Red Alder (Alnus rubra)

Red Alder (Alnus rubra)

View More Images Below

Common Name(s): Red Alder, Western Red Alder

Scientific Name: Alnus rubra

Distribution: Coastal western North America

Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1.0 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 28 lbs/ft3 (450 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .37, .45

Janka Hardness: 590 lbf (2,620 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 9,800 lbf/in2 (67.6 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,380,000 lbf/in2 (9.52 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 5,820 lbf/in2 (40.1 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.4%, Tangential: 7.3%, Volumetric: 12.6%, T/R Ratio: 1.7

Color/Appearance: Red Alder tends to be a light tan to reddish brown; color darkens and reddens with age. There is no visible distinction between heartwood and sapwood. The overall grain pattern and appearance is similar to Birch (Betula genus)—though redder than Birch—and both genera are derived from the same family, Betulaceae.

Grain/Texture: Grain is generally straight, with a moderately fine, uniform texture.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; small pores commonly in clusters or radial multiples of 2-4; growth rings distinct; smaller rays not visible without lens, larger aggregate rays less common but easily visible without lens; parenchyma banded (marginal), apotracheal parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates.

Rot Resistance: Red Alder is rated non-durable to perishable regarding decay  resistance, and freshly cut logs should be quickly converted into lumber and dried to prevent staining or decay in the wood.

Workability: Red Alder is very easy to work with both hand and machine tools; it sands especially easy. The wood is rather soft, however, and care must be taken to avoid denting it in some applications. Red Alder has excellent gluing, staining, and finishing properties; it also turns well and behaves similar to Black Cherry.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Alder  in the Alnus genus has been reported to cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Red Alder is usually sold in two different grades: knotty, and clear. Knotty Red Alder is likely to be very inexpensive, on par with other domestic utility woods such as Poplar or Aspen. Clear Red Alder is likely to cost a bit more, closer to other cabinet hardwoods such as Birch or Maple.

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

Common Uses: Veneer, plywood, furniture, cabinetry, millwork, pallets, musical instruments (electric guitar bodies), and chip/pulp wood.

Comments: Red Alder is the most abundant hardwood in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, and is a commercially important lumber.

Related Species:

Scans/Pictures: As seen from the scans below, Alder darkens a good amount when a finish is applied, and overall takes on a look that is not too unlike Black Cherry.

Red Alder (sanded)

Red Alder (sanded)

Red Alder (sealed)

Red Alder (sealed)

Red Alder (endgrain)

Red Alder (endgrain)

Red Alder (endgrain 10x)

Red Alder (endgrain 10x)

  • Angelica Henderson

    It makes a pretty nice xylophone wood. Easy to shape and tune with a belt sander.