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European birch Betula pendula
Used for mass-produced furniture and plywood, European birch is not regarded as an obvious choice for high-quality work. Birch tree trunks do not tend to grow very thick so boards are likely to be relatively narrow. The color and patterning are uninteresting and the lumbers good qualities are reserved for utility purposes. It is employed extensively for hidden components in joinery, and it bends well. It also takes stain well and is often used for ready-to-assemble furniture.

Type Temperate hardwood
Other names Many names are used for European birch to describe specific cuts or effects. These include Masur birch, Karelian birch and ice birch. The names also relate to the country of origin.
Related species B. pubescens, B. alba and B. odorata are often sold as European birch.
Alternatives American whltewood Wriodendron tulipifera) or other birch species (Betula species)
Sources Europe
Color Creamy white to very pale tan
Texture Fine to medium and very uniform; good luster
Grain Straight
Hardness Medium
Weight Varies, but generally medium to heavy (37-43 lb./cu. ft.) (590-690 kg/cu. m)
Strength Good; excellent for bending.
Seasoning and stability It dries fairly rapidly with a slight tendency to warp.
Wastage Moderate
Range of board widths Limited widths as European birch is not one of the largest of trees.
Range of board thicknesses European birch is used most commonly for plywood, but some boards will be available.
Durability Poor; vulnerable to insect attack and decay. Heartwood is moderately resistant to preservative treatment.

There is no shortage of supply, so no real need to specify certified sources.


European birch is more widely available as plywood than as solid boards, and is relatively inexpensive.

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Updated: 12/2017   copyright 2011 Rowecraft