Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

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Common Name(s): Balsam Fir

Scientific Name: Abies balsamea

Distribution: Northeastern North America

Tree Size: 40-65 ft (12-20 m) tall, 1-2 ft (.3-.6 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 25 lbs/ft3 (400 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .33, .40

Janka Hardness: 400 lbf (1,780 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 8,800 lbf/in2 (60.7 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,387,000 lbf/in2 (9.57 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 5,000 lbf/in2 (34.5 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 2.9%, Tangential: 6.9%, Volumetric: 11.2%, T/R Ratio: 2.4

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is white to reddish brown, with pale sapwood that isn’t clearly distinguished from the heartwood. Color tends to darken with age.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a uniform, medium-coarse texture.

Endgrain: Resin canals absent; earlywood to latewood transition very gradual, color contrast medium; tracheid diameter medium.

Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable to perishable regarding decay resistance, with little resistance to insect attacks.

Workability: Generally easy to work with both hand and machine tools. Glues, stains, and finishes well.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, fir in the Abies genus has been reported to cause skin irritation, particularly Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea). See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Balsam Fir is used as construction lumber and is commonly grouped together with other species of spruce and pine and sold under the more generic label spruce-pine-fir, or simply SPF. Prices should be moderate for such utility lumber, though clear, quartersawn, or other such specialty cuts of fir lumber are likely to be more expensive.

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: Construction lumber, paper (pulpwood), plywood, and other utility wood purposes.

Comments: Balsam Fir is a favorite Christmas tree species, and its resin is used to make Canada balsam. Such resin (when purified) has very good optical qualities, and was used as an adhesive in bonding optical elements and lenses up until the 1940s, when it was replaced by synthetic resins.

Fir is divided into different groupings, with the primary species in the western United States belonging to the white fir group, while Balsam Fir being the sole commercial species in eastern North America.

Many species of fir have excellent stiffness-to-weight ratios, rivaling other softwood species such as Sitka Spruce (known for its combination of low density and relatively high modulus of elasticity).

Related Species:

Related Articles:

None available.


Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

Balsam Fir (sanded)

Balsam Fir (sealed)

Balsam Fir (sealed)

Balsam Fir (endgrain)

Balsam Fir (endgrain)

Balsam Fir (endgrain 10x)

Balsam Fir (endgrain 10x)


  1. Gabriel Brochu Lévesque November 14, 2014 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    What are the error on the value on the mechanical properties? ± .5GPa, ±1GPa??…

    • Bob Slawson June 25, 2015 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      Looking through some of the datasheets at the Tropix [] website, the uncertainties in the mechanical properties are typically ~20%. They range from 10% or less for the density (spec. grav.) upto 40% for the hardness.

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