Sycamore's Impressive Yield

By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 04/02/2013 4:21PM


American sycamore is going through a resurgence in popularity. Traditionally used in furniture, containers, millwork, flooring, veneer, plywood, pulp wood and particleboard, the species is growing in demand due to its low cost and lacewood-like appearance. click image to zoomAmerican SycamoreFAMILY NAMES
Platanus occidentalis of the Family Plantanaceaebr>
Sycamore, American sycamore, American planetree, American plane, California button, California sycamore, buttonwood, buttonball tree, planetree, water beech, ghost tree

Average height is 120 feet, with 3-foot diameters, but the tree can grow to 175 feet or more. Average weight is 34 pounds per cubic foot.

Wood shrinks moderately in drying and may warp when flat sawn. The USDA Forest Service experts recommend a kiln schedule of T6-D2 for 4/4, 5/4 and 6/4 material and T3-D1 for 8/4 and 10/4.
American sycamore is classified as moderate in weight, hardness, stiffness and shock resistance. The wood glues and holds nails well, holds its shape after steaming, and is odorless and tasteless.

One reason for the resurgence is the push for locally sourced wood products, plus fluctuations in the exchange rate of the dollar. We also see that some users find domestics a more attractive alternative, with drawer sides a growing market segment within wood components.

The veneer generally is sliced into quarters to produce a distinct medullary ray or flake. When cut into quarters it makes a flake that’s similar to lacewood and is sometimes used in place of lacewood and platano. American sycamore color ranges from nearly white to a reddish brown heartwood, and many logs are huge by today’s standards, providing customers a larger yield.

American sycamore (platanacae occidentalis) or plane-tree as it is also known, is closely related to European planetree (platanacae orientalis), and is nearly identical with the exception of color. The American is tan/yellow, while the European is pinkish.

Naming Confusion
American sycamore’s range is the eastern United States, from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Atlantic Coast west to the Great Plains.

In the United States, sycamore is a name reserved for several species of Platanus, among them Platanus occidentalis, Platanus racemosa and Platanus wrightii. But in Europe, the commonly used term sycamore refers to a species belonging to the maple family, Acer pseudoplatanus. European members of the Platanus species, such as Platanus hybrida are instead called plane or planetree.

In Europe, nobody refers to planetree as sycamore, due to the fact that their sycamore is what Americans refer to as maple (acer). Also, European planetree is commonly referred to as European lacewood in the USA and Europe as well.

The word ‘planetree’ unmistakably identifies this species on both continents. So it is important that customers are aware of the differences. Some experts suggest verifying orders with photographs.

Wood of the Month: Pictures and images of wood species. Learn about hardwood and softwood including maple, cherry, pine, chestnut, birch and zebrawood.


About the Author

Jo-Ann Kaiser

Jo-Ann Kaiser

Jo-Ann Kaiser has been covering the woodworking industry for 31+ years. She is a contributing editor for the Woodworking Network and has been writing the Wood of the Month column since its inception in 1986.

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