Common Name(s): Basswood, lime, linden, American basswood
Scientific Name: Tilia americana
Distribution: Eastern North America
Tree Size: 65-120 ft (20-37 m) tall,
3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 26 lbs/ft3 (415 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 0.32, 0.42
Janka Hardness: 410 lbf (1,820 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 8,700 lbf/in2 (60 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 1,460,000 lbf/in2 (10.07 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 4,730 lbf/in2 (32.6 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 6.6%, Tangential: 9.3%,
Volumetric: 15.8%, T/R Ratio: 1.4
Color/Appearance: Pale white to light brown color, with sapwood and heartwood sections not clearly defined. Growth rings tend to be subtle, and color is mostly uniform throughout the face grain of the wood. Knots and other defects are uncommon.
Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a fine, even texture and moderate natural luster.
Rot Resistance: Basswood is rated as non-durable in regard to heartwood decay.
Workability: Easy to work, being very soft and light. Perhaps one of the most suitable wood species for hand carving. Basswood also glues and finishes well, but has poor steam bending and nail holding characteristics.
Odor: No characteristic odor.
Allergies/Toxicity: Besides the standard health risks associated with any type of wood dust, no further health reactions have been associated with basswood. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Widely available as lumber or carving blanks. Prices are in the lower range for a domestic hardwood, though larger carving blocks can be more expensive.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.
Common Uses: Carvings, lumber, musical instruments (electric guitar bodies), veneer, plywood, and wood pulp/fiber products.
Comments: Species in the Tilia genus are usually referred to as either lime or linden in Europe, while in North America the trees are most commonly called basswood.
Basswood is an ideal wood for many woodcarvers. Its soft, fine, even texture make it easy to work with, while its pale, inconspicuous color doesn’t detract from the carved patterns of the finished product (which also makes it easier to paint and color).
Though basswood has high initial shrinkage, the wood is stable in service after it has been dried. And though the wood is both lightweight and soft, it has an outstanding MOE-to-weight ratio. However, its MOR is on par with its low weight; simply put, when put under stress, the wood will remain stiff, but will still break (rupture) at a relatively average weight.
Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood.
Porosity: diffuse porous
Arrangement: predominantly in radial multiples or clusters of two to four pores
Vessels: medium, very numerous
Parenchyma: diffuse-in-aggregates, banded (marginal)
Rays: narrow to medium width; normal spacing; noded
Lookalikes/Substitutes: Basswood can sometimes be confused with a number of lightweight diffuse porous hardwoods such as yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), magnolia (Magnolia spp.), willow (Salix spp.), and aspen/cottonwood (Populus spp.). Looking at the ray widths (and checking to see if the rays are noded as they cross growth ring boundaries) can help separate Tilia from Salix and Populus species, which tend to have smaller, less distinct and non-noded rays. However, if the wood sample in question is sapwood and lacks a colored heartwood area, it can be difficult to distinguish it from Magnolia species, as well as Liriodendron tulipifera, both of which usually require microscopic examination to tell apart.