Which Trees Are Used for Lumber?

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Bigleaf maple lumber has grain patterns that are prized by craftsmen.
Bigleaf maple lumber has grain patterns that are prized by craftsmen. (Image: Maple-leaf image by HannaSigel from Fotolia.com)

Forest crops are long-term investments, and many of the most valuable trees take 80 to 120 years to fully mature. Most trees with diameters approaching 16 inches are marketable for lumber. The Forestry Extension of Iowa State University states that the value of lumber is "affected by species, quality of the trees, ease of logging, size of the timber sale and limitations or restrictions placed on the timber sale." It is advised to consult a forester prior to selling timber.

Black Walnut

Juglans nigra is a high-quality hardwood prized for its beautiful grain and natural color. Quality trees are used for lumber to build furniture, gun stocks and bowls. The best quality trees are used to make veneer, which is glued to other woods for fine cabinet making. Horticulturists at The Ohio State University Extension state that high-quality trees have diameters in excess of 18 inches, great height and trunks that are free from defects such as bumps, limbs, cracks and holes.

White Ash

Fraxinus Americana is the strongest of all ash varieties. It is lightweight and has a straight grain. It is flexible, has high shock resistance and wears smoothly as it ages. All of this adds up to its usefulness in the manufacture of sporting goods. Baseball bats, tennis rackets, polo mallets and bowling alley floors are all made of white ash. It is also used in cabinet making and architectural trim. White ash grows to a height of 70 to 80 feet and matures in 20 years.

White Oak

Quercus alba L. is strong, hard and enduring. The 24-inch hull of the U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) was built of live oak sandwiched between two layers of white oak. White oaks are slow-growing trees that achieve heights of 80 to 100 feet and can live many hundreds of years. They are a long-term investment because they require 60 years for full development, even with fertilization and thinning. Like black walnut, white oak is high-quality veneer lumber.

Bigleaf Maple

Acer macrophyllum lumber is used to make molding, plywood, bowls and musical instruments, including pianos. The wood is fine-grained and prized by craftsmen when it has "birds-eye," "quilted" or "fiddle-back" patterns. Thin veneers are sliced from select grades and used for furniture and architectural paneling. The Oregon Wood Innovation Center states that rotation time for Bigleaf maple stands is 40 to 50 years. Horticulturists are working to develop additional cultivars with interesting grain patterns.

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