An Illustrated Guide to Eastern Hardwood Lumber Grades
1994 Revised Edition

Measuring Hardwoods*, Ash, Birch, Cherry, Maple, Red Oak, Tulipwood, Walnut

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Species: Fraxinus americana (White Ash)

Color: Creamy white to a light brown heartwood with wide light sapwood.

Characteristics: Hard, strong, excellent bending qualities, high shock resistence. Sometimes streaked with a light brown fleck.

Texture: Terms such as "tough," "soft," and "medium" texture are used to indicate source of origin. Generally tough, Ash is more brown and grows in the Northern/
Appalachian Regions where soft/medium texture is whiter/creamier in color and is Southern in origin.

The Wood: Very pronounced grain pattern enables Ash to finish to a bright luster. Ash is excellent for furniture, moulding, athletic equipment, handles for tools, and in applications where strength is required.

White Ash includes a number of species (F. americana, F. pennsylvanica, F. quadrangulata) but does not necessarily signify color. If a particular color is desired, the buyer should make the preference known to the supplier, often times by specifying a percentage of each piece that must be of the desired color. The standard grading rules for Ash do not make any distinction for color. Black Ash (F. nigra) is usually sold separately. 

Ash FAS Ash No. 1 Ash No. 2A



Species: Betula alleghaniensis (Yellow Birch)

Color: Sapwood is creamy-white or yellowish tinged, heartwood is light reddish brown.

Characteristics: While most often sold unselected for color, some users specify Sap Birch (all sapwood or white wood cuttings) or Red Birch (all heartwood cuttings), because of the distinct color difference between the sapwood and heartwood. Sometimes Birch shows very small pin knots and often shiny burlwood.

Texture: Uniform, fine grain pattern, medium weight, excellent in turnings, machines easily.

The Wood: Birch has long been used in kitchen cabinets and other carpentry for the home and office. Its fine grain pattern and excellent working qualities suit many wood working projects. Whether it is the creamy yellow of the sapwood for a light clean look or the rich reddish-brown of theheartwood for a more elegant warmth, Birch provides the user with an opportunity to express his individual style.

It should be noted that both White Birch (Betua papyrifera) and Red Birch (Betulanigra) are distinct species. To avoid confusion, a buyer should specify the species separately--here Yellow Birch, from the additional requirement of Sap Birch (sapwood cuttings) or Red Birch (heartwood cuttings). 

Birch FAS Birch No. 1 Birch No. 2A



Species: Prunus serotina (American Black Cherry)

Color: Sapwood-white to yellowish; heartwood deep reddish brown.

Characteristics: Occasionally found with thin, dark gum streaks or small clusters of very small pin knots.

Texture: Medium weight, close fine grain, hard and stable. Finishes to silky luster second only to Walnut.

The Wood: The beautiful markings in Cherry have long fascinated wood workers. Occasional clusters of tiny pin knots, or very small, dark streaks of gum set Cherry apart from any other hardwood. Both of these natural characteristics found in Cherry are permitted under the NHLA grading rules for this species, and result in individual pieces which are truly unique. 

Cherry FAS Cherry No. 1 Cherry No. 2A



Species: Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple, Hard Maple)

Color: The sapwood is creamy white to off-white sometimes tinged slightly with reddish brown; tan or very light grayish-brown heartwood sometimes streaked with darker mineral colors.

Characteristics: Hard, heavy and strong, very resistant to shock and abrasive wear; occasional slight green-gray mineral streaks.

Texture: Close-grained, uniform texture, polishes well.

The Wood: The excellent working properties of Hard Maple make it suitable to a wide range of uses. Very popular in flooring applications such as athletic floors and bowling alleys. It is the standard for cutting boards because it is odorless & tasteless. Widely used in furniture, sporting goods and turnings.

Hard Maple is typically straight grained, but some trees will produce a very unique figure such as birds-eye, fiddle back and curly grain patterns that are highly sought after for special applications. Soft Maple (A. rubrum and A. saccharinum) is not as strong as Hard Maple and shows considerable mineral streaks. It is traded separately. 

Maple FAS Maple No. 1 Maple No. 2A


 Red Oak

Species: Quercus rubra (Northern Red Oak)

Color: Sapwood is pale white; heartwood varies from a light pink to a dark reddish brown.

Characteristics: Oaks are open-pored and produce dramatic grain patterns in sawn lumber. Some boards may have dark mineral streaks, produced during the natural growth of the tree, which are permitted in the cuttings. Occasionally, very small, pink pin knots will be present.

Texture: Very hard and strong. Easy to turn, sands well, excellent in bending. Very pronounced, coarse grain pattern, high shock resistance.

The Wood: The Oaks remain the most popular hardwood for woodworker and consumer alike. The pronounced grain catches the eye and distinguishes the wood from all others. From flooring to furniture to cabinetry, the Oaks are at home in any application. The "red Oak Group" encompasses several commercially important species incuding northern red, southern red, black, Shumard, cherrybark, scarlet, pin, and Nuttall oak.

White Oak (not shown) is characteristically more fine grained, and displays a more gray-brown color. The "white oak group" encompases several important species, including white, swamp white, chestnut, swamp chestnut, chinkapin, bur, overcup, and post oak. 

Red Oak FAS Red Oak No. 1 Red Oak No. 2A



Species: Liriodendron tulipifera (American Tulipwood, Yellow Poplar)

Color: White to yellowish cast sapwood; straw-brown to slightly greenish heartwood sometimes streaked with purple.

Characteristics: Basically straight-grained, light in weight, excellent strength and moderately stiff and very stable when dried.

Texture: Very uniform, the softness and evenness of the grain make it excellent for moulding, machining and gluing.

The Wood: One of the most abundant hardwoods growing in the Eastern U.S., the Tulipwood grows fast and straight and has excellent woodworking properties. Takes paints and stains well, very easily sanded and worked. Tasteless, can be used for food packaging. Widely used for interior trim, furniture, picture frames, toys and is adaptable to any hardwood application. 

American Tulipwood FAS American Tulipwood No. 1 American Tulipwood No. 2A



Species: Juglans nigra (American Black Walnut)

Color: Sapwood is pale yellow. When steamed, it becomes a warm buttery tan. The heartwood ranges from a light brown to a deep purplish-brown.

Characteristics: High figured with small, tight burls; wavy, satiny grain.

Texture: The Rolls Royce of cabinet woods. Unsurpassed finishing, sanding, turning and carving. (With care) excellent results can be expected in blending sapwood and heartwood.

The Wood: The Walnut grading rules are somewhat different from the previous species because of the nature of the tree. Walnut does not grow in pure stands, and often individual trees are shorter-bodies andof medium diameter. In lumber, the FAS grade will allow a 6' long board and shorter clear-face cuttings. The pictures shown depict the lightness of the indistinguishable from the heartwood. The lower grades (No. 1 and No. 2) of Walnut lumber tend to be generously fiured ith numerous knots, tight burls, and wavy grain which enhances the beauty of the wood, setting Walnut apart from all other hardwoods. 

Walnut FAS Walnut No. 1 Walnut No. 2A

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