January 1, 2023
Yes, Basswood is a hardwood, but it is also often referred to as a soft hardwood with low density and hardness.
Basswood features a Janka hardness rating of 410 lbf. This Janka rating is very low for hardwood. Yet, since Basswood is a deciduous tree, it is hardwood because being a deciduous tree is one of the main criteria required of a hardwood. If you intend to use Basswood in your projects, it will help to know this wood deeply.
How Hard and Dense is Basswood?
As mentioned above, Basswood, although hardwood, is a soft hardwood with a low Janka rating. It is almost as hard as California Redwood (420 lbf). Yet, Cypress (510 lbf), Fir Douglas (710 lbf), and Pine Yellow (870 lbf) are even higher on the Janka Hardness rating scale, although they are softwood. Hence, it is easy to see that Basswood, by nature, is hardwood because it comes from a deciduous tree, though commercially, it is a softwood.
Remember that one of the criteria for being a hardwood is that of being a deciduous tree. Deciduous trees, of course, shed their leaves during fall, unlike softwood which comes from a coniferous tree. Basswood is also a flowering tree; its leaves are alternately arranged, simple, and asymmetrical.
Moreover, its leaves are also unequal and asymmetrical at its base. Its flowers are fragrant and yellow-white. They are also fragrant. Basswood also comes with a visible pore structure. But what makes it hardwood is the fact that it is deciduous.
Characteristics and Properties of Basswood
Basswood grows well in eastern North America. The American Basswood ranges in size from large to medium-sized trees. Moreover, it can reach up to 37 meters or 120 feet with up to 1.5-meter trunk diameter. It can live up to 200 years.
Basswood comes with a pale brown color which sometimes looks almost white. Sometimes it has a tinge of red. Its grain is fine, soft, close, and doesn’t have knots. Nevertheless, it doesn’t split quickly. It is also not that strong and does not easily bend. Moreover, it takes polish and stains quickly, and you can plane, screw, nail, or glue it easily.
Basswood also has a uniform texture with medium-range luster. Since it is light and soft, it is valuable for carving. Besides, you can use it for making boxes, cooperage, excelsior, and pulp. It is also a favorite wood for musical instruments. You can also use it for shutters, millwork, and specialty products.
Basswood looks smooth and comes with a very light brown hue. Its grain is shallow, with minimal defects and very minimal knots.
Basswood gets often used for solid-body guitar production because of its light and resonant properties. It is not attractive if you intend to finish it with a transparent one.
The heartwood of Basswood is reddish brown to pale hue, tinged with darker streaks. Besides, its sapwood carries a cream-to-white color. Its wood also is light and soft, making it ideal for carving. It is not elastic, however, which makes it a poor candidate for steam bending.
Applications and Uses of Basswood
Basswood, being a soft hardwood, has limited excellent applications. However, it is used for flooring. Besides, it is a good wood for whittling or carving. It is soft and easy to turn and offers a uniform grain. Thus, it is excellent for beginners in woodworking. You can use it for woodturning, and it turns well on a lathe. Besides, it is prized for use in furniture. You can work it into various unique shapes, which is ideal for art, sculpting, furniture, and whittling.
Carvers love to use Basswood for it is perfect for detailed carving. You can use it as a veneer to underline fine cabinet woods. It is also a versatile light wood, perfect for making toys, picture frames, and millwork. Moreover, it is ideal for fine turning of wood.
Manufacturers of musical instruments also utilize Basswood for making musical instruments like guitars and ukuleles. It provides the guitar’s body with a smooth and light appearance. It also gets used for solid-body electric and bass guitars. Nevertheless, it is not used for acoustic guitar’s fretboards and necks.
You can also use this wood to make things that necessitate flush corners and a flat appearance with minimal defects. You can also use it for making veneer. Besides, it receives paint well. Thus, even if Basswood is not perfect for projects that require consistent material, it is, however, used for many other applications.
Basswood is soft and lightweight. It is also an affordable option that offers a tight grain pattern. Besides, it carries a warm tone, accentuated by mid-range frequencies. Thus, it is perfect for solid-body electric guitars.
Furthermore, it gets rated as an analogue for poplar and aspen because of its strong, light, and resonant properties. It is perfect likewise for guitars meant to be painted with opaque hues or colors, considering its lack of excellent grain patterns.
The American Basswood has the scientific name of Tilia americana of the Malvaceae Family. This species is native to North America, and its habitat ranges from southeast Manitoba to Oklahoma, South Carolina, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. It is also the only representative of this genus on the American continent. Besides, it is referred to as American linden and is a medium to large-sized tree.
You can propagate this tree by cuttings. You can also graft this tree, which will proliferate in rich and fertile soil easily. Nevertheless, you should take care of it because it is vulnerable to various pests. The good thing about Basswood is that it is a very much available type of wood and is affordable. As a beginner, you will see that it has many applications, but it is best for crafting and woodturning. It is also good for flooring, though it gets gouged or scratched with ease. As such, it is not an ideal option for flooring.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.