Red Elm (Ulmus rubra)

Red Elm (Ulmus rubra)

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Common Name(s): Red Elm, Slippery Elm, Soft Elm

Scientific Name: Ulmus rubra

Distribution: Eastern to Midwest United States

Tree Size: 50-80 ft (15-24 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 38 lbs/ft3 (600 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .48, .60

Janka Hardness: 860 lbf (3,830 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 13,000 lbf/in2 (89.7 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,490,000 lbf/in2 (10.28 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 6,360 lbf/in2 (43.9 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.9%, Tangential: 8.9%, Volumetric: 13.8%, T/R Ratio: 1.8

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is light to medium reddish brown. Paler sapwood is usually well defined.

Grain/Texture: Grain is interlocked (making it very resistant to splitting). With a somewhat coarse, uneven texture.

Endgrain: Ring-porous; large to very large earlywood pores in a continuous row two to four pores wide, small latewood pores in wavy bands; tyloses occasionally present in earlywood; growth rings distinct; parenchyma vasicentric and confluent; medium rays, spacing normal.

Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable; susceptible to insect attack. Living trees are susceptible to Dutch elm disease.

Workability: Can be a challenge to work because of interlocked grain, especially on quartersawn surfaces. Planing can cause tearout and/or fuzzy surfaces. Poor dimensional stability. Glues, stains, and finishes well. Responds well to steam bending, and holds nails and screws well.

Odor: Elm usually has a strong, unpleasant smell when green; though once dried has very little odor.

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

Pricing/Availability: Should be moderately priced, though availability from mature trees has been greatly diminished by Dutch elm disease.

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

Common Uses: Boxes, baskets, furniture, hockey sticks, veneer, wood pulp, and papermaking.

Comments: More commonly referred to as Slippery Elm in tree form (so named for its gelatinous inner bark), Ulmus rubra is typically called Red Elm in most woodworking applications, in reference to its reddish heartwood.

Elm trees are commonly infected with Dutch elm disease, a fungal disease spread by elm bark beetles. D.E.D. has wiped out millions of Elm trees worldwide.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures:

Red Elm (Ulmus rubra)

Red Elm (Ulmus rubra)

Red Elm (sealed)

Red Elm (sealed)

Red Elm (endgrain)

Red Elm (endgrain)

Red Elm (endgrain 10x)

Red Elm (endgrain 10x)

3 Comments

  1. James September 27, 2018 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    I have a log I want to make a bow out of, I do not know what it is exactly. I think it is a slippery elm because it has a gooey cambium, also because of the wood color. It is very hard, I cannot dent it with my nail, also when trying to split it in half with a dull hatchet I had no luck. I ended up sawing it in half, the hatchet got stuck for a while in it it is so hard. It does smell, and I have seen a few similar trees such as the Kentucky coffee tree.the black spot is what I was gonna Woodburn.

  2. Bob Brasch August 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    I put it down for flooring in my house and put on a slight reddish stain on it. Beautiful in my opinion. Have gotten many good comments on it Used a 4 in wide board

  3. Mike Yaker February 23, 2011 at 8:46 am - Reply

    I have worked with Red Elm In wisconsin
    it is very pungent and identifiable as such
    an acidic horse piss kind of smell
    wonderful wood I have built two timber frames with it

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