Lumber Species

Types of Lumber Wood Offered at The Lumber Shack:

Walnut Lumber

walnut lumber species

Walnut Lumber (Juglans nigra ) derived from walnut trees is considered to be hardwood, meaning it is particularly dense, tight-grained and resilient. Most of the 21 species of walnut can be cultivated and utilized for timber, but the most valuable type is the black walnut because of the exceptional qualities of its wood. The most unique and valued black walnut lumber is found in between regions in Ohio and Iowa.

Black walnut's sapwood, which is the outer, younger and living layer of the tree, has a creamy white color. Its heartwood, which is the inner, older and dead layer of the tree, has a dark brown color. When dried through the use of kilns, black walnut wood turns a dark brown color. 

The grain of black walnut wood is usually straight and tight with more pattern variations than most hardwoods. The wood works well with any finishing substances and is easy to polish due to the rare occurrence of any sap pockets or other imperfections that may complicate the finishing process. Black walnut wood is relatively easy to shape with either machine or hand tools and once it is set remains quite resilient. All these features have made black walnut wood a favorite of furniture makers, wood carvers and other woodworkers.

Black walnut burl responds particularly well from woodturning and is often used for making small wood items such as bowls or candleholders. Black walnut wood can be cut into thin slices for veneer and this is often used by cabinet makers to make pleasing exterior panels. Even car manufacturers use black walnut veneer for the interior of their prestige and luxury models. Furniture makers consider this wood to be premium material and often create their high-end pieces with it.

Those who wish to add some sophistication to their homes have often looked at black walnut lumber for their floors. Gun makers take advantage of black walnut wood's resilience by often choosing it for rifle, shotgun and handgun stocks. Musical instrument makers, luthiers, in particular, may also use walnut wood as part of their acoustic stringed instruments. Acoustic guitars, for example, commonly have their soundboards made from black walnut wood. It is clear that black walnut lumber is one of the most valued and desired types of wood for a wide array of wood projects. That is why we focus on a large variety of black walnut slabs and woods in our shop with new additions every week!

Check out our black walnut wood we have today!

Maple Lumber

Maple Lumber (Acer saccharum) heartwood is typically light reddish brown but can at times be considerably darker. The sapwood is commonly white with a slight reddish-brown tinge. Hard maple has a fine, uniform texture. It is heavy, strong, stiff, hard, resistant to shock, and has high shrinkage. The grain of sugar maple is generally straight, but birdseye, curly, or fiddleback grain is often selected for furniture or novelty items. Hard maple is used principally for lumber and veneer. A large proportion is manufactured into flooring, furniture, cabinets, cutting boards and blocks, pianos, billiard cues, handles, novelties, bowling alleys, dance and gymnasium floors, spools, and bobbins.

Silver maple is also known as white, river, water, and swamp maple; red maple as soft, water, scarlet, white, and swamp maple; boxelder as ash-leaved, three-leaved, and cut-leaved maple; and bigleaf maple as Oregon maple. Soft maple is found in the eastern United States except for bigleaf maple, which comes from the Pacific Coast. Heartwood and sapwood are similar in appearance to hard maple: heartwood of soft maple is somewhat lighter in color and the sapwood, somewhat wider. The wood of soft maple, primarily silver and red maple, resembles that of hard maple but is not as heavy, hard, and strong. Soft maple is used for railroad crossties, boxes, pallets, crates, furniture, veneer, woodenware, and novelties.

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Ambrosia Maple

Ambrosia Maple, much like spalted maple and other forms of figured maple, is technically not a specific species of Maple, but rather a general description of any type of Maple that has been infested by ambrosia beetles. The beetles bore into the tree, and with it bring fungus that discolors the wood. Ambrosia Maple is considered a decorative feature, which gives the wood additional character and is sometimes available for purchase.

Curly Maple

Curly Maple is not actually a species, but simply a description of a figure in the grain—it occurs most often in soft maples but is also seen in hard maples. It is called curly maple when the ripples in the grain pattern create a three-dimensional effect that appears as if the grain has “curled” along the length of the board. Other names for this phenomenon are tiger maple, fiddleback maple, (in reference to curly maple’s historic use for the backs and sides of violins), or flamed maple. Unlike quilted maple, curly maple is most pronounced when the board is quartersawn, and the curls usually become much less pronounced or absent in flatsawn boards. Hence, on wide boards where the grain tends to be close to vertical (quartersawn) near the edges and horizontal (flatsawn) in the center, the curly pattern will be most evident on the edges of the board, with the figure diminishing in the center.

It is not completely clear what environmental conditions (if any) cause this phenomenon, but there are different grades of curly maple, which greatly affect its price. Ideally, the criteria for determining value is based upon: color (both uniformity and lightness—whiter is preferred), frequency of the curls (tight, closely-spaced curls are preferred), and intensity (more depth is preferred). Prices can range from just slightly more expensive than regular soft maple for lower grades of curly maple, to triple, quadruple, or higher for prices of the highest grades. But in general, higher grades of curly maple tend to be less expensive than quilted maple, and offer an economical solution for a “figured” hardwood.

Check out our spalted maple wood we have today!

Spalted Maple
spalted maple lumber

Spalted Maple, much like Ambrosia Maple and other forms of figured maple, is technically not a specific species of Maple, but rather a general description of any type of Maple that has been allowed to begin initial stages of decay and then subsequently dried (preventing further decay). The partial decay, called spalting, gives the wood dark contrasting lines and streaks where the fungus has begun to attack the wood. If the wood has been rescued from the spalting at the right time, the lumber should still be sound and usable, with little to no soft spots or rotten wood.

