Is Basswood a Hardwood or Softwood?

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The classification of basswood as a hardwood has been a subject of debate among woodworking enthusiasts due to its distinct features. While it may seem like a minor detail, its classification can impact the choice of projects it’s most appropriate for.

To have an answer with regard to this matter, I’ve explored further to uncover the answer to this long-standing query.

Basswood’s Hardness

Basswood, which is classified as a type of hardwood, is commonly known for its softness and lower density compared to the majority of other hardwood varieties. 

basswood with stains

Moreover, the deciduous nature and unique fiber structures of trees like Aspen, Chestnut, and Basswood are the reasons why they are categorized as hardwoods, despite not being particularly recognized for their hardness.

To get a better comparison between basswood and other types of woods, below are various wood types and their own Janka hardness rating.

Wood Species Hardness Value
Sugar Pine380 pounds-force (lbf)
1690 newtons (N)
Engelmann Spruce390 pounds-force (lbf)
1735 newtons (N)
Basswood410 pounds-force (lbf)
1824 newtons (N)
Redwood420 pounds-force (lbf)
1868 newtons (N)
White Spruce480 pounds-force (lbf)
2135 newtons (N)
Cypress510 pounds-force (lbf)
2268 newtons (N)
Sitka Spruce510 pounds-force (lbf)
2268 newtons (N)
Black Spruce520 pounds-force (lbf)
2313 newtons (N)
Hemlock540 pounds-force (lbf)
2402 newtons (N)
Alder590 pounds-force (lbf)
2624 newtons (N)
Silver Maple700 pounds-force (lbf)
3100 newtons (N)
Douglas Fir710 pounds-force (lbf)
3158 newtons (N)
Red Maple950 pounds-force (lbf)
4200 newtons (N)
Imbuia Black Cherry950 pounds-force (lbf)
4200 newtons (N)
Cherry995 pounds-force (lbf)
4430 newtons (N)
North American Black Walnut1010 pounds-force (lbf)
4500 newtons (N)
Teak1155 pounds-force (lbf)
5140 newtons (N)
Baltic (Yellow) Birch1260 pounds-force (lbf)
5600 newtons (N)
Northern Red Oak1290 pounds-force (lbf)
5700 newtons (N)
American Beech1300 pounds-force (lbf)
5800 newtons (N)
White Ash Wood1320 pounds-force (lbf)
5900 newtons (N)
White Oak1360 pounds-force (lbf)
6000 newtons (N)
Sugar Maple (Hard Maple)1450 pounds-force (lbf)
6400 newtons (N)
Hickory, Pecan, Satinwood1820 pounds-force (lbf)
8100 newtons (N)
Golden Teak2330 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)
Brazilian Walnut3684 pounds-force (lbf)
16390 newtons (N)

Characteristics of Basswood

Basswood is well-known for its superb carving properties and is also called Tilia Americana. It is available in light hues ranging from pale white to light brown, and there are no clearly distinguishable sapwood or heartwood sections. 

Moreover, basswood has exceptional performance when it comes to nailing, screwing, and gluing. Compared to most hardwoods, it is also easier to sand, paint, and stain. In addition, it has good stability, which is helpful in woodcarving for adding intricate details.

Below are the characteristics of basswood to help you get to know more about this wood.

basswood

Pros and Cons of Basswood

Pros

Cons

Ideal Uses of Basswood

One of the aspects I love most about Basswood is its adaptability to different types of projects. Over the years, I’ve employed it in everything from furniture making to intricate carvings.

Basswood for whittling

Moreover, this finely textured and odorless wood has rapidly gained acceptance in the global commercial market. It is utilized not only in large-scale productions but also continues to be the preferred wood for woodworkers who want to carve items of any size.

To acknowledge the use of basswood, refer to the list of uses below: 

Is Basswood Strong?

Basswood is considered weak in comparison to other woods, as its 4730 pounds per square inch (psi) compressive strength and 8700 pounds per square inch (psi) bending strengths are notably lower.

Basswood for carving

Thus, the basswood’s weak strength makes it unsuitable for applications that involve force or heavyweight, and it is only suitable for small-scale woodworking projects.

What about other wood? You might want to check out these articles:

Is Basswood Harder Than Pine Wood?

Despite being classified as a softwood, Pine is more resilient than Basswood. Pine is also immune to decay and insect invasion, and with appropriate maintenance, it can endure for several years.

In contrast, basswood is a hardwood that is less robust than pine. Additionally, it is prone to decay and insect invasion, and without proper attention, its lifespan is only limited to a few years.

However, basswood is harder than some varieties of pine, and it is also softer than a specific variety of pine. To get a better comparison between the two kinds of wood, below is their Janka hardness rating.

Pine lumber
 BasswoodYellow PineWhite PineSugar Pine
Janka
Hardness
Rating
410 pounds-force (lbf)870 pounds-force (lbf)380 pounds-force (lbf)380 pounds-force (lbf)

Is Basswood Harder Than Balsa?

Balsa wood is renowned for its lightweight and flexible composition, enabling it to be easily shaped into a wide range of forms and adhered with minimal effort. Thus, its pliability and lightness make it a versatile material for various applications and creative endeavors.

In comparison, basswood possesses a dense and sturdy texture with a coarse surface, making it well-suited for projects that necessitate toughness and durability.

Thus, when comparing Balsa vs basswood, the latter is far harder than former. For a better comparison, here’s a comparison of their Janka hardness.

Balsa wood curves
 BasswoodBalsa
Janka
Hardness
Rating
410 pounds-force (lbf)70 pounds-force (lbf)

Is Basswood Harder Than Maple?

Maple wood possesses remarkable strength, and those with a passion for woodworking and furniture will appreciate maple’s light, creamy hue, attractive grain, and exceptional robustness. 

Also, its hardness surpasses the majority of other types of hardwood that are favored by furniture manufacturers. In conclusion, maple is much harder than basswood. To further compare the two kinds of wood, I enumerated their own Janka hardness rating below.

 BasswoodSoft MapleHard Maple
Janka
Hardness
Rating
410 pounds-force (lbf)950 pounds-force (lbf)1450 pounds-force (lbf)

Is Basswood Harder Than Poplar?

Both basswood and poplar are sturdy woods for woodworking, but poplar surpasses basswood in durability because of its higher density, which makes it less susceptible to denting or warping [1] over time.  

clean the Poplar wood

Since basswood is softer, it is more vulnerable to tear and wear, but with appropriate care, both kinds of wood can last for a considerable time.

Nonetheless, among the two types of wood, poplar is far harder than basswood. Here’s their Janka hardness rating to get a better comparison between the two kinds of wood: 

 BasswoodPoplar
Janka Hardness Rating410 pounds-force (lbf)540 pounds-force (lbf)

Conclusion

While basswood is a hardwood, it’s considered a softer type due to its low density and softness. Despite being less durable than harder woods, it remains a popular option for woodworking due to its versatility and user-friendliness. 

Whether it is used for furniture making, carving, or other applications, basswood can be an excellent choice for those seeking a pliable wood that is easy to work with. 

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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.

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