WoodSense: White and Red elmComments (0)
A century ago, Dutch Elm Disease (DED) decimated millions of elm trees, many of which adorned American city streets. (Fun fact: “Elm” is the 15th most common street name in the USA.) The encouraging news is that these fast-growing trees are enjoying a comeback. Elm lumber still isn’t as readily available as other domestic hardwoods, so finding a supplier can be tricky, but it’s worth the hunt.
This striking hardwood is affordable and easy to work. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that elm species are often intermixed in kilns and lumber racks. Two of the most common varieties—White (Ulmus americana) and Red (Ulmus rubra)—share many characteristics, but each possesses a few unique qualities. Knowing what sets them apart can help you select the best stock from the stack.
History in Woodworking
Elm served as an important utility wood for a couple of centuries, with two unique attributes lending themselves to special applications: First, red elm’s split-resistant interlocking grain made it a prized wood for hoof-resistant barn floor planks. Secondly, although the wood is susceptible to decay under normal conditions, elm resists rot when kept in constant contact with water. This unusual affinity made it a natural choice for barrels, ship keels, and even below-ground water pipes. These days, elm is best reserved for smaller projects, primarily due to its poor dimensional stability.
Where the wood comes from
How to select the best stock
Working elm in the shop
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