Common Name(s): Sassafras
Scientific Name: Sassafras albidum
Distribution: Eastern United States
Tree Size: 50-65 ft (15-20 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1.0 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 31 lbs/ft3 (495 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .42, .50
Janka Hardness: 630 lbf (2,800 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 9,000 lbf/in2 (62.1 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 1,120,000 lbf/in2 (7.72 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 6,600 lbf/in2 (45.5 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 4.0%, Tangential: 6.2%, Volumetric: 10.3%, T/R Ratio: 1.6
Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a medium to light brown, sometimes with an orange or olive hue. Color tends to darken with age. Sapwood is a paler yellowish brown, though it isn’t always clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Overall, Sassafras bears a strong resemblance to ash (Fraxinus spp.) and chestnut (Castanea spp.).
Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a coarse uneven texture.
Endgrain: Ring-porous; large earlywood pores 3-6 rows wide, small latewood pores solitary and radial multiples of 2-4; tyloses common; growth rings distinct; narrow rays may be barely visible without lens, spacing normal; parenchyma around latewood pores vasicentric, winged, lozenge, and confluent.
Rot Resistance: Rated as durable to very durable.
Workability: Easy to work with both hand and machine tools. Sassafras also has good dimensional stability once dry. Glues, stains, and finishes well.
Odor: Sassafras has a distinct, spicy scent while being worked.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Sassafras has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions include nausea and respiratory effects. Oil extracted from the roots and wood of Sassafras has been shown to be toxic and weakly carcinogenic if ingested. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Sassafras trees are generally too small to be commercially viable on a large scale, but limited quantities of lumber and turning blanks are available for a modest price.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Utility lumber, fence posts, boatbuilding, and furniture.
Comments: Not to be confused with Blackheart Sassafras, an unrelated species native to Australia.
Sassafras oil can be extracted from root bark or fruit of the tree; these same roots were traditionally used in the making of root beer, and the familiar scent is prevalent in the leaves and wood.
Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Mike Leigher for providing the wood sample of this wood species.