resources
softwoods

United States selected softwoods

Atlantic white-cedar Western larch Western white pine

As mentioned in the introduction, furniturelink selected the species listed on this page primarily for their regional and unusual aeshetic characteristics. As these three softwoods are not a definitive list, furniturelink welcomes your suggestions for additional species.

See also: Canada selected softwoods.

Designers and SME producers can also consult furniturelink's softwood science resource and Understanding Wood and Identifying Wood by R. Bruce Hoadley (see right-hand column).

Ecolabelling Issues

furniturelink advocates the use of FSC-certified, recycled wood or timber from well-managed local woodlots (see bottom of wood species page for a few sources). Rare wood species should be used primarily for veneered agriboard panels or other certified boards (MDF, plywood), manufactured with non-toxic adhesives.

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Atlantic white-cedar - Chamaecyparis thyoides *

Common names

Southern white-cedar, swamp-cedar and boatcedar

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

Alaska-cedar Chamaecyparis nootkatensis.

Tree

On average reaches 20-28 m (65-92 ft) in height and 55 cm (1.5 ft) in diameter but in optimal conditions can reach 36 m (120 ft) in height and 150 cm (5 ft) in diameter. The hyphen in the name reflects the fact that Atlantic white cedar is a cypress and not a true cedar of the Cedrus genus.

Wood

Sapwood forms a narrow white band, and heartwood varies in colour from pinkish red to light brown. It is very lightweight, fine textured, straight grained and very resistant to decay, suggesting applications in patio furniture production provided the design accommodates the wood's poor resistance to splitting.

Density (12% mc)

380 kg/cubic metre (21 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           32.40 MPa
Resistance to splitting      2.83 MPa
Static bending strength     46.90 MPa

* (Source of data and explanation of tests.)

* (Mechanical properties of Canada and United States species.)

* (Chart of strength and density for furniture species.)

* (Interactive species location map.)

Processing

Works easily with both hand and machine tools; accepts fasteners easily but with poor holding strength and a tendency to split.

Identification features: hand lens

Growth rings distinct but not conspicuous, delineated by a darker band of latewood, usually fairly wide; transition from early to latewood tends to be gradual.

Traditional uses

Boat building, shingles, decorative fencing, furniture.

Potential "value-created" uses

Patio furniture designs that exploit Atlantic white-cedar's natural heartwood durability.


Western larch - Larix occidentalis *

Common names

Western tamarack.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

Eastern larch Larix laricina (commonly called tamarack), not as suitable as western larch for furniture manufacture.

Tree

Long, slightly tapering stem, often free of branches for most of its height; grows up to 50 m (160 ft) in height and 150 cm (5 ft) in diameter.

Wood

Sapwood usually narrow and off-white to pale straw brown; heartwood russet to reddish brown; straight-grained; wood feels greasy; same density as paper birch; perhaps because of its limited availability the unique properties of larch go largely unrecognized and the species is mainly used for construction lumber.

Density (12% mc)

640 kg/cubic metre (40 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           60.90 MPa
Resistance to splitting      3.62 MPa
Static bending strength    107.00 MPa

* (Source of data and explanation of tests.)

* (Mechanical properties of Canada and United States species.)

* (Chart of strength and density for furniture species.)

* (Interactive species location map.)

Processing

Seasons moderately well except checking causes some difficulty; moderately difficult to work; takes a smooth, hard finish.

Identification features: hand lens

Earlywood to latewood transition very abrupt (similar to Douglas-fir); resin canals sparse and small, distributed mainly in latewood; growth rings very uniformly spaced; rays of two sizes.

Traditional uses

Construction lumber, millwork; interchangeable with Douglas-fir for many applications.

Potential "value-created" uses

Patio furniture designs that exploit larch's high strength by minimizing cross-sectional area of structural components.


Western white pine - Pinus monticola*

Common names

Idaho white pine, white pine.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

All species of pines (genus Pinus), including eastern white pine - Pinus stobus, lodgepole pine - Pinus contorta, ponderosa pine - Pinus ponderosa.

Tree

Reaches heights of 15 m (50 ft) with diameters of 60 cm (2 ft) and in optimal conditions heights of 24 m (80 ft) with diameters up to 1.2 m (4 ft).

Wood

Sapwood is a narrow creamy white band with light brown or reddish brown heartwood; straight-grained with a medium coarse texture; pine odour.

Density (12% mc)

420 kg/cubic metre (26 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           36.10 MPa
Resistance to splitting      2.64 MPa
Static bending strength     64.10 MPa

* (Source of data and explanation of tests.)

* (Mechanical properties of Canada and United States species.)

* (Chart of strength and density for furniture species.)

* (Interactive species location map.)

Processing

Seasons easily with minimal shrinkage; very stable in use with good resistance to splitting; machines and finishes well.

Identification features: hand lens

Growth rings distinct with gradual transition to a narrow band of latewood; resin canals abundant and medium-sized; rays of two sizes visible with hand lens; rays containing resin canals often visible with unaided eye.

Traditional uses

Furniture, foundry pattern stock, millwork, toys.

Potential "value-created" uses

Furniture designs incorporating CNC lathe components; upholstery frames; edge-laminated solid-panel storage systems; thermo-treated patio furniture.

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Softwood species data

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