What is Basswood? | Everything You Need to Know About Basswood

Introduction

Basswood(Tilia) is a genus of about 30 species of trees and is native to Eastern North America. All Tilia species are known as Linden under the European genus and Basswood for North American species. Some species of basswood are American Basswood (Tilia americana), Carolina Basswood (Tilia Caroliniana), Silver Linden (Tilia tomentosa), White Basswood (Tilia americana var. Heterophylla), and so on. 

What is Basswood?

Basswood is light, soft, and low-density wood, which is widely used for carving and musical instruments (electric guitar bodies). Because it has great workability properties. Many woodworkers love to use Basswood for fast and easy production.

Basswood is suitable for interior applications but is not considered for exterior purposes. They rot too easily.

#Basswood
Scientific Name:Tilia
Tree size:65-120 ft (20-37 m) tall
Trunk Diameter:3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) 
Janka Hardness:410 lbf (1,820 N)
Color / AppearancePale white to light brown
Crushing Strength :4,730 lbf/in2 (32.6 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 6.6%, Tangential: 9.3%, Volumetric: 15.8%, T/R Ratio: 1.4
Workability:Great workability
Uses:Carvings, lumber, musical instruments (electric guitar bodies), veneer, etc.
Availability:Widely Available

What is basswood used for?

wood carving
wood carving

Basswood is considered suitable for any interior use. Such as furniture, veneers, plywood, musical instruments (electric guitar bodies), carving, and molding.

But most of the woodworkers do not advise making complete furniture from basswood. Because it is very weak compared to wood-like Walnut, Maple, Mahogany, Birch, Oak. Instead of making complete furniture, Some parts of the furniture can be made. Which is part of carving and modeling.

Another great use of basswood is musical instruments. Basswood has great acoustic qualities. It is widely used to make electric guitar bodies, recorders, drum shells, and so on.  If we compare it with mahogany. Mahogany tonewood is a relatively heavy choice. Whereas basswood is known for relatively low tonewood. Therefore, mahogany is considered better than basswood in some cases.

What is basswood good for?

Basswood is good for carving and molding. As we all know that for carving and molding, small hand tools are used. For such work, soft and light wood is very important to give the desired pattern. The grain pattern of wood plays an important role in carving. The straight grain can be carved easily. 

Basswood Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Soft: Basswood is a light and fairly soft Wood with a fine grain.
  • Workability: Great Workability characteristics.
  • Smooth surface: A good smooth surface can be obtained by sanding, staining, and polishing. Which is a good quality for furniture.
  • Appearance: basswood has a great appearance white to light brown color. So that the stain holds easily.
  • Availability: It is easily available at craft and wood stores.
  • Sustainability: basswood is Sustainable wood. it is not listed in the CITES Appendices and IUCN Red List.

Cons

  • Rot resistance: Basswood is not rot-resistant. It starts rotting when it comes in contact with moisture and soil.
  • External uses: Basswood is not considered suitable for outdoor uses.
  • Strength: low strength properties, So can’t handle heavyweight.

How to Stain Basswood?

Basswood has a uniform light color, So it can be made dark and more attractive by the stain. Basswood is very easy to stain and it holds well. Here are some steps for staining basswood.

Step: 1 Clean wood surface

First, you need to clean the surface of the wood. Check thoroughly that no dust and dark spots remain on the surface. Otherwise, it can spoil the stain. 

You can use a brush to clean the dust and Hydrogen peroxide can be used for dark spots. It works very well. If any kind of dust is not getting cleaned easily, then you can clean it with low grain sandpaper.

The surface may be slightly wet after cleaning. So let it dry well. Then go ahead.

Step: 2 Time to stain

Carefully open the stain can and mix well with a clean stick. It is very important that the stain always accumulates on the bottom surface of the can.

Dip a lint-free cloth into the mixed stain and apply it to the surface of the basswood. Keep in mind that the stain should be applied evenly on the entire wood. You apply 2 or 3 coats, it depends on your stain and how deep you want to give the color. But normally 2 to 3 coats are sufficient for basswood. 

Keep a gap of some time between each cote. After drying the first coat, do the next coat. In the winter season, leave it for 24 hours. So that it can dry better. Keep it away from the dusty place for drying. Because dust can ruin your work.

Step: 3 Final Coat

Sand the wood surface lightly with 250-grit sandpaper before doing the final coat. This will smooth out the surface of your basswood and bring out the wood grain. 

Apply the top coat on the wood surface carefully and leave it to dry for 24 hours. 

How durable will the stain be?

It depends on the quality of your stain and the use of your wood. Constant sunlight and dust reduce its lifespan. If you do not take care, it fades.

Stain improves the appearance of the wood and increases the lifespan of wood. The stain closes the open grain of the wood. It acts as a protective layer between dust and wood.

How to Bend Basswood?

As we know basswood has poor steam bending characteristics. But we can bend it, after all, it is wood. Yes, it is definitely a little difficult but not too difficult. There are many ways to bend the wood such as steam bending and keeping the wood dipped in hot water for a long time and then bent.

These are some proven steps that woodworkers have been using for a long time.

Step 1: Soak basswood in vinegar

Soak a wooden piece of basswood in vinegar for 15 to 20 minutes. This makes the wood less likely to break during bending.

Step 2: Preparing the Steamer and stream the wood

Heat the water and you need to steam it, the stream makes the wooden cells soft and flexible. Bring the stream in contact with the wooden surface. Make sure that the steam is shooting out under the wood.

Step 3: Start bending the wood

After streaming the wood, make sure that the wood is soft enough to bend.

Hot wood can burn your hands. So Take full care of your safety before starting the process.

Keep the streamed wood in the bending frame or in the container whose shape you want to give. With the help of a vice grip, you can start to bend the basswood. While bending, Take care not to bend the wood too much. Don’t be in a hurry when turning the wood. So that the wood breaks.

Once the wood is properly fixed in its bending frame, then hold it in the same shape till it dries. Use multiple clamps to hold well. 

It can take up to 24 hours for streamed wood to dry. It depends on the thickness of the wood.

Where to buy basswood for carving?

It is easily available in both online and local shops. Large wood pieces are not needed for most of the carvings. Therefore it can also be available to you at the craft shop. You may have to go to a wood store for large wood pieces.

How to Identify Basswood?

identify Basswood
identify Basswood

Basswood Tree

Basswood is a medium-sized to a large deciduous tree. Normally its height is 18 to 37 m (60 to 120 ft) and its trunk diameter is 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m). Basswood is a fast-growing tree, growing to a length of about 13 and 24 inches (1 to 2 feet) per year. The lifespan of a basswood tree is about 150 to 170 years.

Basswood germinates by seed and grows well in moist, well-drained soils. Direct sunlight helps in its fast growth. 

Bark

Basswood tree bark is gray to light brown. The bark of young basswood is smooth and light brown in color. But with age it becomes rough.

Leaf

Basswood leaf is very easy to identify. It has heart-shaped, alternately arranged leaves and they are light brown to dark green on the underside and paler shade below. Their length is about 10–15 short (4–6 in). There are light hairs on the surface of the leaves.

Flowers

Basswood flowers are 10–14 mm in diameter. Fragrant flowers bloom in the month of June. This yellowish-white color flower is attractive to people and also attracts bees for honey.

It turns brown in color before falling from the tree. Basswood has flowers with both male and female parts, pollinated by bees and insects.

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