Alder wood species are best known for their color consistency and uniform texture, making them perfect for furniture-making and cabinetry. However, did you know their attributes change over time and affect how you can utilize them effectively?
In this post, our woodworkers will discuss everything you need to know about alder trees and the benefits you can take advantage of when using this lumber option.
Overview of Alder’s Characteristics
What is Alder?
Alder trees belong to the Birch family, so it isn’t surprising that they offer better compressing and bending ability than other lumber options. It has great surface resistance, preventing splits during the nailing and screwing process.
These lumber species often don’t need to be painted or applied with wood finishes because they produce natural warm honey tints. It has similarities to cherry wood, but this birch lumber alternative with 35 species is considered more economical and sustainable.
Origin and Availability
These tree species are first discovered within the North Hemisphere and some areas west of South America. You can catch sight of alder trees in wet forest sites that are elevated up to 2500 meters or 8200 feet.
Meanwhile, red alder trees are common hardwood lumber options in the Pacific Northwest. These soft hardwood options went through effective marketing campaigns that resulted in these materials being widely available worldwide and sold in stocks and lumber.
Color and Appearance
The main benefit of alder lumber is the wood’s unique reddish to light brown color variations. And since it has a good finish, the output blends well when painted or stained. However, it’s crucial to remember that the wood surface’s colors may vary in the sapwood and the heartwood.
Density and Hardness
Despite its availability, you should know that alder materials are not as dense or hard as other hardwood options. Based on its Janka hardness scale results, it only ranges around 590 lbf or 2,624 N.
Is it a Hardwood or Softwood?
Although alder lumber is categorized under the hardwood family, it has a soft density and hardness. It’s in league with soft hardwood materials like yellow pine, poplar, and cypress.
Despite that, this wood material has good resistance against cracks. Alder lumber also remains durable when exposed to wet and dry conditions.
Alder Grade: Why are the Grades Different?
Unlike other wood materials, alder lumber comes in 20 different grades. Since this wood type captures distinct qualities, manufacturers sell alder based on their set grading system. Nevertheless, these metrics are similar to the National Hardwood Lumber Association’s  standards.
Alder wood’s grading system is mainly based on the material’s sapwood and heartwood color variations. On top of that, it also considers the wood’s thickness, marks, and knots. You may not know, but wood traders don’t consider pin knots as defects.
Typical Sizes of Alder Logs
If you scanned the market as our team did, you’d know that alder grows smaller than other popular wood options. Given this fact, alder is sold in limited width and length variations, mostly around 6 to 12 feet long.
Among alder size variations, the most common types are 4/4 and 5/4 options. You’ll be able to find 6/4 and 8/4 wood stocks, but they’re rarely available.
Uses of Alder
Since alder material glues well with smooth finishes, they work well for panel edges. You can also utilize alder for doors, millwork, moldings, wood carving, and decorative pieces.
As previously mentioned, alder has a unique color variation on its heartwood. It develops honey-like shades, so it’s an ideal option for fine furniture and cabinetry.
Cost: Why is it Expensive?
Upon checking the alder material’s cost per board foot, it’s obvious that this wood type is competitively priced. This price range is high due to its suitability for different applications and wood grades.
Benefits of Alder in the Environment
Did you know that alder materials are known as nitrogen fixers? This wood specie can capture nitrogen within its atmosphere. Alder lumber options can also fix nodules in the soil and tree roots.
Unlike other trees, alder doesn’t require external nitrogen to grow well. It can sustain its nutritional requirements through the surrounding air. These air sources also enhance alder soil conditions.
Sustainable Forestry Method
Experts consider alder a sustainable wood option mainly because of its capability to produce shoots through its roots and trunks even when cut down. Alder tree parts can grow themselves and stay alive to prevent erosions.
These tree species also grow faster. Thanks to this, it can be harvested regularly through coppicing forestry procedures.
Grown and Sourced Locally
You’ll have no problem finding alder materials from sustainable sources because these tree species grow all over the United States. It’s an adaptable plant that can survive in regions with climatic conditions.
Since alder is grown locally and close to home, the carbon footprint it produces for manufacturing and transportation isn’t that massive.
Can alder be used outdoors?
Alder wood has great grain patterns and distinct knots, making it suitable for exterior workpieces and outdoor projects. It’s also durable enough to withstand harsh weather conditions and doesn’t need frequent maintenance.
Where can I purchase alder online?
You can buy alder materials directly from the manufacturer’s website or via e-commerce platforms like Amazon or eBay. These wood pieces can be ordered by piece or per board foot.
You have many wood options to choose from when working on a wood project, but alder materials proved their superiority for their sustainable growth and wide availability.
Not all trees used in woodworking are as versatile as this lumber, so trust us when we say that you won’t be wasting time and money when buying these materials.
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