Ash is a hardwood. Many of us may not know the differences between hardwood and softwood trees. Many people may think hardwood is a tree with a hard texture and is durable. But this is not the basis for classifying a tree as hardwood.
There are two classifications of trees-angiosperm and gymnosperm. If you have forgotten their meanings as taught in your Biology class, angiosperms are trees with broad leaves and bear fruit with enclosed seeds. Their structure is porous and hardy, and ash is one of them.
Gymnosperms are coniferous with leaves that resemble scales and needles, such as pines, spruces, and firs. They are non-porous with soft and light wood textures.
Read the information below to give you a better glimpse of ash wood.
What is an Ash Wood?
Ash is a tree known by its scientific name as Fraxinus, belonging to the Oleaceae family. Fraxinus contains 45 to 65 species consisting of deciduous and large trees. These species are endemic to Asia, North America, and Europe. The leaves of ash wood are opposite and are usually pinnate.
Ash wood is light in color, and its grain is smooth. It thrives well in North America, particularly Canada and the east coast. Woodworkers find ash a suitable material in furniture making, particularly cabinetry, due to its beige to light brown shade and straight grain.
Ash takes pride in its aesthetic appeal, lightweight, shock, and stain resistance, making it one of the favorite wood materials for furniture making in the United States. It is an excellent material for making tool handles and baseball bats due to its resilience to wear and tear.
Advantages of Using Ash Wood
After learning about the properties and characteristics of Ash wood, you can now gauge if this wood is perfect for your projects. Nevertheless, it will also help if you are familiar with the following advantages of its use:
If you are looking for wood with a smooth and light-colored grain, you should choose Ash wood. Its light brown to beige color is an attractive option for making furniture. Its straight grain also provides a uniform and beautiful finish.
Ashwood comes with good finishing and working properties. It is less dense than other hardwoods, with a medium-range Janka Hardness rating of 1,320 lbf. It can hold screws and nails well and receives paint and polish nicely. You can also bend it by steaming it. So, it offers excellent workability.
High Level of Versatility
Ash is quite versatile. It is also durable. You can use it for making furniture, toys, sports equipment components, and many more. Moreover, the commonly used Ashwood types are Black Ash and White Ash.
Since Ash wood has a moderate range of hardness, it is sufficiently hard for use in roof construction and flooring. You can also expect Ashwood floors to be shock-resistant and durable.
Affordable and Sustainable
Ash is widely available globally. Thus, it gets transported easily, which cuts the cost of this wood. Compared to other hardwoods, it is less expensive. Besides, you can buy this wood in bulk.
The use of Ash wood is sustainable likewise. It can quickly grow and get harvested soon. Thus, you need not worry about tipping off the ecological balance when using Ash wood.
Easy to Keep and Maintain
Furniture and products made of Ash are easy to maintain compared to other hardwoods. Besides, it requires little maintenance over time.
Ashwood exhibits excellent hardness despite belonging to moderate hardwoods. It is denser than some hardwoods and all softwoods.
Ashwood belongs to the most durable wood types. It is known for its remarkable durability and has been a favorite wood in the United States for centuries. It can last for centuries, likewise, if used indoors.
Disadvantages of Using Ash Wood
After knowing the upsides of using Ash wood, you can now decide whether it suits your project. Yet, your assessment and knowledge of the Ashwood will never be complete if you don’t know the following disadvantages of its use:
Ash features open grain. Hence, when using Ash wood, you might be surprised if you find open holes on the wood’s surface. So, it will be best if you fill in the open grains of this wood for a smooth and even finish.
Difficult to Sand
Since the wood has open pores, you may find it hard to sand this wood. It will be best to fill these pores to achieve an excellent finish. Besides, you must take extra care when sanding to avoid scratching across its grain.
Not Suitable for Exterior Use
Ash is not highly-rated for exterior applications. Nevertheless, it gets often used for interior applications. It is not resistant to insect and fungal attacks. It will eventually succumb to decay and rot if it comes in contact with soil for a long time. So, it is not suitable for use as fences and decks.
You can bend Ash wood with ease because of its low density. After exposing it to moisture, it will bend. Hence, it is only suitable for dry areas, away from water and high humidity.
Susceptible to Rotting
As mentioned above, it is susceptible to decay and rot when exposed to soil or moisture. It is also vulnerable to insect and fungal attacks. Besides, it is highly appealing to ordinary powder-post and furniture beetles. Its heartwood also tends to resist treatment because it is not that porous compared to its sapwood.
It also gets infested by emerald ash borer, which gets first introduced in the United States in the 1980s. This ash borer has already killed millions of trees and affects Ash wood.
It tends to Split with Ease!
Ashwood tends to split with ease when you screw it wrongly. For this reason, you need to predrill if you will screw it.
Most wood types, of course, will burn when exposed to fire. Similarly, Ashwood will burn well, and it is very flammable. Nevertheless, you can treat it with chemicals to make it more fire-resistant.
How to Work with Ash Wood?
Using ash wood as a material in cabinetry and furniture making is not at all problematic. If you are new to woodworking, you need to understand the characteristics of ash wood.
