Woods of the World » Cottonwood vs. Basswood

Woods of the World

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Cottonwood vs. Basswood


Cottonwood (Populus deltoides), is a very useful species of hardwood lumber. This material has been used for box manufacture, woodenware, luggage interiors, drawer-sides and numerous other applications. This rather soft species of hardwood, (.40 specific gravity), has probably more uses than the average woodworker has explored.

Capable of being used for moldings and general-purpose applications, Cottonwood has been around for quite some time. This inexpensive wood probably has been overlooked due to its benign nature. Most woodworkers don’t consider Cottonwood in their woodworking simply because they don’t realize its adaptability. Cottonwood can be utilized wherever Poplar, Pine or finger-joint material can be used. Cottonwood is a creamy-white species that works fairly well with occasional fuzzing in planing operations, but it usually does not split easily. It has an even texture and straight grain. This species has low bending strength and stiffness and has a medium resistance to shock loads. Cottonwood dries easily but will probably warp or distort unless extreme care is taken in kiln drying to avoid this warping or twisting. There is very little movement in service.

Cottonwood will work quite effortlessly with hand or machine tools. The standard cutting angle for hardwoods will work well for this species, although care should be taken with feed speeds in machine operations to avoid the raising of grain. This species has been used since early times in this country for vehicle bodies. Many coach makers and auto-body manufactures have used Cottonwood in their production.

Cottonwood has also been successful in furniture interior (upholstered) parts, couch and chair arms especially. More recently this species has been used by the fish industry for boxing fresh fish used in sushi production. It has also been used by the cheese industry for gift packages for their product. Occasionally Cottonwood is found in selected, highly figured logs and is used to make decorative veneers for paneling. Sometimes even crotches are available, making for some interesting woodworking material, due to its light cream color and wild figure.

Overall we believe Cottonwood, often overlooked, should be considered as an asset to the woodworker, and should be used more often.

Basswood, tilia Americana, also known as American whitewood or American lime, is quite a beneficial species of hardwood to the woodworking industry in general. This readily available species has been used for core stock, cross-banding, carving, turnery, piano keys, mallet heads, picture framing, cooperage, box making and many more applications than we can print here. Basswood is probably the species of choice for the blind or louver industry, due to its light creamy color, light specific gravity (.37 to .41) and its minimal movement in service. This material paints easily and will accept a stain or clear finish with the best of species.

Basswood works easily with machine and hand tools. It has a low resistance to cutting tools with a very slight dulling effect on knives, drills or other tools. Basswood also will nail, screw and glue well. Basswood has a poor steam bending classification and has very low strength properties. Basswood dries very easily with little degrade or distortion, and as stated before, has very little movement in service. This makes Basswood a good choice for the woodworker that requires dependability and stability in all applications. Basswood is readily available as lumber, but is somewhat limited in veneer or plywood. This is a very inexpensive species that comes out of the eastern United States and eastern Canada. There is no distinction between the heartwood and sapwood. The sapwood is liable to attack by our uninvited guest, the common furniture beetle. The heartwood is permeable to most preservative treatment. Basswood has also been used in the manufacture of broom and mop handles rivaling many imported species we see today.

For the most part, we feel that Basswood is a very adaptable species that can add an advantage to most woodworker’s pallet of materials available today. Serious woodworkers should consider both of these species the world around for their stability and usefulness. For us, they have!


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Posted in Uncategorized and Wood Comparisons 5 years, 3 months ago at 12:22 pm.

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