Wood 101: Alder

Workable. Versatile. Beautiful. It’s easy to see why alnus rubra – better known as alder – continues to gain popularity in the global wood industry, particularly among cabinetry and furniture

Alder tree, leaf and nut

makers.

 

What is Alder

The primary hardwood of the west, alder grows within the southern British Columbia to Northern California region. It’s a relatively small tree that only reaches about 90 to 100 feet in height at maturity, with a trunk diameter of up to 15 feet.

 

What does that mean? Boards that come from alder are typically narrow – rarely ever wider than 6 inches on a consistent basis. But don’t let alder’s small size fool you. What it lacks in size, it makes up in usability, workability and beauty.  Northwest Hardwoods has been an industry pioneer in recognizing and utilizing this viable and valuable hardwood species as a prime lumber source.

 

Why Use Alder

Alder is white when freshly cut, but quickly changes to light brown with a yellow or reddish hue with exposure to air. It’s a fairly straight grained wood with uniform texture and has the visual appeal of cherry, maple or birch. And while it yields narrower boards, there is little difference or color variation between the heartwood and sapwood, giving this wood added versatility.

 

What else does this medium density, somewhat soft (ranking just above pine and poplar in hardness) hardwood bring to the table?

  • Workability: alder is excellent for machining, turning, surfacing, drilling, boring, carving and molding
  • Versatility: alder can be nailed without splitting, screwed without pre-drilling, and glues well
  • Beauty: alder is sandable to a smooth finish, paintable and stainable (it is ideal for light or natural finishes and offers a warm honey color when finished naturally)

 

And, while alder’s heartwood may be susceptible to decay, it does preserve well with proper treatment.

 

Where to Use Alder

Alder can be used to deliver a knotty, rustic or distressed appearance, in addition to beautiful color, making it ideal for use in a broad range of applications:

  • Cabinets
  • Doors and paneling
  • Moldings and millwork
  • Furniture, including casegoods, tabletops, chairs, furniture frames and other components
  • Picture frames
  • Toys
  • Interior joinery and other specialty wood products

 

As with most hardwoods, applications for alder vary depending upon the grading of the wood. That’s why Northwest Hardwoods developed proprietary grades that meet exact specifications demanded in various market segments.

 

Bottom line…use of alder is on the rise. With Northwest Hardwoods proprietary grading, customers get exactly what they need to maximize yield and minimize waste.

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