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Alder wood is pale yellow to light pinkish-tan, with the color darkening just a bit over time. The hcartwood and sap-wood are indistinguishable from each other. The wood has a fine, even texture and small pores. The grain is straight, sometimes interlocked and subdued in appearance. The seasoned wood has no odor. Because of its lack of color and figure, alder is almost always stained.


Alder is a soft hardwood, but it's strong for its weight and very stable. It cuts easily with hand and power tools, but the wood is so fibrous that even a very sharp plane iron can leave a fuzzy surface. To crosscut alder, I use a 60-tooth crosscut blade; combination blades tend to munch the fibers. To drill clean holes, use a brad-point drill and a backup board to prevent tearout. Belt sanding this soft wood can turn a whole board to dust before you know it; I recommend sanding by hand or with a random-orbit sandcr.

Alder holds fasteners fairly well for a soft wood, but you should pre-bore for screws to prevent splitting the wood. The wood glues well, but it tends to blotch when stained. Before staining, I condition the wood with a wash coat of three parts denatured alcohol and one part 3-pound-cut shellac. Then I sand with 220-grit paper and apply the stain.


Alder is used for doors, sash, millwork, plywood core veneers, furniture, turning and just about any other woodworking application you can think of. And it's weather-resistant, so you can use it outside as long as it isn't left in contact with the ground. A

Species and Common Names

Alnus rubra—Red alder; Oregon alder; western alder Growing Range

Along the Pacific coast from the Alaskan panhandle south to northern California Specific Gravity .45 to .60 Density

28 to 38 lbs. per cu. ft. Wood Movement1

Tangential (flatsawn): small (less than 1/4 in. per ft.) Radial (quartersawn): very small (less than 1/8 in. per ft.) Durability

Susceptible to insect attack; susceptible to decay if left in soil sustainability

Sustainable at current harvest levels Availability

Hardwood and specialty lumber dealers

Not widely available east of the Rocky Mountains


Thicknesses: 4/4 through 12/4. Widths: 4 to 8 in. Lengths: 8 to 12 ft. Cost

Lumber: $1.25 to $5 per bd. ft., depending on thickness Veneer: Not commonly available

' Indicates wood movement across the urain from 6% to 12% moisture content.

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