Since it is hardwood, ash does not require sanding with the finest grit, which has the higher grit number. Instead, use a lower grit of sandpaper before staining it. The grit should not exceed number 220 when sanding the wood surface before applying a darker stain.
If you use the highest grit number, it discourages even absorption. Furniture builders advise beginners to use number 320 grit if you apply a lighter stain on the wood surface before the final sanding to prevent blotchy texture.
How Hard is Ash Wood?
The durability of ash is beyond question using the Janka hardness test. Gabriel Janka created this test to measure the wood’s hardiness and durability against wear and dent. A steel ball measures the wood’s hardness while pressing into the wood sample to embed halfway.
Ash wood got a hardiness measurement of 1320. White oak measures 1360, while the American Beech measures 1300.
The Brazilian cherry got the highest hardness measurement of 2350. The mesquite wood and Santos mahogany placed second and third on the scale test with 2345 and 2200 measurements, respectively.
The Janka hardness test result means that ash wood is a durable material in fine furniture making.
What are the Characteristics of Ash Wood?
Ash is everywhere throughout Asia and Europe. They thrive well in hills, planes, woodland, and higher altitudes in some parts of Europe. Ash grows along the rivers in Romania and Hungary. Some species of the genus Fraxinus grow in North America and Asia.
Fraxinus grows in riverside forests, water meadows, chalky soil, roadsides, parks, and forests. Their color varies depending on the variety, such as white reddish, yellowish, dark, or light brown.
Some varieties of ash may have dark or light brown heartwood. Rare types of ash wood have olive color heartwood. The heartwood has large pores, which are apparent in cross and radial cuts.
Properties & Density of Ash
Ash wood has a density of 0.68 g/cm3 with 1320 Janka measurements. It is hard, heavy, durable, and more enduring than oak. If you compare it with other hardwood, ash can last for several decades due to its high abrasion resistance and elasticity.
Its mechanical properties perform better if it generates wider growth rings. If the wood rings are more expansive, they can grow fast that are useful in various applications. The downside of ash wood is that it is unsuitable for outdoor use and if treated with preservatives.
Different Applications & Uses of Ash Wood
The best way to protect ash wood from shrinkage is to dry it well. Workers manipulate the wood using a hand tool or a power tool. There is no problem if you saw, peel, turn, or cut the wood as it is easy to work.
Ash wood is versatile when it comes to its uses. It has been a popular material in the olden times in building homes and furniture. Today, ash is a popular wood material in making all sorts of furniture, moldings, millwork, flooring, doors, hockey sticks, paddles, and cabinetry. Its primary uses are for making baseball bats, tool handles, and cabinets.
You can also bend and split the wood after steam treatment. It is excellent for staining, nailing, gluing, and screwing. They are available in sliced veneer, sawn, or round sawn timber. Ash wood has many applications, such as:
- Interior furnishing
- Sports equipment (oars, paddle, baseball bat)
- Tool handles and grips
- Mechanical engineering
- Ladder struts
- Veneer covering
How Durable is Ash Wood?
Although ash wood has a Janka test result of 1320, it does not mean it is a very durable wood. Its heartwood is less porous and does not absorb treatments compared to its sapwood.
Ash gets rotten if it is in contact with soil and damp flooring. Termites, fungi, and beetles, especially the powder post beetles and furniture beetles, are enemies of ash wood.
Does Working with Ash Wood Safe?
You have to be extra cautious when sanding the wood as it can lead to scratching or bruising on its grain. It also has open pores that need a filling if you want a smooth finish on its surface. Despite its staining and sanding abilities, ash is not a perfect timber for furniture-making.
During lathing, the wood could get splinters due to its long fiber. Cutting tools with softer edges can get moderate blunt. You also need to drill mature ash wood to prevent splitting while nailing.
How to Identify Ash Wood in Furniture?
Ash wood finish is often mistaken as oaks or the other way around because they have slight similarities. It pays to purchase ash furniture from a reliable dealer to avoid mistakes.
Professionals may commit blunders if they do not scrutinize the texture and grain of the furniture. Ash and oak are both hardwoods, but ash is a harder wood than oak.
Is Ash Wood Ideal As Outdoor Furniture?
Any hardwood can wear if you bring it outside as outdoor furniture. Ash wood is prone to degradation like rotting and discoloration when exposed to the ground and elements. If you want to display it outside your home, buy ash wood furniture with oil-based solution protection.
A practical option is to purchase furniture made from RPL or recycled plastic lumber. RPL is a plastic that mimics authentic wood that needs less maintenance.
Does Ash Wood Change Its colors in the Long Run?
There is no exemption when it comes to color changes in hardwood. Ash wood with light colors may turn into deep colors, while those with rich colors change to light colors. The changes are due to exposure to oxygen, extreme temperature, and ultra-violet rays.
Ash wood is a hardwood that consists of imperfections, such as prone to rotting and beetle and fungal infestation. The best way to prevent the wood from deterioration is not to expose it to ground, UV rays, and moisture. Ash is more durable than oak, and they have an aesthetic appeal, making them an excellent material for carpentry and woodworking projects.