American Beech

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American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

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: 45.0 lbs/ft3 (720 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 0.54, 0.72

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.

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 (Acer saccharum) in some applications.

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

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.

Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood. The first sample shows a quartersawn piece with ray flecks, while the second sample shows a more typical piece with flatsawn figure.

American beech (steamed veneer)

Identification: See the article on Hardwood Anatomy for definitions of endgrain features.

American beech (endgrain 10x)
American beech (endgrain 1x)

Porosity: diffuse porous, though sometimes closer to semi-ring-porous with visible growth ring boundaries with decreased pore frequency and size in latewood

Arrangement: solitary and radial multiples

Vessels: small to medium, numerous

Parenchyma: not visible (even with 10x lens)

Rays: medium to very wide; normal spacing; noded

Lookalikes/Substitutes: Because of its very wide rays that produce ray fleck patterns, beech can sometimes be confused with other woods with large rays, such as maple (Acer spp.) and sycamore/plane (Platanus spp.). Without reference material and/or experience with wood from each genus, it can be difficult to tell the three apart. Platanus species have consistently wide rays that are apparent even on flatsawn surfaces, while rays of Acer appear very small and numerous on the flatsawn surface, while Fagus is in the middle ground with both large and small rays with less consistency.

Notes: The European counterpart, Fagus sylvatica, is more or less indistinguishable from the North American F. grandifolia.

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Reginald Lionel Parker

European beech seems to be used for the handles of carving tools such as Henry Taylor and Ashley Iles, I was wondering, would American beech be a good chisel / gouge handle as well? I noticed that it doesn’t seem to be as hard as its European cousin on the Janka scale.

cia mooney

i use beech for carving wooden spoons, then finish with a food-grade oil. the wood increases its depth of color when oiled. easier to work than maple and i use wood fall-down from local woodworking industries to keep it as sustainably sourced as possible.

spoon side and top - cia mooney.jpg
Shakir Mustafa

The base for this sculpture is Beech Wood.

Haa' Photos.4.jpg
Shakir Mustafa

Here is another sculpture I made almost entirely from beech wood:

Tom Vincent

Would beech be a good species for a wood-shop work bench compared to oak or maple?

Dale Fill

I use beech to make cutting boards because its very hard. It’ll dull your planer blades faster than any other wood I use.


So I burn wood and I turn as well! Beech is somewhat common in my area (Western CT) and I’ve always thought of it as great firewood… 27 mbtu/cord… in the neighborhood of Oak, Hickory etc… After many years of burning it, I decided to spin a piece just for fun, the result is the stunning piece in the picture attached. Don’t ignore this wood! Its beautiful!

If you turn green, It has a very high moisture content and takes a bit longer than other woods to dry… but its stable, turns and finishes well.

American Beech.jpg

Beech trees can survive in the understory for years. When the overstory is harvested the beech is released and has a head start over other species. Combine this with loggers around where we live tending to leave beech and it’s easy to develop a stand of almost pure beech. The trees we have are quite large, but many are hollow.


We were recently told by a forester that Beach Trees are essentially a trash wood and that if we let them they would overtake our more valuable timber. His explanation was that they have so many branches and knots they are simply not particularly useful timber


Beech wood is known as “the Mother of the Forest” because other hardwoods in mixed, broad leaved forests would to struggle to survive without it: its leaf drip kills weeds and leaf fall provides rich humus for the soil.


It is all over our woods and I was told it has little saleability or value. Good to read the facts, I can now see many uses!


What is the african hardwood equivalent of beech wood


where can i buy this wood in texas??

Rajinder Dhawan

can beech wood be used in phot framing industry


Most burls are valued Jera.. especially when already precisely sliced or sawn.. then you’ll see the potential. Take care though.


Is there any value to Beech burl? I have a rather large burl (2’W x 3’L x 1’D) that will be difficult to harvest -sitting on a VERY steep slope- but might be worth it. Thoughts? Thx.

Jack Connell

Has anyone ever heard of Beech being called “Bellwood”?


Don’t forget that, besides the occasional flecking, beech always displays a dotted grain, best described as tiny slits.