American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

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Common Name(s): American Beech

Scientific Name: Fagus grandifolia

Distribution: Eastern United States

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

Average Dried Weight: 45 lbs/ft3 (720 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .54, .72

Janka Hardness: 1,300 lbf (5,780 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 14,900 lbf/in2 (102.8 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,720,000 lbf/in2 (11.86 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 7,410 lbf/in2 (51.1 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 5.5%, Tangential: 11.9%, Volumetric: 17.2%, T/R Ratio: 2.2

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. (See scan below.) 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.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; small pores gradually becoming less frequent from earlywood to latewood; solitary and in multiples and clusters; tyloses occasionally present; growth rings distinct due decreased latewood pore frequency; rays easily visible without lens, though size is inconsistent, noded; parenchyma usually not visible with lens.

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 there is no confirmed safety data on American Beech, the closely related European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions  from this related species include eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Within its domestic range, Beech is readily available and affordable. With its high density and hardness, it may be a cheaper alternative to Hard Maple in some applications.

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, crates/pallets, railroad ties, musical instruments, furniture, turned objects, and other small wooden objects.

Comments: American Beech is sometimes underrated and under-appreciated: which may be due to its somewhat bland appearance. Yet considering its decent strength and hardness—and its comparatively low cost—Beech represents an excellent value for woodworkers.

Related Species:

Scans/Pictures:

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

American Beech (sanded)

American Beech (sealed)

American Beech (sealed)

American Beech (endgrain)

American Beech (endgrain)

American Beech (endgrain 10x)

American Beech (endgrain 10x)

American Beech (steamed veneer)

American Beech (steamed veneer)