American Beech: No Day at the Beach

By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 08/02/2012 8:17AM

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Article excerpted from Wood of the Month archives.

American beech, or Fagus grandifolia, is the only species of beech native to the United States. Long considered a general utility hardwood, beech’s biggest claims to fame might be its strength and bending properties. American beech is often compared to oak and European beech in strength properties and is exceptionally good for steam bending.

The wood is usually straight-grained, with a fine and even texture. It is an excellent choice for turnery and has long been used in woodenware, cooperage and food containers because the wood is odorless and tasteless.

American beech’s long list of other uses includes furniture, chair and furniture frames, flooring, interior joinery, handles, boxes, crates, toys and bending stock.

FAMILY NAME

Fagus grandifolia of the Family Fagaceae

COMMON NAMES

American beech, beech, Carolina beech, gray beech,

red beech, ridge beech, stone beech, white beech, winter beech

HEIGHT/WEIGHT

Average height is 80 feet, but can grow to 100 feet or taller with diameters of 3 feet or more. Average weight is 45 pounds per cubic foot.

PROPERTIES

Experts recommend careful drying to avoid distortion, splitting and other problems.

Wood suitable for steam bending.

Wood machines easily.

Beech is a hard, strong and close-grained wood.

Wood rates high in strength and shock resistance.

Easily stained, painted and bleached.

Experts recommend close control of gluing.

Beech can be used as an inexpensive secondary wood for painted furniture. It also has construction uses, such as pallets, railroad ties, etc.

Beech has a market for use as drawer sides, backs and other parts, but there are so many other woods that will fulfill that application that are more stable — a drawer side manufacturer doesn’t need to worry about making 100 sets of drawers and throwing away 12 of them, says a supplier.

Some hardwood vendors prefer European beech, which they find more stable than American beech. For instance, with American beech, one supplier said if he received a shipment of 4,000 to 5,000 feet of it, he would end up throwing away 700 to 800 feet because it would twist and turn.

According to that supplier, he gets approximately one call a year for American beech. For fine furniture and architectural millwork, it has almost no use because there are so many other woods that are more stable.

Steamed American beech is almost identical to European beech.

 

FAMILY NAME
Fagus grandifolia of the Family Fagaceae
COMMON NAMES
American beech, beech, Carolina beech, gray beech,
red beech, ridge beech, stone beech, white beech, winter beech
HEIGHT/WEIGHT
Average height is 80 feet, but can grow to 100 feet or taller with diameters of 3 feet or more. Average weight is 45 pounds per cubic foot.
PROPERTIES
Experts recommend careful drying to avoid distortion, splitting and other problems.
Wood suitable for steam bending.
Wood machines easily.
Beech is a hard, strong and close-grained wood.
Wood rates high in strength and shock resistance.
Easily stained, painted and bleached.
Experts recommend close control of gluing.

FAMILY NAME

Fagus grandifolia of the Family Fagaceae

COMMON NAMES

American beech, beech, Carolina beech, gray beech,

red beech, ridge beech, stone beech, white beech, winter beech

HEIGHT/WEIGHT

Average height is 80 feet, but can grow to 100 feet or taller with diameters of 3 feet or more. Average weight is 45 pounds per cubic foot.

PROPERTIES

Experts recommend careful drying to avoid distortion, splitting and other problems.

Wood suitable for steam bending.

Wood machines easily.

Beech is a hard, strong and close-grained wood.

Wood rates high in strength and shock resistance.

Easily stained, painted and bleached.

Experts recommend close control of gluing.

 

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.

Comments (2) Leave a comment 

Name
e-Mail (required)
Location

Comment:

characters left

douglas r martin    
portland Oregon  |  August, 03, 2012 at 11:43 AM

Steamed American Beech, in my opinion, is not almost identical to European beech. European Beech is more stable, more color uniform, lighter in color, little to no heartwood/color variation, wider, clearer of natural and induced defects, harder, stronger, machines better, and stains better. Overall, European Beech produces over 3 times as much high grade lumber as American Beech, and has very little low grade boards. European Beech is far superior to American Beech in almost evrry aspect. including how it looks.

Trevor    
Canada  |  September, 12, 2012 at 08:42 AM

Beech has a tendency toward face checking during drying. This usually happens during air drying and can be made worse if a drying schedule is too aggressive. This makes Beech virtually useless for small products such as dowel and dowel pins. The checks can be virtually invisible making Beech unpredictable.

 

Search our database for woodworking equipment, supplies and services:

Select a category:


Feedback Form
Feedback Form