Ash Lumber — Key Characteristics, Grains, Finishes

If you buy something through our posts, we may get a small commission. Read more here.

Share It

Ash wood is a highly versatile and commonly used hardwood in both woodworking and furniture making. In this discussion, we will delve into the essential traits of ash lumber, including its distinct grain patterns, key characteristics, and available finishes. 

Furthermore, we will also examine the advantages and limitations that one should take into account while working with this wood.

What is Ash Wood: Color, Grain Pattern, Appearance

Ash is a hardwood with light color and smooth grain. Moreover, its traditional, unvarying grain pattern and various tones of beige make it a desirable choice for luxurious furniture. 

Ash wood has a long legacy in the production of furniture in America due to its durability, featherweight, aesthetic appeal, and its effective ability to absorb stains.

Origin of Ash Wood

The United States is home to numerous species of ash trees, estimated to be more or less 40 to 60 types. Also, it can be found growing in various regions along the east coastal part of North America, including some areas of Canada. 

Ash grain wood pattern

European Ash Wood

The heartwood has a hue ranging from light brown to medium brown, with occasional darker markings that are marketed as Olive Ash.

European Ash, scientifically known as Fraxinus excelsior, has been grappling with ash dieback [1], also known as chalara for a significant period, which has led to its classification as an endangered species since 2016. 

Despite continuous attempts by the government to tackle the disease’s spread, the associated consequences are both damaging and financially burdensome.

White Ash Wood + Origin and Tree Sizes

The lightest colored type of ash tree available is known as the White Ash, or Fraxinus americana. It has tree rings that are less tightly packed together compared to the Black Ash.

These trees are abundant across North America. Vermont falls directly within this line, making them native to the area. In their natural habitat, white ash trees can grow up to approximately 100 feet tall. 

Ash wood

The lower stem of the tree typically remains without branches or leaves, while the upper portion grows into a densely packed crown of foliage and branches.

Is it a Hardwood or Softwood?

Ash is classified as a hardwood, since it’s extracted from a dicot or Dicotyledon tree. It is also one of the most known hardwoods with exceptional strength and durability.

Density + Janka Hardness Rating

Janka Test is utilized to assess the strength of wood by pressing a ball of steel into a wood block until it sinks in half. The level of pressure required to accomplish this is recorded, and in the US, it is commonly displayed in pounds of force (lbf) or Janka units. 

Ash wood has a density ranging from 650 to 850 kilograms per cubic meter and a Janka hardness of 1,320 pounds of force (lbf).

Durability and Strength

Ash wood is recognized for its excellent durability and strength, primarily due to its high Janka hardness rating that falls within the range of 1320 to 2000 lbf. This indicates that it can endure indentation and maintain its structural integrity for a prolonged period.

Ash lumber

Furthermore, ash wood possesses a relatively high density and remarkable shock resistance, which enhances its overall durability and strength. 


Early civilizations utilized it for a diverse range of purposes, ranging from making weapons to constructing wagons, and also ascribed spiritual or healing properties to it.

Currently, ash wood continues to be widely chosen for various applications, including but not limited to flooring, cabinets, furniture, tools, sports equipment, and weaponry. Its versatility and desirable qualities make it a popular choice across multiple industries and sectors.

Additionally, its pleasing appearance and ability to be stained or finished in different ways make it a favored option for furniture and cabinetry. 


The sustainability of ash wood stems from the fact that these trees absorb carbon from the air, which is then stored in ash furniture for an extended period of time. 

Ash dining table

Since numerous ash trees have perished due to the Emerald Ash Borer, utilizing timber from deceased trees is considerably more eco-friendly than harvesting those live ones.

Best Stains and Finishes for Ash

When it comes to staining and finishing ash wood, there are a few options to consider depending on the desired look and level of protection.

Oil-based and water-based stains are popular choices in staining ash wood as they penetrate deeply into the wood fibers and are an eco-friendly option. For finishes, wax and polyurethane are popular choices as they provide a smooth and durable finish. 

Does Ash Wood Darken or Lighten Over Time?

As time passes, most types of hardwoods undergo a slight alteration in color. In general, lighter woods will become more intense, while woods that are darker will somewhat lighten. It is a natural occurrence caused by the wood’s exposure to oxygen and UV light.

Ash desk

How to Distinguish Fake From Genuine Ash Wood

To distinguish fake from genuine ash wood, there are several key factors to consider: check the grain pattern, color, weight, uniformity, and end grain. In addition, we highly recommend seeking an expert’s opinion to ensure the authenticity of the wood.

Can You Use Ash Outdoors?

Due to its low resistance to rot, ash wood is generally not recommended for outdoor use.


What are the disadvantages of ash wood?

The disadvantages of ash wood to consider includes its porous open grain, which may not be suitable for outdoor use due to its vulnerability to rot and decay. Additionally, ash wood can burn relatively quickly, which can make it less desirable for certain applications.

Is ash a cheap wood?

Ash is a cheap wood as it is readily available at most retailers that sell hardwood lumber, thus, it is generally considered to be one of the more affordable options among native hardwoods.

More wood-related reads here: 


Ash lumber is a popular hardwood for its unique, straight-grain pattern that is highly sought after in woodworking, and it can be finished in a variety of ways to achieve different looks and textures. 

With proper care and attention, ash can be an excellent choice for a wide range of woodworking projects.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
Related Articles
Join our community on facebook and get 3 woodworking plans for free!

Join Our Woodworking Community on Facebook And Get 3 Woodworking Plans for Free!