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Black Cherry Lumber Species

Black Cherry Lumber (Prunus serotina) heartwood is a light pinkish brown when freshly cut, darkening to a deeper golden brown with time and upon exposure to light. Sapwood is a pale yellowish color and has a fine texture with close grain. The grain is usually straight and easy to work—with the exception of figured pieces with curly grain patterns. Heartwood is rated as being very durable and resistant to decay. Cherry is known as being one of the best all-around woods for workability. It is stable, straight-grained, and machines well. The only difficulties typically arise if the wood is being stained, as it can sometimes give blotchy results due to its fine, closed pores. The Black Cherry lumber species of wood has a mild, distinctive scent when being worked on. Cherry has a decent strength-to-weight ratio, though it’s not as hard as some other denser domestic hardwoods. Cherry is commonly used in furniture construction and turned items. It is said that Cherry’s colors can quickly be darkened and aged by exposing it to direct sunlight.

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Red Oak

Red Oak (Quercus rubra) has a light to medium reddish-brown color, though there can be a fair amount of variation in color. Red Oak tends to be slightly more olive-colored, but is by no means a reliable method of determining the type of oak. Red Oak has medium-to-large pores and fairly coarse grain. The pores are so large and open that it is said that a person can blow into one end of the wood, and air will come out the other end: provided that the grain runs straight enough. Red Oaks do not have the level of decay and rot resistance that White Oaks possess. Red Oak is easy to glue, and takes stain and finishes very well. Red Oak, along with its brother White Oak, are commonly used domestic lumber species. Hard, strong, and moderately priced, Red Oak presents an exceptional value to woodworkers and is widely used in cabinet and furniture making.

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White Oak
white oak lumber

White Oak (Quercus alba) has a light to medium brown color, though there can be a fair amount of variation in color. Red Oak tends to be slightly redder, but is by no means a reliable method of determining the type of oak. Has medium-to-large pores and a fairly coarse grain. Ring-porous; 2-4 rows of large, exclusively solitary latewood pores, numerous small to very small latewood pores in radial arrangement; tyloses abundant; growth rings distinct; rays large and visible without lens; apotracheal parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates (short lines between rays). Good rot resistance: frequently used in boat-building applications. Has a tell-tale smell that is common to most oaks. Most find it appealing. White Oak, along with its brother Red Oak, are commonly used domestic lumber species. Hard, durable, and moderately priced, White Oak presents an exceptional value to woodworkers—which explains why it is so widely used in cabinet and furniture making.

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Elm Lumber Wood

Elm Lumber heartwood is a light to medium brown, sometimes with a hint of red. Sapwood is a pale white or cream color and has a medium texture with moderate-sized pores. Elm lumber wood’s grain is sometimes straight, but commonly interlocked. Elm lumber wood can be a challenge to work with because of its interlocked grain, especially on quartersawn surfaces. Planing can cause tearout and/or fuzzy surfaces. Elm lumber species does glue, stain, and finishes well. Elm trees are commonly infected with Dutch elm disease, a fungal disease spread by elm bark beetles. D.E.D. has wiped out millions of Elm trees worldwide. Common uses for elm include boxes, baskets, furniture, hockey sticks, veneer, wood pulp, and paper-making.

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Boxelder Lumber Species

Boxelder Lumber is typically a pale white, sometimes with a yellow/green hue similar to Yellow Poplar. The heartwood is a grayish/yellowish brown, frequently with red or pink streaks. The red coloration is due to a pigment found in a fungus (Fusarium negundi) that commonly afflicts the tree. Much of the reddish coloring becomes a more subdued pink or brown/gray upon drying. Easy to work with both hand and machine tools. Boxelder turns, glues, and finishes well. Sometimes called “Ash-leaved Maple” because of its non-typical leaves, (see below), Box Elder is technically considered a maple tree (Acer genus). Its lumber is softer, weaker, and lighter than almost all other species of maple. In woodworking, Box Elder is used mainly for ornamental and decorative purposes, with lumber exhibiting reddish pink heartwood streaks being the most commonly seen.

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Sycamore Lumber
sycamore lumber

Sycamore Lumber (Platanus occidentalis) is similar to maple, the wood of Sycamore trees is predominantly comprised of the sapwood, with some darker heartwood streaks also found in most boards. (Though it is not uncommon to also see entire boards of heartwood too.) The sapwood is white to light tan, while the heartwood is a darker reddish brown. Sycamore also has very distinct ray flecks present on quartersawn surfaces giving it a freckled appearance sometimes even called “Lacewood.” Though it bears little botanical relation to the tropical species of Lacewood. Sycamore has a closed pore structure and a fine even texture that is very similar to maple.  

Sycamore lumber wood is rated as non-durable to perishable regarding decay resistance, and is susceptible to insect attack. Overall, Sycamore works easily with both hand and machine tools, though the interlocked grain can be troublesome in surfacing and machining operations at times. Sycamore turns, glues, and finishes well. Not to be confused with European Sycamore—which is actually just a species of maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)—Sycamore is sometimes referred to as “American Plane” in Europe. Some common uses for Sycamore include veneer, plywood, interior trim, pallets/crates, flooring, furniture, particleboard, pulpwood, paper-making, tool handles, and other turned objects.

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