Common Name(s): European beech, common beech
Scientific Name: Fagus sylvatica
Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall,
3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 44.3 lbs/ft3 (710 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 0.53, 0.71
Janka Hardness: 1,450 lbf (6,460 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 15,970 lbf/in2 (110.1 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 2,075,000 lbf/in2 (14.31 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 8,270 lbf/in2 (57 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 5.8%, Tangential: 11.7%,
Volumetric: 17.9%, T/R Ratio: 2.0
Color/Appearance: Pale straw 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. Flatsawn surfaces tend to be somewhat plain, while quartersawn surfaces exhibit a minute ray fleck pattern.
Grain/Texture: Grain is straight; fine to medium uniform texture and moderate natural luster.
Rot Resistance: Beech is considered non-durable or perishable; poor insect/borer resistance.
Workability: Overall good workability; it machines well, and glues, finishes, and turns well. Beech also responds superbly to steam-bending. However, it does 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 severe reactions are quite uncommon, European beech has been reported as been reported as a sensitizer. Can cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation, as well as nasopharyngeal cancer (with unprotected occupational exposure). See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: European beech is widely available across Europe, and it very economically priced within its natural range.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Lumber, veneer, flooring, boatbuilding, furniture, cabinetry, musical instruments (piano pinblocks), plywood, and turned objects.
Comments: Beech is an important and widely-used hardwood in Europe. Its hardness, wear-resistance, strength, and excellent bending capabilities—coupled with its low price—make this hardwood a mainstay for many European woodworkers. Given the right soil conditions, European beech trees can grow to very large sizes, and wide, long lumber is commonly available for use.
Beech trees can form large flared trunks with partially exposed roots, attaining trunk diameters up to 10 feet (3 meters) across, though trees harvested for commercial lumber are typically much smaller than this. Mature beech trees and their associated forests are popular areas for photography and even movie filming for their unique and picturesque appearance (see image below).
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 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 North American counterpart, Fagus grandifolia, is more or less indistinguishable from the European F. sylvatica.