Is Aspen Wood a Hardwood or Softwood?

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In the woodworking community, aspen wood is known for its unique characteristics that is perfect for many projects. But is aspen a hardwood that can be used for premium furniture pieces?

Here, I will explore the classification of aspen wood and the projects that it can be used for.

About the Janka Hardness Scale

Gabriel Janka created the Janka test, which evaluates how much pressure is needed to dent a type of wood. By using a steel ball with 11.28 millimeters or 0.444 inches diameter, the test measures how much force is needed to push the steel ball halfway into the wood.

Although the Janka scale measures a wood’s pressure resistance using a steel ball, it does not categorize the wood as either a softwood or a hardwood. Thus, the classification of wood as a softwood or a hardwood is determined using other techniques.

Janka Hardeness Scale

What Are Hardwoods and Softwoods?

A hardwood possesses great versatility with possible uses. Its aesthetic appeal is remarkable, as it is offered in a vast selection of colors and species. Because of its intricate and compact composition, hardwood generally provides exceptional durability and strength. 

In contrast, softwood is a widely used material that is valued for its durability. It has numerous potential applications and is visually attractive, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use due to its lighter weight, less density, and flexibility in comparison to hardwoods. 

While both types of wood can serve various purposes, softwoods are generally more affordable due to their widespread availability and quicker growth rates. 

Additionally, softwoods are often easier to work with due to their relatively softer texture, making them more manageable for cutting, shaping, and assembling.

slabs of wood

While hardwoods are often pricier and can present more challenges during work, they generally have a denser composition which can lead to longer-lasting durability. This is why hardwoods are frequently utilized in flooring, high-quality furniture, and construction designed to endure.

Is Aspen Classified as a Hard or Soft Wood?

Aspen wood belongs to the category of hardwoods. However, its hardness rating is comparatively lower compared to other hardwoods. Hence, Aspen is classified as a soft hardwood.

Aspen wood is plentiful, splinter-resistant, and light-colored. It has a porous structure that is great for staining and a straight even texture with few spaces between fibers. Also, it is resistant to changes in moisture and temperature, which makes it stable like high-quality hardwoods.

For a better comparison between aspen and other types of woods, I have listed below various wood types and their own Janka hardness rating.

Wood Species

Hardness Value

White Cedar

320 pounds-force (lbf)

1423 newtons (N)

Quaking Aspen

350 pounds-force (lbf)

1560 newtons (N)


367 pounds-force (lbf)

1632 newtons (N)

European or Common Aspen

380 pounds-force (lbf)

1650 newtons (N)

Big tooth Aspen

420 pounds-force (lbf)

1870 newtons (N)

Douglas Fir

660 pounds-force (lbf)

2900 newtons (N)

Shortleaf and Loblolly Yellow Pine

690 pounds-force (lbf)

3100 newtons (N)

Silver Maple

700 pounds-force (lbf)

3100 newtons (N)

Red Maple

950 pounds-force (lbf)

4200 newtons (N)

Imbuia Black Cherry

950 pounds-force (lbf)

4200 newtons (N)


995 pounds-force (lbf)

4430 newtons (N)

North American Black Walnut

1010 pounds-force (lbf)

4500 newtons (N)


1155 pounds-force (lbf)

5140 newtons (N)

Golden Teak

2330 pounds-force (lbf)

10400 newtons (N)

Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba)

2350 pounds-force (lbf)

10500 newtons (N)

Red Mahogany (Turpentine)

2697 pounds-force (lbf)

12000 newtons (N)

Characteristics & Qualities Of Aspen Wood

Aspen wood has a straight even grain with a medium texture and is light brown in color, with sapwood that is almost white. Despite being considered a hardwood, Aspen wood has low durability and is prone to rotting quickly if not finished correctly. 

It is also vulnerable to dents and scratches, which makes it unsuitable for use in moist areas. However, if you’re considering using Aspen, it can be a suitable option for specific purposes and projects. Below are essential factors to consider when deciding whether to use aspen wood.

To give you an overview, I have listed the primary features of aspen wood to further acknowledge its own unique characteristics and qualities. 

Qualities Of Aspen Wood

The Hardness of Aspen Wood

Aspen wood is considered one of the softest hardwoods and is ranked very low on the Janka scale. Despite this drawback, Aspen wood possesses excellent qualities that make it suitable for plenty of woodworking projects.

What Should You Use Aspen Wood For?

Despite not being preferred as a source of timber [1], Aspen, which belongs to the poplar tree family, has various practical uses due to its distinct characteristics. It is in great demand for particular products and purposes such as:

The Strength of Aspen Wood

Aspen is commonly known to be a weaker type of wood. Unlike many other hardwoods that are known for their strength, it only has a 4,250 pounds per square inch (PSI) compressive strength and 8,400 pounds per square inch (PSI) bending strength, which is comparatively lower.

Due to its weakness and numerous defects, Aspen wood demands extra attention when utilized for framing applications. Moreover, its weak strength makes it unsuitable for outdoor purposes, as it lacks weather resistance and is prone to rot when exposed to water.

pieces of aspen wood

Aspen as Wood Flooring: Things to Consider

Stability is a crucial factor to consider for flooring purposes, which is why Aspen wood is an in-demand choice for flooring. Moreover, it is a type of genuine hardwood flooring that can enhance the value of your home to a great extent due to its high quality.

However, as with any other type of wood, there are still disadvantages to using aspen wood for flooring despite its unique and pleasing characteristics. 

Pros & Cons of Aspen Hardwood Flooring

Aspen as Wood Flooring



What the Wood Experts Say About Aspen

Personally, I rely on aspen wood as a viable substitute for basswood. Due to their overlapping growing areas, aspen has gained popularity among woodworkers, craftsmen, and whittlers. 

Moreover, aspen wood is resistant to splintering in which it can be easily shaped using a carving knife with strong hands into different objects. Since it does not have the risk of splintering, it is considered safe to handle and thus favored for making carved toys and figures for children.

Aspen vs Pine: Which is Harder?

Ponderosa Pine wood

Aspen is a wood with higher density than pine wood, a softwood, which makes it more durable. With aspen having higher density and hardness it is classified as a hardwood, while pine falls into the category of softwood. 

For a better comparison between the two kinds of wood, below are their respective compressive strength and bending strength ratings.

Wood Species Compressive Strength Bending Strength
Aspen Wood 4250 pounds per square inch (psi) 4460 pounds per square inch (psi)
Pine Wood 8400 pounds per square inch (psi) 8200 pounds per square inch (psi)

Aspen vs Poplar: Which is Stronger?

piece of poplar wood on a table

Aspen and poplar wood exhibit similar strength characteristics. However, poplar is stronger than aspen. For a better comparison between the two kinds of wood, here are their respective compressive strength and bending strength ratings.

Wood Species Compressive Strength Bending Strength
Aspen Wood 4250 pounds per square inch (psi) 4460 pounds per square inch (psi)
Poplar Wood 5540 pounds per square inch (psi) 10100 pounds per square inch (psi)


Aspen is a hardwood that is relatively soft. It has excellent properties such as shock resistance, making it suitable for many woodworking projects. It is a valuable and versatile material used in various woodworking applications. 

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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