Alder Wood Characteristics | Is Alder Good Firewood?

What is Alder Wood?

Alder(Alnus) is a common name of a certain(about 35 species) of flowering plants or trees. Almost similar properties and habits are found in all these species. It is native to many areas of the northern hemisphere.

Alder wood has many great properties. The smooth and straight grain of the wood gives an amazing and uniform appearance. Because of this, it is demanded all over the world. Mainly the Alder tree grows in banks of watercourses and moist areas.

Mature trees can reach a height of around 28m and generally grow no older than 60 to 65 years. While the length of green alder is the shortest 3–12 m tall even in old age.

#Alder Wood
Scientific Name:Alnus.
Tree height(Red Alder)30 m (98.42 ft).
Uses:Boats, sluice gates, and water pipes.
Wood color:Light tan to reddish-brown color.
Availability:Easily available in the local market.
Workability:Great workability.
Alder Wood Characteristics

Alder Wood Uses

meat smoking | Image by Hai Nguyen Tien from Pixabay
  1. Some wood species of alder are used for smoking meat such as pork, salmon, and other meats.
  2. Alder’s bark contains anti-inflammatory salicin. Native American cultures use red alder bark (Alnus rubra) as medicine for insect bites and skin irritations. It is very effective.
  3. Many electric guitar manufacturers use alder wood to make bodies of electric guitar. Because it curves easily and gives great dark looks.
  4. If we talk about domestic use of alder, it is used in making furniture, cabinets, and other woodworking products.
  5. Alder’s bark contains tannin and is traditionally used to tan leather.
  6. The wood of some alder species performs well in moisture. Hence it is used to make boats, sluice gates, and water pipes.

Alder wood Advantage and Disadvantage

Alder Wood Advantage

  1. Color: Alder is an attractive, close-grain species, with a nice uniform color, a fine texture, and uniform density. You can use it without a stain on it or use its great dark natural color. 
  2. Grade: It is available in many grades of the market depending on the application. FAS (First and Second) is the highest grade of hardwood lumber. It’s usually 6-inches x 8-inches and is 83 percent defect-free on its best side. FAS (First and Second) grade used to make high-quality furniture.
  3. Less Expensive: Speaking of other hardwoods, We may have to pay more for Alder properties such as. The reason for its low price may be its availability everywhere. Alder is about 10% less costly than many hardwoods.
  4. Versatility: Alder is extremely versatile when compared with other North American hardwoods. It is used for both interior and exterior applications but mainly for interior purposes. Due to its natural properties, allow it to seamlessly integrate into a variety of building constructions.
  5. Workability: It is excellent for hand, machine tools, turning, surfacing, drilling, boring, carving, and molding. Turns glues, and finishes well.  Red alder (590 lbf (2,620 N) Janka hardness) and another alder (which have very low density), Do not require prior drilling to apply the nail and screw.
  6. Availability: It is also grown in North America. Therefore, if required in the US or Canada, it can be easily made available at a lower cost. Because transportation does not cost much. Alder can be used for large-scale projects and supply is not an issue.
  7. Sustainable: Alder is both abundant and sustainable. It responds very well to coppice forestry methods. Copping is a traditional method of woodland management that exploits the ability of many species of trees to grow new branches from their roots.

Alder Wood Disadvantage

  1. Softness: Alder is very soft compared to soft maple. It is not much harder than white pine. The hardness of Red Alder(hardwood) is 590 lbf (2,620 N). While Douglas fir is a ‘softwood’ (710 Janka). So it is very sensitive to damage, scratch, and dent. 
  2. Moisture: Alder absorbs moisture very fast. Due to which it changes its structure after it dries. To prevent this, always use dry Alder wood.
  3. Hard to Identify: Identifying true alder can be a bit difficult for a common person (who does not know much about wood). So customers can be cheated many times. To avoid this, always buy a trusted dealer’s wood.

How to Identify Alder Trees?

Black Alder fruit
Black Alder fruit | Image by Annette Meyer from Pixabay
  1. The Alder Tree is identified by its distinctive small-fruiting, called a strobile. It looks like a cone and is about 1 inch (2.5 cm.). 
  2. The height of an adult Alder tree is about 40 to 80 feet (12-24 m.).
  3. Its leaf is oval in shape and is about 15 cm (5.9 in) long. The leaf margin is serrated and the leaf arrangement is alternate. Its yellow foliage falls from the tree in Autumn. After the Autumn, new leaves emerge on the tree.
  4. Its fruit is initially green and later turns dark brown in color. It turns black after drying.
  5. The bark of the Alder tree is smooth and reddish-brown at the beginning. It becomes darker and cracks with age. 
  6. The branches of Alder are red-brown, and the buds are reddish-brown, narrow, and pointed.
  7. It has male and female flowers. Male flowers are long, while female flowers are often straight. It starts flowering at the beginning of March and April.
  8. It is mainly found close to moist places like rivers and ponds.

Alder Wood for Smoking

Alder has a subtle flavor and natural sweetness. It is well known for smoking salmon. But is also used for other meat such as pork, poultry, game birds, and light meat.

Alder is not considered good for lamb, beef, veggies, and cheese. For Lamb, Cherry and apple are good, Hickory for beef, and Mesquite is considered better for oak and cheese.

Is alder good firewood?

Is alder good firewood ?| Image by Oleg553 from Pixabay

Alder wood is used as firewood. Since it is hardwood, but softer than Ash, Oak, and Hornbeam wood. Alder wood has wonderful burning properties. It gives a good smell when burnt.

Some people believe that softwood is better for firewood but it is not 100% true. Alder is hardwood wood, While it is softer than many softwoods. The wood of some softwood species burns very fast and smells bad. While Alder burns at a normal speed and easily and provides very high heat. 

Another reason to consider alder as better firewood is that this is Cheaper firewood in comparison to Ash, Oak, Birch, and many other firewoods. It burns with few sparks and less smoke than other firewood.

Where does alder wood come from?

The moist ground near rivers, ponds, and lakes is good for alder tree growth. Its roots help prevent soil erosion. Due to the moisture in the soil, it expands its roots well. Some alder trees can grow in dry areas as well. Alder is native to Britain, Europe, western Asia, and North Africa

Alder is the name of many tree species. All species of trees have their own habit and grow in different regions. The Green Alder, Red Alder, and Gray Alder (thin leaf alder) are native to Western North America. Red alder is the largest species of Alder and is available worldwide. And black alder (A. Glutinosa), is native to most of Europe, and it is reaching over 30 m (98.42 ft). Read Aspen vs Alder Wood: Uses, Grain, Identification, and Workability

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