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European Beech Fagus sylvatica

UTILITY LUMBER ONCE POPULAR FOR CHAIRMAKING
Beech won its spurs, so to speak, in the Chiltern woodlands of southeast England, where turners known as hedgers turned chair legs and stretchers from the pale pink hardwood. Beech is still used extensively in mass-produced furniture because it is very easy to work, consistent and inexpensive. It is often painted or stained, taking finishes very well. Medullary rays, which appear as tiny dark flecks in quarter-cut and slab-cut boards, are a distinguishing feature.

KEY CHARACTERISTICS
Type Temperate hardwood
Other names English beech
Alternatives Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), London plane (Platanus acerifolia), poplar (Populus species), Japanese oak (Quercus mongolica)
Sources Europe
Color Light brown with a pinkish hue
Texture Consistent and close-grained; very smooth when sanded
Grain Straight and free of defects
Hardness Hard
Weight Medium to heavy (45 lb./cu. ft.) (720 kg/cu. m)
Strength Very strong; good for steam bending
Seasoning and stability Tends to move more than most temperate hardwoods, both from the green and in the workshop, and it needs to be seasoned well. Seasoning is fast. Tends not to be used for wide panels.
Wastage Low
Range of board widths Good
Range of board thicknesses Good, with thick stock available
Durability Needs preservative for external use

VARIATIONS
Steamed beech tends to be darker and redder. European beech is also famous for spalting, with darker diseased lines or veins running through the wood.

SUSTAINABILITY
European beech is under attack from gray squirrels, which strip the bark from the trees, but it is not a threatened species. Some certified lumber is available.

AVAILABILITY AND COST
Easy to buy and one of the cheapest temperate hardwoods, at nearly half the cost of oak or cherry




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