Sassafras wood– Characteristics, Uses, Pros and Cons

Natural Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) characteristically has medium to light brown color with occasional wavy or curving grain. Sassafras is favored by woodworkers for its ease of workability and ability to hold stains and finish. Sassafras wood is prized for its durability, rot-resistant and aesthetic appearance. Lumber is widely used for furniture, kitchen cabinetry, fence posts, and boatbuilding.

The sassafras tree has been used in many ways for over two centuries – as a source of medicines (root) and oils (aromatics) used in food and perfume.

Scientific nameSassafras albidum
Tree Size30-60 feet tall (09-20 m), 2-3 ft (.6-1 m) trunk diameter
Hardness630 lbf (2,800 N)
Average Dry weight31.0 lbs/ft3 (495 kg/m3)
Modulus of Rupture9,000 lbf/in2 (62.1 MPa)
Elastic Modulus1,120,000 lbf/in2 (7.72 GPa)
Crushing Strength 6,600 lbf/in2 (45.5 MPa)

Common Uses for Sassafras Wood

Sassafras Wood for Furniture

Sassafras wood can be an ideal choice for domestic furniture because it has a light to medium brown color, which can add character to the wood and is rated as durable to very durable.

It machines well, making it suitable for various furniture-making processes like cutting, shaping, and sanding.

Sassafras Wood Decking

Sassafras wood is not commonly used for decking because it can require more maintenance than other decking materials. Regular sealing and staining may be necessary to increase its resistance to outdoor environments.

Sassafras Wood Flooring

It can be used for flooring, but it is not very hard, which makes it more susceptible to dents or scratches than other hardwoods. Sassafras flooring requires a lot of care. There are many excellent wood flooring options in the market that you should consider.

Sassafras Wood for Guitars

Sassafras wood is used to make guitar bodies, but it is less popular than other woods, such as mahogany or alder. But it is nice and bright, with a sweet, lovely sound.

Sassafras Wood for Burning

Sassafras wood is used as a firewood that burns hot. However, it burns very fast and leaves a lot of ash. Sassafras has a heat output of about 18.9 million BTUs per cord. This is similar to sycamore and silver maple.

Is Sassafras Wood Good for Outdoor Use?

Yes, Sassafras wood can be a good choice for outdoor use because it is Rated as durable to very durable in weather, even when unfinished. Sassafras can withstand shock and rot, making it suitable for outdoor furniture.

Many woodworkers believe that Sassafras wood is dimensionally very stable after drying. So that it requires very little maintenance and care compared to many other woods.

Sassafras Wood Pros

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Sassafras wood has a medium to light brown color and an attractive grain pattern. Its unique appearance is appealing for woodworking and furniture projects.
  • Durable and rot-resistant: Sassafras wood is very durable and rot-resistant. Therefore, it only requires a little maintenance.
  • Ease of Workability: Sassafras is known for being easy to work with. It has good machining properties, making it suitable for various woodworking projects.
  • Soft and Lightweight: Sassafras is relatively lightweight compared to some other hardwoods. So that it can be easily transported from one place to another.
  • Affordable and readily available: Compared with other hardwoods, Sassafras wood is readily available at an affordable price.

Sassafras Wood Cons

  • Toxic: Sassafras wood has been reported as a sensitizer. The most common reactions while working include nausea and respiratory effects.
  • Durability Concerns: Wood may not be as durable for outdoor use as other hardwoods. Alternative woods may be more suitable for applications requiring high durability, such as flooring or heavy-use furniture.


The heartwood color ranges from light to medium brown, sometimes displaying an olive or orange hue. The sapwood is light yellow to pale yellow. As the wood ages, its color tends to darken.

Working With Sassafras Wood

Sassafras wood generally has good workability and is easy to work with hand and machine tools. It can be easily machined, cut and shaped with hand and power tools. Sassafras wood responds well to sanding and finishing, allowing you to achieve a smooth surface.

Due to the soft nature of wood, a beginner can easily start woodworking with essential experience.

Rot Resistant/Durability

Sassafras wood is naturally rot-resistant and durable. It’s often used in wet areas like garden furniture, fence posts, kitchens, etc. 

However, many woodworkers believe it is not very rot resistant to outdoor environments. To remain durable in moisture or sunlight for a long time, it is necessary to properly finish and seal.

Sassafras Wood Hardness

Sassafras wood is moderately hard and dense. The Janka hardness value is approximately 630 lbf (2,800 N), and the average dried weight is 31.0 lbs/ft3 (495 kg/m3).

Sassafras Wood Finishing

Marine varnish, exterior oil-based paint, or untinted exterior oil-based paint are recommended for better durability and protection against outdoor elements. 

A low-sheen oil finish on Sassafras for indoor furniture is a good choice; it looks good on the open and coarse grain of Sassafras. Another recommendation is polyurethane, which can provide a durable finish.

Shellac is considered a poor choice for outdoor finishes due to its vulnerability to UV radiation and inability to withstand the outdoor environment. Thompson’s Water Seal is also mentioned as a potential wood protection option.

Sassafras Wood for Smoking

Sassafras wood is not recommended for smoking meat/food, as it contains safrole, a poisonous chemical found in the bark of the sassafras tree. Which can make you sick.

Safrole is a compound that was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1960s because it was found to cause cancer in lab rats when consumed in large quantities.

FAQ About Sassafras wood

Is Sassafras Wood Expensive?

Sassafras wood is moderately expensive due to its scarcity. Sassafras lumber can cost between $1.50 and $4.00 per board foot. The price of wood depends on the quality/grade of the wood.

Is Sassafras Wood Toxicity?

Yes, Sassafras wood is toxic. The wood contains safrole, which can cause cancer and liver damage in animals. Take precautions and care when working with it or burning it.

Can Sassafras Wood Be Used for a Cutting Board?

Sassafras wood is not a good choice for cutting boards because of its toxicity. Despite this, many companies on the internet sell cutting boards made of sassafras wood. Some claim that the bark of sassafras is poisonous but not the wood itself. They argue that kiln-drying removes the toxin, making it completely safe.

However, there are many hardwood options for cutting boards, with maple, walnut, cherry, beech, and teak being among the most durable choices.