European Beech: Versatile for Cabinets, Flooring & Furniture
By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 02/01/2013 3:00PM
Sponsored by: Pollmeier Inc. European Beech: Durable, Sustainable and Versatile.
click image to zoomFamily Name:
Fagus sylvatica of the Family Fagaceae
European beech, German beech, English beech, French beech, Danish beech, common beech
European beech averages in height from 100 to 130 feet, but trees can grow to 150 feet. Average weight is 45 pounds per cubic foot, with a specific gravity of 0.72.
• To avoid problems with checking, experts recommend slow, careful drying. European beech is often steamed and the steamed wood is said to dry faster.
• Beech is a hard wood with good strength properties and high abrasion resistance. The wood works easily either with hand tools or by machine and has very good steam bending properties.
• Wood finishes easily with stains, paints or polish and glues well. The wood is perishable and liable to attack by common furniture beetle and by death watch beetle. Often called a versatile wood, European beech also has been described as a “blank slate.”
“Designers of furniture, doors, millwork and cabinetry find European beech is a kind of blank canvas or a clean slate that can be transformed into a variety of designs, styles and colors,” said Doug Martin, president of North American sales and marketing at Pollmeier Inc. “The species adapts to a range of looks, from contemporary to rustic. It is also a very strong, durable hard wood and has a close-grain, similar to woods like maple.
“We can also add sustainability to European beech’s list of attributes. That is a particularly important feature today with many users,” he added. The company offers an accredited online continuing education course for architects, designers and specifiers on the benefits of this sustainable species.
Because of its properties and versatility, European beech is ideal for a wide variety of end uses, including cabinetry, casegoods and RV fixtures, said Jed Miller, Northwest Hardwoods export manager. Other uses include: residential and educational furniture, office furnishings, long plank flooring, stairs and parquet, tools, pianos, toys, joinery and hospitality furniture.
European beech is also a reasonably priced wood, Miller said. “Demand for European beech has been stable for the past five or so years, but we expect to see a bump as the U.S. economy stabilizes,” he added.
Pollmeier Inc.European beech is ideal for use in cabinetry and casegoods. ‘Subdued’ Species
A number of manufacturers throughout the United States incorporate European beech in their products. Huntwood Industries, the largest cabinet manufacturer west of the Mississippi, describes the wood on its website as a “versatile hardwood, displaying much of the durability of oak with a more subdued grain pattern (similar to maple but grainier) and a great choice for those who want a species between oak and maple.”
Another user, Wood River Veneer owner Russell Bork, also touted the species’ versatility. “Beech in Europe is like oak in North America,” he said. “European beech is a ‘commodity-type’ wood that grows in a wide range of areas and gets used for just about everything.”
Bork said European beech works especially well with accent woods that have a contrasting color, such as mahogany. His company almost always has plain sliced, plain quarter (rift) and figured in inventory.
“We favor steamed over unsteamed, as do most of our customers,” Bork added. “This is a great wood that isn’t that hard to work with and can be used in large doses with little consequence other than having the ability to look very clean and fresh.”
Pollmeier Inc.Called a chameleon, European beech can be stained easily for a variety of design options. The wood is also easy to use for production and to finish. Steamed beech has a nice nutty tone to it similar to woods with reds and brown tones. For European beech panels and doors, Bork said customers generally prefer a natural finish.
European beech, Fagus sylvatica, is a member of the Fagaceae family, which contains 10 species of true beech, according to the World Encyclopedia of Trees. These species are all found in temperate regions of the world.
“Species of beech can be found in Asia, North America and Europe. European beech is found throughout central Europe and in the United Kingdom. In addition to the name European beech, the trees are often named according to the country of origin,” the book states.
European beech’s North American relative is Fagus grandiflora. It is considered widespread in the United States and other parts of North America, but has never thrived as a transplant in Europe, according to the World Encyclopedia of Trees.
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.