major reason that elm isn't used nearly as much as it used to be.
Sycamore is quite soft, and as such is suitable only for use in furniture that isn't likely to get banged around much. I wouldn't use it for a dining table, for example. When flatsawn, sycamore is prone to warp, and not especially attractive to look at. When quartersawn, though, it's dimensionally stable, and exhibits *spectacular* ray-flake grain. (A Google Images search on quartersawn sycamore will produce some excellent examples.) IMO the main factors inhibiting sycamore's use as a furniture wood are its softness, and widespread unawareness of how beautiful it is when quartersawn.

Supply and demand, for the most part.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Site Timeline

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.