What is Alder?
Only 20 years ago, no one had heard of this hardwood lumber from the Pacific Northwest called alder. These days, alder is a popular choice for many hardwood applications, with demand for alder lumber reflecting this new popularity.
Red alder is the most common hardwood tree growing in the Pacific Northwest. Through a proactive campaign of education, marketing, and creative use, alder is now a highly sought after hardwood throughout both the Pacific Northwest and around the world.
What is Alder Wood Used For?
Most of the higher grade lumber is used for furniture, cabinetry, and turned products. Alder is also used in doors, millwork, decorative woodwork, carvings, and edge-glued panels.
Alder dries to an even honey tone and can be finished to resemble more expensive fine-grained species. There is little color variation between the heartwood and sapwood, making alder also ideal for light or natural finishes. Alder’s popularity continues to grow among fine furniture and cabinetry makers worldwide.
Why Are Alder Grades Different?
Most companies that produce or sell large quantities of alder use a proprietary grading system to address some of the unique qualities of alder lumber. Alder lumber is marketed in over 20 distinct grades. It is often marketed for the furniture and cabinet industry and successfully competes in paneling and pallet stock markets. Similar to typical NHLA grades, yield and clear cuttings are part of most alder grade determinations. In addition, alder grades take into account the character marks allowed in the wood. Pin knots are common and not considered a defect.
What Are the Typical Sizes of Alder Lumber?
Alder trees are naturally smaller than many other commercially desirable hardwood trees. This is reflected in the more limited widths and lengths of alder lumber. Most alder lumber ranges in length between 6 feet and 12 feet, with the majority either 8 or 10 feet long. Most available lumber is 4/4 and 5/4, with some 6/4 and 8/4 stock available in more limited quantities.
Proprietary grading addresses the more limited sizes of alder lumber whichtill allows users to utilize alder in the best manner possible.
What Are the Characteristics of Alder Wood?
Alder has an excellent reputation for machining and is also a desirable wood for turning. Alder can be nailed without splitting or screwed without pre-drilling. It glues well and can be sanded to a smooth finish. Alder is evenly textured, with a subdued grain pattern, and has a moderate weight and hardness.
Because of its uniform, small pore structure and consistency of color, alder is a preferred wood for finishing. It accepts a variety of stain types and can be successfully substituted for other woods when properly colored stains are applied. When finished natural, it has a warm honey color.
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