If you live, for example, in the United States, where Willow wood proliferates, you might get tempted to use this wood for making furniture and other wood stuff. Yet, before you use it, it will be best to know its characteristics and properties to ensure that it is best suited for your upcoming projects. And speaking of Willow wood, you may wonder what type of wood it is.
Willow wood is a wood that originates from an angiosperm tree called the Willow tree. This tree is also called Osiers or Sallows. Its genus is Salix, and there are around four hundred species of this genus. The willow tree is a deciduous tree that grows primarily in temperate and cold regions, specifically in moist soils. Since it is a deciduous tree, it gets classified as hardwood. The Janka Hardness rating, for example, of White Willow (Salix alba), is 579 lbf.
Different Types of Willows
As mentioned above, there are around four hundred species of willow trees under the genus Salix. Thus, you got many species to choose from if you intend to use Willow wood for your projects. However, the most popular species are the White Willow, Black Willow, and Persian Willow.
The White Willow grows into a massive tree with a highly developed draping leaf canopy with branches hanging down. This species has the scientific name of Salix alba and has a Janka rating of 579 lbf. It is hardwood, but it is light hardwood.
Another species of Willow is the Black Willow which features long leaves with arrow shapes. Its scientific name is Salix nigra, and it is commercially important. It is lightweight, too, and offers excellent shock-resistance properties. Its Janka Hardness rating is 430 lbf, growing mainly in the Eastern United States. Its range of height is from 65 to 100 feet, with a trunk diameter of up to 3 feet.
Another popular Willow species is the Persian Willow. You will often find this tree growing near water bodies. Moreover, its scientific name is Salix aegyptiaca. It is a small tree that grows up to ten meters high. This tree has striped wood. It grows abundantly in north Iraq and Iran, up to Azerbaijan, Turkey, Israel, and Greece. It also gets farmed in Afghanistan, Egypt, and Pakistan. This wood is seldom used for woodworking, though it gets used for ornament.
Characteristics and Properties of Willow Wood
If it is your first-time using Willow wood, it will help to know its unique properties and characteristics. This way, you will understand it more and see if it is the ideal wood for your projects. Below is a short description of its properties and characteristics:
Grains and Texture
A cursory look at the grains of Willow wood would reveal its straight grains. You will also notice its fine and uniform texture. Besides, you will see occasional interlocking and irregular grains. Most Willow species’ wood density ranges from 340 to 450 kilograms/cubic meter.
The end grain of Willow wood is semi-ring-porous with subtle differences between latewood pores and earlywood pores. You will also see medium to large pores in a random arrangement. Its narrow rays are not visible to the naked eye.
The heartwood of the Willow tree has a pinkish brown tone. On the other hand, its sapwood comes with a yellowish-white tone. White Willow, for example, has a heartwood with pinkish brown color while its sapwood features a yellowish-white color. Additionally, you will not see a clear demarcation between its sapwood and heartwood, which may overlap.
Strength and Resistance to Rot
Willow wood is not that strong. It is similar in strength to Ashwood. Nevertheless, Ash wood is a bit stronger than Willow wood. It also has almost the same Janka Hardness rating as Poplar (540 lbf), Chestnut (540 lbf), and Alder (590 lbf).
Willow wood is not entirely rot and decay-resistant. Besides, it is not rated as durable but has a non-durable-perishable rating. Thus, without proper treatment, it is susceptible to decay and rot. It may dry quickly, but it does trap water quickly. As such, it is vulnerable to the effects of moisture and water.
Willow is less dense compared to other hardwoods. Because of this, it has poor machining properties. Thus, the resulting surface may become a bit fuzzy when you work on it.
Moreover, Willow wood isn’t easy to season and may exhibit drying defects. However, it glues well and finishes nicely.
Advantages of Using Willow Wood
If you really intend to use Willow wood, it will be best to know the following advantages of its use to enable you to determine if it is the ideal wood for your upcoming projects:
Beautiful Grain Patterns
Willow, as a hardwood, is often used for furniture making and many other woodworking projects. It has beautiful grain patterns. However, there are various species of Willow trees, and you should choose with care the species more often used for woodworking.
