American beech ( Fagus grandifolia ), sometimes called red beech due to the heartwood's color, is the only beech that grows in the United States. It is found throughout the eastern third of the country; the tree grows best in the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys and the southern Appalachians. The trees' fruit and beech nuts provide food for wildlife.
European beech, Fagus sylvatica, has nearly identical properties. In fact, the two cannot be separated without using a microscope. However, European beech lumber is almost always steamed before drying which develops a reddish to pinkish hue. This imported wood is often prized within our industry. Steaming American beech will also develop this color, however.
Beech's high-strength and high-shock resistance, as well as the lack of odor or taste, made beech the wood of choice for food containers, woodenware, butcher blocks, rolling pins and mallets for tenderizing meat in Colonial kitchens, as well as for flooring, tool handles and a variety of other "strength demanding" uses. Beech is also very easy to steam bend, making it popular for chairs and other bentwood products. Beech was also the most popular wood for clothes pins.
Today, beech is still used for flooring, cabinets and furniture. However, it seems that beech, solid and veneer, isnot as well appreciated by furniture and cabinet manufacturers and their customers, as it was in the past.
Shrinkage in drying is 9 percent.
Final moisture content for beech should be between 6.0 to 7.0 percent MC. Slightly higher MCs are not tolerable due to the high shrinkage if the MC changes. When over-dried the wood often becomes very brittle.
Beech machines quite well with sharp tools. With dull tools, surface quality deteriorates. Likewise, if the wood has been over-dried, brittleness is encountered leading to chipped grain and planer splits.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.