Common Name(s): Basswood, American Basswood, Lime, Linden
Scientific Name: Tilia americana
Distribution: Eastern North America
Tree Size: 120 ft (37 m) tall, 5 ft (1.5 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 27 lbs/ft3 (425 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .32, .43
Janka Hardness: 410 lbf (1,824 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 8,700 lbf/in2 (60.0 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 cream color, with only subtle growth rings. The color is mostly uniform throughout the surface of the wood.
Grain/Texture: Has a fine and even texture, which is preferred for wood carvers.
Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; small to very small pores in no specific arrangement; predominantly in radial multiples or clusters of 2-4; growth rings indistinct or distinct due to marginal parenchyma; rays visible without lens, noded; parenchyma banded (marginal), apotracheal parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates.
Rot Resistance: Basswood is rated as being 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. Responds poorly to steam bending.
Odor: No characteristic odor.
Pricing/Availability: Basswood is fairly inexpensive. Larger carving blocks might be slightly more expensive per board foot, but on the whole it’s a very affordable lumber species.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Carvings, lumber, veneer, plywood, and wood pulp and fiber products.
Comments: American 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 distract from the carved patterns of the finished product. It’s also easier to paint and color, since the wood is so light-shaded.
Basswood is both very light and very soft: perhaps among the softest of wood species that is still considered a hardwood, with the exception of Balsa. But although it’s very light, it has an outstanding weight-to-stiffness ratio: though it’s overall strength is on par with its low weight. Simply put, when put under stress, it won’t bend much, but it will still break.
Species in the Tilia genus are usually referred to as either Lime or Linden in Europe, while in the United States it’s most commonly called Basswood.