Sitka Spruce

Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis)
Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis)

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Common Name(s): Sitka Spruce

Scientific Name: Picea sitchensis

Distribution: Northwestern North America

Tree Size: 130-160 ft (40-50 m) tall, 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 27 lbs/ft3 (425 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .36, .42

Janka Hardness: 510 lbf (2,270 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 10,150 lbf/in2 (70.0 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,600,000 lbf/in2 (11.03 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 5,550 lbf/in2 (38.2 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.3%, Tangential: 7.5%, Volumetric: 11.5%, T/R Ratio: 1.7

Color/Appearance: Ranges from cream/white to yellow; heartwood can also exhibit a subtle pinkish red hue in some instances. Sapwood not clearly demarcated from heartwood. Some pieces can exhibit a special grain pattern called bearclaw—vaguely resembling the scratches of a bear’s claws.

Grain/Texture: Sitka Spruce has a fine, even texture, and a consistently straight grain.

Endgrain: Medium sized resin canals (larger than other spruce), sparse to numerous and variable in distribution; solitary or in tangential groups of several; earlywood to latewood transition gradual, color contrast medium; tracheid diameter medium-large.

Rot Resistance: Heartwood is rated as being slightly resistant to non-resistant to decay.

Workability: Easy to work, as long as there are no knots present. Glues and finishes well, though it can give poor  (blotchy and inconsistent) results when being stained due to its closed pore structure. A sanding sealer, gel stain, or toner is recommended when coloring Spruce.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

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

Pricing/Availability: Construction grade spruce is cheap and easy to find. However, old growth and/or quartersawn clear pieces—free from knots—can be more expensive. Quartersawn billets of instrument-grade Sitka Spruce can easily exceed the cost of most all domestic hardwoods in terms of per board-foot cost.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.

Common Uses: Lumber, boxes/crates, furniture, millwork, aircraft components, musical instrument soundboards, boatbuilding (masts and spars), wind turbine blades, and virtually any application where a wood material with a good strength-to-weight ratio is needed.

Comments: Sitka Spruce has an outstanding stiffness-to-weight ratio, and is available in large, straight-grained pieces, lending this timber to a wide range of commercial uses.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the turned photo of this wood species.

Sitka Spruce (sanded)
Sitka Spruce (sanded)
Sitka Spruce (sealed)
Sitka Spruce (sealed)
Sitka Spruce (endgrain)
Sitka Spruce (endgrain)
Sitka Spruce (endgrain 10x)
Sitka Spruce (endgrain 10x)
Sitka Spruce (turned)
Sitka Spruce (turned)
Sitka Spruce (36" x 7.9")
Sitka Spruce (36″ x 7.9″)
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