What is a Wood Pith? Where is it Located and How Strong is it?

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While not every woodworker may be familiar with the term “wood pith,” it plays a crucial role in the growth and quality of timber. Understanding this element of lumber anatomy is vital to ensure you work with high-quality wood.

In this article, join me to delve into the concept of wood pith and its significance in determining the strength of wood. I’ll break it down in simple terms to help you grasp this essential aspect of woodworking.

What Part of the Log is the Pith? Where is it Located?

Typically, you’ll find the pith in the trunk’s or stem’s middle section. If you look closely, this component appears like a small dot at the tree log’s cross-section. It has a soft, spongy, and tissue-like texture. 

Many woodworkers overlook this part because the wood’s growth rings surround it. These layers grow around the pith as the tree matures and develops. 

Is the Pith the Same as the Heartwood?

Pith and heartwood are different wood parts but equally crucial. While the prior-mentioned is in charge of the tree’s growth and development, the latter mainly affects its strength and durability. 

wood pith

Unlike pith, heartwood has a dense structure and dark color. It also forms at the trunk’s center but is surrounded by sapwood. 

How Strong is a Pith of Wood?

Since pith has a spongy texture, it’s not the strongest wood part you’ll encounter. In fact, it can affect the wood negatively if it gets decayed or rotten due to external elements. However, our experts note that it is crucial in properly developing the tree. 

You may not know, but the pith provides a path for the nutrients and water to enter the tree trunk. At the end of the day, this wood part determines the tree’s density and the grain’s direction. 

Why Does Wood Crack in the Pith?

The pith has a soft tissue-like form. Because of this, temperature changes and exposure to moisture can cause this component to shrink or expand. 

These development reactions can lead to cracking, especially with prolonged dryness and humidity. 

saw milled piths

The tree growth also makes the surrounding growth rings [1] harder and denser. It’ll then cause the pith to crack under pressure.

You can prevent cracking in these wood parts through proper wood drying and storage process. These steps will protect the material from exposure to high humidity or temperatures. 

What is the Use of a Wood Pith? When to Use it

For any skilled woodworker, understanding the concept of “pith” is essential, as it serves as a valuable indicator of the wood’s overall health. 

Essentially, the pith provides crucial insights into whether the wood you’re working with may be compromised by diseases or decay, which could ultimately impact its longevity and robustness. 

In simpler terms, it’s like taking the wood’s health pulse to ensure your creations stand the test of time.

If your wooden materials come from lumber with small pith and healthy growth rings, they belong to a high wood-grade variation. You can count on these lumber pieces to work well in construction and woodworking projects. 

What Wood Has a Soft Pith?

You’ll encounter soft pith in trees that are not yet mature or still in the early years of their growth process. 

Aspen log

However, species under the Populus genus (like cottonwood or aspen) often grow with a soft, sponge-like pith. This pith type is also prevalent in tree species like sycamore and alder

Why Remove Pith from Green Wood?

A key tip is to remove the inner core of freshly cut or green wood. This helps prevent cracks from forming as the wood dries, especially along the growth rings. This simple step can make a big difference in preserving the quality of your timber.

The drying process will also warp or twist the pith, so the wood material will surely have better stability without this part.

What is the Pith Ray in a Wood?

These thin sheets help transport nutrients and water in the inner and outer tree sections. They also serve as a storage for these components and protect them from pathogens and pests.  

marking log to saw wood pith

And since it acts as a structural support for the wood, it determines if the material can hold screws and nails well.

Also Read


How do you use pith wood to clean watches?

You can use pith wood to clean watches by drying them. It can absorb excess oil from clock movements. However, it’s not the best material for cleaning these things because it can leave scratches on the watch’s surface.


Exploring the inner world of wood, known as the “wood pith,” can offer valuable insights into the wood’s growth and quality. Yet, this spongy and soft part of the wood can pose certain challenges.

Rest assured, delving into its significance can equip you with the knowledge to effectively work with it, turning it into a valuable asset for your upcoming woodworking endeavors.

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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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