Beech

Common Name: American Beech
Scientific Name: Fagus grandifolia
Distribution: Eastern United States
Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 45 lbs/ft3 (720 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .54, .72
Janka Hardness: 1,300 lbf (5,780 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 14,900 lbf/in2 (102.8 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 1,720,000 lbf/in2 (11.86 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 7,410 lbf/in2 (51.1 MPa)
Shrinkage: 5.5%, Tangential: 11.9%, Volumetric: 17.2%, T/R Ratio: 2.2

Beech grain

american-beech-endgrain

Beech end grain

Color/Appearance: Beech is typically a pale cream color, sometimes with a pink or brown hue. Veneer tends to be slightly darker colored, as slicing the veneer usually requires the wood to be prepared with steam, which gives the wood a more golden tone. (See scan below.) Flatsawn surfaces tend to be very plain, while quartersawn surfaces exhibit a silvery fleck pattern.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a fine to medium uniform texture. Moderate natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; small pores gradually becoming less frequent from earlywood to latewood; solitary and in multiples and clusters; tyloses occasionally present; growth rings distinct due decreased latewood pore frequency; rays easily visible without lens, though size is inconsistent, noded; parenchyma usually not visible with lens.

Rot Resistance: Beech is considered non-durable or perishable; it is also susceptible to insect attack.

Workability: Overall good workability; it machines well, and glues, finishes, and turns well. Beech also responds superbly to steam-bending. It does, however, have a large amount of movement in service, so movement and wood stability must be taken into account.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although there is no confirmed safety data on American Beech, the closely related European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions from this related species include eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Within its domestic range, Beech is readily available and affordable. With its high density and hardness, it may be a cheaper alternative to Hard Maple in some applications.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Lumber, veneer, flooring, crates/pallets, railroad ties, musical instruments, furniture, turned objects, and other small wooden objects.

Comments: American Beech is sometimes underrated and under-appreciated: which may be due to its somewhat bland appearance. Yet considering its decent strength and hardness—and its comparatively low cost—Beech represents excellent value for woodworkers.

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