European Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

European Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

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Common Name(s): European Beech

Scientific Name: Fagus sylvatica

Distribution: Europe

Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 44 lbs/ft3 (710 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .53, .71

Janka Hardness: 1,450 lbf (6,460 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 15,970 lbf/in2 (110.1 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,075,000 lbf/in2 (14.31 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 8,270 lbf/in2 (57.0 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 5.7%, Tangential: 11.6%, Volumetric: 17.3%, T/R Ratio: 2.0

Color/Appearance: Beech is typically a pale cream color, sometimes with a pink or brown hue. Veneer tends to be slightly darker colored, as slicing the veneer usually requires the wood to be prepared with steam, which gives the wood a more golden tone. Flatsawn surfaces tend to be very plain, while quartersawn surfaces exhibit a silvery fleck pattern.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a fine to medium uniform texture. Moderate natural luster.

Rot Resistance: Beech is considered non-durable or perishable; it is also susceptible to insect attack.

Workability: Overall good workability; it machines well, and glues, finishes, and turns well. Beech also responds superbly to steam-bending. It does, however, have a large amount of movement in service, so movement and wood stability must be taken into account.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, European Beech has been reported as been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: European Beech is widely available across Europe, and it very economically priced within its natural range.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Lumber, veneer, flooring, boatbuilding, furniture, cabinetry, musical instruments (piano pinblocks), plywood, and turned objects.

Comments: Beech is an important and widely-used hardwood in Europe. Its hardness, wear-resistance, strength, and excellent bending capabilities—coupled with its low price—make this hardwood a mainstay for many European woodworkers. Depending on soil conditions, European Beech can grow to very large sizes, and wide, long lumber is commonly available for use.

Related Species:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the wood sample and turned photo of this wood species. You can see more of his work at Steve’s Wooden Skittle Pins and Balls.

European Beech (sanded)

European Beech (sanded)

European Beech (sealed)

European Beech (sealed)

European Beech (endgrain)

European Beech (endgrain)

European Beech (turned)

European Beech (turned)

European Beech (30" x 8.2")

European Beech (30″ x 8.2″)

  • Flash Gordon C. Williamson

    I’ve been building exterior doors for thirty years and have never used beech. Do you recommend against using this specie for a fairly well protected entry system I am asked to build for a new home?

    • Ian Thomson

      the word is “species”.

  • List The Lies

    The comment about “movement in service” is completely wrong. Beech is actually prized for its stability. This, in addition to its hardness, is why wooden moulding planes were made exclusively from Beech.

    • ponchietto

      Beech is also used for rulers (search for it and see how many results there are), another application requiring stability.

      • ejmeier

        In the United States, there’s also a lot of wooden rulers (almost always quartersawn material) made out of Hard Maple. Neither woods are that stable, IMO. If you want a truly stable and accurate ruler, metal is the way to go. Also, longitudinal shrinkage in nearly all woods is relatively low (~.1%), so it’s less likely to effect measurements anyway.

        If you were to put the ruler markings across the width of a board you’d be sure to see some appreciable movement in any wood species!

        • Tariq

          I read on a woodworking forum that Euro beech moves about the same as hard maple but American beech moves alot.
          Does anybody know if this is the case? I’m trying to decide on the type of wood I want to use for my workbench.

    • Jeff Hanna

      Beech was used for hand planes, not because it was stable, but because the sole actually gets very smooth as it wears. Also, as far as hardwoods go, the grain is fairly even and yields a decent amount of quartersawn material.

  • ponchietto

    Are we speaking about the same wood? There is a big firm in Italy, Foppapedretti, which almost exclusively makes furniture out of beech (chairs, tables, beds, ladders), and I can assure you they are absolutely stable.

    • pillybilly

      I think he has no idea what european beech(faggio) is.

  • Raichu

    I’m not sure why the American common name for this tree – copper beech – is not included, though maybe that only applies to the tree and not the lumber?