resources
hardwoods

Canada selected hardwoods

Red alder Paper birch Sugar maple

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

See also: United States selected hardwoods.

Designers and SME producers can also consult furniturelink's hardwood 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 for some 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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Red alder - Alnus rubra *

Common names

Oregon alder, western alder.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

None.

Tree

Found in pure stands on moist bottom land in coastal valleys of the Pacific Northwest; grows up to 24 m (80 ft) in height and 60 cm (2 ft) in diameter; relatively short-lived (sawlog-size trees are produced in 35-50 years) and tends to decay within 90 years; ecologically important as roots supply nitrogen to soil in preparation for growth of other climatic species.

Wood

Light reddish brown with little distinction between sapwood and heartwood; certain kiln schedules can produce a creamy white appearance similar to maple; grain usually straight with pleasing pattern when wood is quarter-sawn.

Density (12% mc)

460 kg/cubic metre (29 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           40.00 MPa
Resistance to splitting      2.86 MPa
Static bending strength     73.80 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 little degrade; non-resistant to microbial stain, so green lumber must be kiln-dried immediately or promptly stacked for air-drying; works easily with hand and power tools; takes stain readily; good finishing, gluing, screw-holding properties.

Identification features: hand lens

Diffuse porous; pores usually in radial rows of 2-4; growth ring terminated by thin line of denser fibrous tissue; no tyloses; rays mostly fine, not visible to unaided eye; large aggregate rays easily visible to unaided eye but appear only at irregular intervals.

Traditional uses

Furniture, plywood ("Appleply"), domestic woodenware, turning, toys, firewood.

Potential "value-created" uses

Furniture designs incorporating CNC lathe components; thermo-treated show wood upholstery frames; corner finger-jointed edge-laminated solid-panel storage units.


Paper birch - Betula papyrifera *

Common names

Canoe birch, white birch.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

Yellow birch - Betula alleghaniensis. Generally considered superior to paper birch for furniture manufacture (it is slightly harder and stronger with a trunk diameter of 60-100 cm); found in the southern regions of the eastern provinces.

Tree

Found with other pioneer species in unshaded stands; stem is long and cylindrical with characteristic peeling bark; grows up to 16 m (52 ft) in height and 60 cm (2 ft) in diameter.

Wood

Heartwood pale brown; sapwood creamy white; normally straight-grained with uniform, fine texture; some logs exhibit a curly figure known as "flame birch."

Density (12% mc)

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

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           44.70 MPa
Resistance to splitting      7.17 MPa
Static bending strength     94.80 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 satisfactorily but with relative high shrinkage; machines reasonably well with hand and power tools; glues well (yellow birch does not); takes stain and finishes easily; moderately good steam-bending rating.

Identification features: hand lens

Diffuse porous; pores mostly solitary, some aligned in short radial rows; growth ring often indistinct, terminated by thin band of denser fibrous tissue; little or no tyloses; rays very fine.

Traditional uses

Veneer, plywood, furniture, domestic woodenware, toys, dowels, clothespins, fruit baskets, medical spatulas.

Potential "value-created" uses

Furniture designs incorporating specialized multi-lamination "micro-ply"; thermo-treated show wood upholstery frames; corner finger-jointed edge-laminated solid-panel storage units; birch veneered MDF (soy-based adhesive, FSC certified) cabinets for LEED and health-care applications.


Sugar maple - Acer saccharum *

Common names

Bird's-eye maple, curly maple, hard maple, rock maple, sweet maple.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

Broadleaf maple - Acer macrophyllum, found on the southern coast of BC. Black maple - Acer nigrum, found in the extreme south of Ontario.

Tree

Found in mixed stands with other hardwoods; famous for its sweet sap from which maple syrup is made; grows up to 30 m (96 ft) in height and 150 cm (4 ft) in diameter; relatively scarce and, therefore, expensive timber.

Wood

Heartwood light to medium brown; sapwood usually wide and off-white to pale brown in colour; fine and uniform texture.

Density (12% mc)

740 kg/cubic metre (46 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           56.40 MPa
Resistance to splitting      9.21 MPa
Static bending strength    115.00 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 well with little or no degrade; good bending and crushing strength; machines well with hand and machine tools; good steam-bending properties; gluing properties variable; easy to finish.

Identification features: hand lens

Diffuse porous; pores mostly solitary or several aligned radially; growth ring may not be distinct but terminated by thin line of denser fibrous tissue; rays of two sizes - smallest barely visible with hand lens, larger easily visible with naked eye.

Traditional uses

Furniture, decorative bird's-eye and fiddleback veneer, plywood, turnings, architectural millwork, flooring.

Potential "value-created" uses

Furniture designs incorporating fiddleback specialized veneered panels; CNC-turned components for "high-traffic" hospitality chairs; laminated veneer chair components with lightweight alder core; maple veneered, MDF (soy-based adhesive, FSC certified) cabinets for LEED and health-care applications.

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Hardwood species data

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