Hackberry: No 'Hack' Wood for Furniture, Casegoods
By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 07/06/2012 2:56PM
Sponsored by: Columbia Forest Products: North America’s largest manufacturer of hardwood plywood and hardwood veneer.
click image to zoomFamily Name:
Celtis occidentalis of the Family Ulmaceae
Hackberry, sugarberry, hack-tree, hoop ash, nettletree, false elm, bastard elm, beaverwood, Northern hackberry, common hackberry and American hackberry.
Height ranges from 40 to 80 feet, but trees can reach 130 feet. Average weight is 40 pounds per cubic foot with a specific gravity of 0.59.
• Hackberry dries readily with little degrade. It can be subject to blue sap stain.
• It has a very good steam bending rating. It is high in shock resistance, but low in stiffness. The wood has some shrinkage, but keeps its shape in seasoning.
• Cutting edges should be sharp to avoid the wood’s blunting effect. Hackberry works well with hand and machine tools and stains satisfactorily. A nice looking, multipurpose species, hackberry is popular with wildlife and birds, which dote on its purple-toned fruit. And while it might not be the first choice for fine woodworking, there is ample proof that hackberry can be translated into a stunning range of finished products.
“Although hackberry is infrequently used for aesthetic applications, it is a very versatile and attractive wood that, with the proper preparation from log to lumber or veneer, should be considered a viable option for furniture and cabinetry,” said Ang Schramm, director of technical services, Columbia Forest Products.
Schramm said that because of its tendency to readily exhibit oxidative sap stain and to host various fungi, hackberry has fallen from favor over the last few decades and is often relegated for use om covered furniture or pallet stock. However, he added, these conditions are related to moisture and drying, and, with the proper procedures may be overcome.
Designed by John Sterling, this chest features a cherry base and hackberry top. Photo: J. C. Sterling Fine Furniture & Accessories John Sterling, a Milmont, PA-based furniture designer and woodworker, has used hackberry in his business, J. C. Sterling Fine Furniture & Accessories. “I found hackberry to be easy to work,” he said. “There is some interlocking grain, similar to elm, but if you have sharp cutters it doesn’t create an issue. I chose it for the color — creamy white with some yellow, brown or greyish streaks in it. I use clear finishes on all my items and using an oil-based varnish/oil blend increased the amber tones of the wood. You can also use water-based varnishes to maintain the white color.”
About the Author
Jo-Ann KaiserJo-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.