Easy to Work When Cutting
Although willow is a hardwood, it belongs to the lighter type of hardwood. Thus, you will not dull your cutters and tool’s edges when working with this wood. Besides, it has a smooth texture that glues and finishes well.
Another great advantage of the use of Willow wood is its price. It is moderately priced. As such, you will not break the bank if you use this wood compared to the use of exotic wood like Ebony and Teak.
High Level of Shock Resistance and Lightweight
Willow wood is not heavy. It belongs to the group of lighter hardwood. As such, you will not get quickly exhausted when lifting this wood. Besides, it exhibits a high level of shock resistance. It also shows high electric shock resistance.
Disadvantages of Using Willow Wood
Your understanding of Willow wood will never be complete if you don’t know the downsides of the use of this wood. Hence, it will be best to be cognizant of the following downsides of the use of Willow wood:
Willow is Very Wet and Stringy
One downside of the use of Willow wood is its characteristic wet and stringy properties. This property can be problematic if you use Willow for woodturning or carving.
Willow splits pretty easily when wet and is quite heavy. But drying it may take a few years. Besides, it may fail to dry out entirely if you don’t store it in a dry area. For this reason, Willow gets often referred to as the world’s wettest wood.
Susceptibility to Warping
Another downside of the use of Willow is its susceptibility to bowing and warping. Thus, it will be best if you were very careful when working with it, for its use might not turn out as expected. Besides, you may find it hard to see very straight Willow wood.
Applications and Uses of Willow Wood
Aside from knowing the pros and cons of using Willow wood, it will also help to know the following different applications of this wood:
Willow gets commonly used for making beautiful furniture. You can use this wood for making sofas, chairs, lover seats, and end tables. You can also use it for making magazine racks and bookcases. It is perfect for making casual and inexpensive furniture that could last for years.
You can also use Willow wood for making hand-woven baskets of various sizes. These Willow baskets are perfect for holding flower arrangements, magazines, and cloth napkins.
Willow wood is also used to make traditional brooms similar to the witches’ brooms. These brooms can be decorative. You can also make Willow brooms for practical applications like cleaning the floors and outdoor sheds.
You will also find beautiful hand-made flutes made of Willow wood. Since Willow wood is lightweight and handy, it is perfect for this application. Nevertheless, flutes made of Willow are not durable and are best for decorative applications.
Willow wood gets also used for making cricket bats. Willow wood derived from wetland Willow trees is used for this purpose. The fibers of Willow wood get pressed for added strength. Then, the resulting wood is waxed to prevent cracking and swelling. Willow cricket bats are durable and shock-absorbent.
Most Common Questions on Using Willow Wood in Woodworking
After knowing the succinct characteristics and properties of Willow wood and the pros and cons of its use, including its applications, you might still have questions about this wood. It will help, therefore, if you are familiar with the following FAQs about Willow wood, for they may also be the questions playing on in your mind:
Is Willow Wood Suitable for Woodworking?
If you’re a seasoned woodworker, you will indeed shy away from using Willow wood because it is not the best wood available. It is very light as a hardwood and is the wettest wood. It has around 12% moisture content and a low density of 27.1 lbs/ft³. These properties are not ideal for many applications. Besides, it is prone to cracking and is challenging to preserve.
Is Willow Hard to Find?
Willow wood is not easy to find because it doesn’t grow anywhere. It only grows near bodies of water because it is a water-loving type of tree. Besides, it is not easy to fully grow a Willow tree.
Is Willow Wood Expensive?
Willow is not expensive compared to other exotic hardwoods. It is moderately priced, meaning you will not break the bank when you opt for this wood. However, some species of Willow, like the English Willow, might be expensive because it is rare and not easy to grow.
If you are a beginner in woodworking and are looking for hardwood to work on, you might as well consider Willow wood. This wood is relatively easy to work with and is not dense and heavy. It can be a good practice wood to get the hang of woodworking.
Willow, of course, is used for many applications like furniture making and other applications. It may not be the best hardwood, but it will indeed fit well with many woodworking projects. Moreover, it is not as expensive as hardwood; thus, it is perfect for practice woodworking projects.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.