If you are looking for a sustainable type of wood to work with, then aspen is a great choice.
Aspen is an evergreen tree that grows in the Rocky Mountains and other high-altitude areas. Native Americans have used it for thousands of years.
It was first introduced into Europe from North America over 200 years ago and is now grown worldwide.
The timber is soft and lightweight but strong enough to be used for furniture, veneers, plywood, flooring, and many other things.
If you want to learn more about aspen, then keep reading.
We have put together this handy guide to tell you everything you need to know.
What Is Aspen?
Aspen is the name of a group of deciduous trees used to harvest hardwood. Species of aspen trees are native to different parts of the world – China, Europe, and certain parts of Asia.
Aspen trees grow very slowly, taking up to 50 years to reach maturity. They can live for more than 500 years if left undisturbed. They can reach heights of around 330 feet and tend to be two to three feet wide.
The best time to harvest aspen logs is during the winter months when they have not yet started growing new leaves. This will ensure that your logs are dry and ready for use when you need them.
The sap that runs through the tree’s bark is known to contain tannins that help preserve food. This is why some people make their wine using aspen sap instead of grapes.
Aspen has also been used in traditional forms of medicine to treat conditions like joint pain and nerve pain.
Working With Aspen
Aspen is a prevalent type of wood to use for woodworking projects. It has also been used in construction, though aspen trees yield less wood than other types of trees, making them less favorable for lumber.
Many people find it very easy to work with aspen as it is easy to cut but difficult to splinter. This means that you can hammer nails and screws into the wood without it splitting.
You can also glue aspen sheets together reasonably quickly. If you want to engrave it, aspen takes laser cutting and engraving well too.
This gives you lots of options when it comes to creative projects.
But what about the finish? The grain of aspen is not very clear or distinctive, and it has a very pale color. It looks yellow, and some pieces of aspen look almost white.
As long as the wood is sanded down evenly (which is very easy with aspen), then a staining finish will look very nice.
Aspen is a popular choice if you want furniture that looks rustic. The mostly white wood is streaked with various shades of gray and brown, which creates a lovely effect.
If you prefer the appearance of painted furniture, then aspen is still a good choice. Aspen is an easy wood to paint, and it holds paint for a very long time.
You can tell if the aspen is going to be of good quality because its bark is smooth and shiny. You should also look at the color of the heartwood.
A darker colored heartwood means that the tree has had less sunlight exposure and therefore contains higher levels of antioxidants.
What Are The Downsides Of Using Aspen?
Whilst aspen has a lot of great qualities, there are some potential issues with using it for your woodwork projects.
The main issue with aspen is that it is less durable than woods like oak or hickory.
It is softer and will not last as long, which is why it is less popular for construction work than some of the harder types of wood. Aspen is better suited to indoor furniture.
Even though it is easy to get a nail or a screw into aspen without the wood splitting, the nail won’t necessarily hold very well.
This is because of the softness of the wood. This means that you need to use softer wood to make up for this.
Aspen is not as readily available as some other types of wood, which is another reason why it is often overlooked when it comes to construction.
What Is Aspen Used For?
The natural properties of aspen make it ideal for certain uses. Here are some of the things that aspen is commonly used for.
Aspen has low flammability, which comes in useful for certain products. This is why it is often used to make matches and even paper.
Shredded aspen can be used for packing or stuffing because it is fairly lightweight. Flaked aspen is ideal for making strand boards. A lot of people also use flaked or shredded aspen as animal bedding as it causes fewer respiratory issues than juniper or pine.
The interior wooden panels of saunas are often made out of heat-treated aspen. Aspen has also been used for construction as it tends to weather very well.
Tips For Working With Aspen
If you plan on working with aspen, then there are a few things that you should know:
- Use larger nails – small nails won’t hold very well. You don’t need to worry about the wood splitting, which means you can use larger nails to make up for it.
- Season the wood – aspen shrinks over time, so it is best to use seasoned aspen as opposed to fresh, unseasoned aspen.
- Avoid humidity – aspen does not cope well with moisture, so don’t use it for outdoor furniture if you live in a wet or humid climate. If your house has issues with dampness or humidity, use a dehumidifier to help preserve your aspen furniture.
- Do not use aspen for support – if you have a construction project, then do not use aspen as the support columns. It will not be strong enough.
Aspen is an exciting type of wood that has many valuable properties. It is not suitable for all projects, so make sure you choose the right wood type for what you want to create.