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

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Not every woodworker knows what a wood pith is, but did you know it affects timber’s development and growth? You must pay attention to this aspect of lumber anatomy to avoid ending up with defective and substandard material. 

In this post, our resident woodworkers will examine this tree trunk component and its role in determining wood strength. 

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

A woodworker must know about pith because it indicates the wood’s condition. It tells you if the material you intend to use has a disease or decay that can affect its durability and strength.

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 elder. 

Why Remove Pith from Green Wood?

We recommend removing the pith to avoid cracking when working with freshly cut lumber or green wood. As the timber dries, this section has a high chance of breaking with the growth rings. 

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: Burl Wood Facts 


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.


While the wood pith gives insight into the material’s growth and condition, it also presents challenges due to its spongy and soft structure. 

Trust us when we say that understanding its role will help you manage it and learn how to make it a valuable resource for your next woodworking project. 

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
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