Aspen vs Alder Wood: Uses, Grain, Identification, and Workability


Aspen is the name of certain tree species that have almost identical properties. Aspen trees are native to all cold regions. The trees of all its species are 15–30 m (50–100 ft) in length. There is very little difference between the colors of sapwood and heartwood. The color of its sapwood is white and the heartwood is light brown.

Alder is also the common name group of tree species (around 35 or more). It is native to many areas of the northern hemisphere. The length of the Black Alder tree is about 30 meters. The length of the White Alder tree is about 10 to 15 meters. The life of Alder trees is approximately 100 to 120 years. The alder wood color is reddish-white or reddish-yellow to reddish and gets darker over time.

#Aspen Alder
Scientific Name:Populus tremuloidesAlnus
Tree size:15-30 meters15-30 meters
Color / Appearance:Sapwood is white, and light brown heartwoodLight yellow to reddish
Workability:Good workabilityGreat workability
UsesBoxes/crates, veneer, plywood, and medicine.Veneer, plywood, furniture, cabinetry
Availability:Rarely available in bulk stock. Easily available
Difference Between Aspen vs Alder

Aspen vs Alder Wood Uses

Aspen wood uses

aspen forest
The Aspen Forest | Image by johnpriceonline from Pixabay
  1. It is light and has no odor. Therefore it is the best option for making food containers.
  2. Aspen tree’s bark and leaf are used to make medicines. 
  3. Due to the sufficient softness, It is best for making boxes, veneers, plywood, furniture parts, and interior.
  4. It is less flammable than other wood. Therefore it is mainly used for making matches and paper.
  5. Aspen flakes are the most common species of wood used to make oriented strand boards and it is also popular for animal bedding. 
  6. Quaking aspen is a softer hardwood, but still a stable and strong wood for furniture.

Alder Wood Uses

  1. It is used in making furniture, model building, picture frames, carving, turning and sculpting, and musical instruments.
  2. Moisture makes the wood of Alder durable. So it is used to make boats, boat parts, sluice gates, and water pipes.
  3. It can be easily trimmed and carved. Therefore it is the best toy and wooden decorative item. 
  4. Alder wood makes excellent charcoal and gunpowder. 

Aspen vs Alder Wood Workability

Aspen Wood Workability

It can be cut and trim easily. It holds glue, nail, and screw well. The nail penetrates completely inside the nail due to its softening. Therefore, Larger headed nails and screws are suggested. 

After applying glue, it needs enough pressure for a time. Otherwise, the glue will dry out and not bond well. Aspen contains weak fibers, So tools must be sharp enough.

Alder Wood Workability

It has great properties of machining, turning, surfacing, drilling, boring, carving, and molding. It is easy to work by hand or by machine. Red alder wood is rather soft, However, It can be easily sand and carving. It easily holds the nail and screw. Being sufficiently soft, screwed without pre-drilling.

Aspen vs Alder Wood Grain/Appearance 

Aspen: It has straight grains with a medium texture. So this gives a unique, uniform, and interesting grain appearance. 

Alder: It has fine-grained hardwood similar to cherry, birch, and maple but not the same. It’s the straight grain that accepts stains well. The Alder woods include random-sized tight knots and rays.  Like Poplar wood, Alder has also closed grain, therefore makes for easy finishing.

Aspen vs Alder Wood Hardness

Aspen: It is soft but fairly strong. The bending strength of aspen is 8400 psi and the elasticity is 1.2 million psi. The hardness of Aspen (Quaking) is only 350 lbf (1,560 N). But still strong enough to be used for home building and furniture. 

Aspen Hardness in lbf
Aspen Hardness in lbf

Alder: It is medium soft, So require care to avoid denting it in some applications. Turns glues, and finishes well. Red alder, western red alder has 590 lbf (2,620 N) hardness. So it is ideal for cabinetry, musical instruments (electric guitar bodies).

Alder hardness in lbf
Alder hardness in lbf

How to identify Aspen

  1. Aspen leaves are rounded and similar in shape to a heart.
  2. In March and April, the flowers appear before the new shoots. Its male flowers are 12 cm long in brown color.
  3. Aspen trees bear fruits in May and early June.
  4. The bark of aspen is greenish-gray and it darkens overage.
Aspen tree leaf | Image by SBM from Pixabay

How to identify Alder

Alder tree fruit
The Alder tree fruit
  1. Flowers appear before the leaves in early spring. Both male and female flowers grow in the same tree. The length of the male flower is (about 5–10cm).
  2. Fruits ripen in October and change from green to brown as they dry.
  3. Alder’s bark is greyish and rough in color.

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