Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

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Common Name(s): Sycamore, American Plane

Scientific Name: Platanus occidentalis

Distribution: Eastern United States

Tree Size: 120 ft (37 m) tall, 3 ft (1 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 34 lbs/ft3 (545 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .46, .55

Janka Hardness: 770 lbf (3,430 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 10,000 lbf/in2 (69.0 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,420,000 lbf/in2 (9.79 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 5,380 lbf/in2 (37.1 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 5.0%, Tangential: 8.4%, Volumetric: 14.1%, T/R Ratio: 1.7

Color/Appearance: Similar to maple, the wood of Sycamore trees is predominantly comprised of the sapwood, with some darker heartwood streaks also found in most boards. (Though it is not uncommon to also see entire boards of heartwood too.) The sapwood is white to light tan, while the heartwood is a darker reddish brown. Sycamore also has very distinct ray flecks present on quartersawn surfaces—giving it a freckled appearance—and it is sometimes even called “Lacewood,” though it bears little botanical relation to the tropical species of Lacewood.

Grain/Texture: Sycamore has a fine and even texture that is very similar to maple. The grain is interlocked.

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 to lighter color of latewood and decreased pore frequency; rays easily visible without lens, noded; parenchyma rare or absent.

Rot Resistance: Sycamore is rated as non-durable to perishable regarding decay resistance, and is susceptible to insect attack.

Workability: Overall, Sycamore works easily with both hand and machine tools, though the interlocked grain can be troublesome in surfacing and machining operations at times. Sycamore turns, glues, and finishes well. Responds poorly to steam bending.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: There have been no adverse health effects associated with Sycamore. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Usually moderately priced, though Sycamore is commonly sold as quartersawn boards, which can increase the cost.

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

Common Uses: Veneer, plywood,  interior trim, pallets/crates, flooring, furniture, particleboard, paper (pulpwood), tool handles, and other turned objects.

Comments: Not to be confused with European Sycamore—which is actually just a species of maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)—Sycamore is sometimes referred to as “American Plane” in Europe.

Related Species:

Scans/Pictures:

Sycamore (sanded)

Sycamore: quartersawn (sanded)

Sycamore (sealed)

Sycamore: quartersawn (sealed)

Sycamore: flatsawn (sanded)

Sycamore: flatsawn (sanded)

Sycamore: flatsawn (sealed)

Sycamore: flatsawn (sealed)

Sycamore (endgrain)

Sycamore (endgrain)

Sycamore (endgrain 10X)

Sycamore (endgrain 10X)

Sycamore (foliage)

Sycamore (foliage)