Heartwood

irch is a hot item at the lumberyard these days, and birch veneer is the all-time most popular hardwood plywood. This isn't a fad. Despite changes in taste and fashion, birch has been in demand for furniture and cabinetry for almost a century.

Birch lumber has a handsome appearance. Because of its fine texture and straight grain, it machines well and routs beautifully. Though hard, birch is easy to sand, and it turns like a dream. Birch plywood is available in a wide range of grades.

These characteristics make birch a great choice for all types of cabinetry. But the best thing about birch is that it looks good with a variety of finishes—it's a great impostor for more expensive woods. I'll show you how to make the most of this durable, versatile and budget-friendly hardwood.

Birch burl is prized by turners.

Graded for Color

BIRCH IS FAMOUS for its light-colored sapwood, but its deeper-toned heartwood, which is known as red birch in the lumber industry, can be even more appealing.

BIRCH IS FAMOUS for its light-colored sapwood, but its deeper-toned heartwood, which is known as red birch in the lumber industry, can be even more appealing.

Birch Lumber is

Graded for Color

Birch logs contain quite a bit of sap-wood. It ranges in color from creamy-white to golden tan (with occasional pink tones), and is distinctly different than the reddish-brown heartwood (photo, at left). Commercial demand for light-colored wood is so strong that birch, like maple, is often graded and sold by its color. You'll pay about a 20-percent premium for color-selected birch.

At the lumberyard, birch boards marketed as "sap" or "white" have been color-selected. Sap birch refers to boards containing at least 85 percent light-colored sapwood. White birch refers to paper birch. Some lumberyards carry it separately from yellow birch, specifically for its white color. Paper birch boards are usually narrow (about 4-in. wide), short (6- to 8-ft. long) and thin (1-in. thick). They're best used to make face-frames and moldings.

Most birch lumber is sold as natural or unselected. There's no difference in the quality of the wood—it just hasn't been sorted for color. Most natural boards contain a combination of sapwood and heartwood, but you'll find light-and dark-colored boards as part of the mix. While light-colored birch grabs all the attention, its deeper toned heartwood (red birch) can be just as attractive. Thick stock (over 1 in.) is likely to contain considerable heartwood. Lower-grade Xo. 1 common birch lumber contains more knots and other natural defects.

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Wood Working 101

Wood Working 101

Have you ever wanted to begin woodworking at home? Woodworking can be a fun, yet dangerous experience if not performed properly. In The Art of Woodworking Beginners Guide, we will show you how to choose everything from saws to hand tools and how to use them properly to avoid ending up in the ER.

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