Peterson Portable Sawmills

Tree Dictionary: B

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BALSA (Ochroma pyramidale)

Other Names: Lanero, polak, tami, topa.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Grows in Central America, South America, Indonesia, and India (most comes from Ecuador).
Appearance: Straight grained and spongy with a pale beige to pinkish color.
Physical Properties: Low in absolute strength, stiffness, and shock resistance, although quite strong for its weight. Quite stable in use. Possibly the easiest wood to cut, shape and sand. Not suitable for steam bending.
Working Properties: Finishes fairly well but porous composition soaks up finish.
Uses: Used for insulation, sound modifiers, buoyancy aids, model-making, cushioning, core stock.

BEECH, AMERICAN (Fagus grandifolia)

Other Names: Red beech, white beech, stone beech, and winter beech.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Grows in Canada and United States.
Appearance: Straight or sometimes interlocked grain with a fine, even texture. Dark to light reddish brown heartwood and very thin, nearly white sapwood.
Physical Properties: Hard, heavy, strong, stiff and shock resistant. Poor dimensional stability and decay resistance.
Working Properties: Machines well but can be difficult to work by hand. Tends to split – pre-drilling recommended for screws and nails. Finishes well.
Uses: Does not impart taste or odor to food: ideal for food containers, baskets, utensils, and bread/butcher boards. Also used for chairs, handles, flooring, turned articles, clothes pins, workbench tops, tool handles, novelties, and interior furniture.

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BEECH, EUROPEAN (Fagus sylvatica)

Other Names: English beech, Carpathian beech, Danish beech, and others according to country of origin.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Grows in Europe and southeast Asia.
Appearance: Generally straight grained with broad rays, and fine, even texture. Pale cream to pinkish brown heartwood that darkens to a pale reddish brown.
Physical Properties: Hard and heavy, with high bending and crushing strength and moderately high stiffness and shock resistance. Poor dimensional stability and decay resistance.
Working Properties: Machines well but can be difficult to work by hand. Tends to split – pre-drilling recommended for screws and nails.
Uses: Possibly the most popular general purpose furniture wood. Also ideal for food containers, baskets, utensils, and bread/butcher boards because it does not impart taste or odor to food. Also used for chairs, handles, flooring, turned articles, cooperage, musical instruments, clothes pins, workbench tops, tool handles, novelties, core stock and decorative veneers.

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BIRCH, EUROPEAN (Betula pendula)

Other Names: Birch, silver birch, warty birch.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Grows throughout Europe. Typically sold according to country of origin, as in Finnish birch.
Appearance: Straight grained and fine textured with creamy white to pale brown wood (no demarcation between heartwood and sapwood).
Physical Properties: Fairly heavy with moderate strength, stiffness, stability, and shock resistance properties. Steam bending often impacted by knots and irregular grain.
Working Properties: Works easily although wood tends to be woolly – reduced cutter angle often recommended. Requires pre-drilling for screwing or nailing. Glues, stains, and finishes quite well. An excellent turnery wood.
Uses: Also used for bobbins, spools, dowels, miscellaneous woodenware, brushes, brooms, framing, interior joinery, furniture, and veneer. The primary material for birch plywood in Finland and Russia.

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BIRCH, PAPER (Betula papyrifera)

Other Names: Canoe birch, red birch, silver birch, white birch, Canadian white birch and Kenai birch.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Grows in Canada and northern United States.
Apperance: Straight grained with a fine, even texture. Pale-brown heartwood and creamy white sapwood.
Physical Properties: Moderately hard and heavy (lighter than other birches) with moderate shock resistance and stiffness. Poor decay resistance and dimensional stability.
Working Properties: Machines fairly well although it sometimes chips and tears during planing. Has moderate blunting effect on cutting edges. Susceptible to splitting – pre-drilling recommended for screws.
Uses: Once used by American Indians to make canoes, now mainly used for plywood. Other Uses include turnery – spools, bobbins, dowels and novelties, crates, toys, cooperage, baskets, ice cream spoons, medical spatulas, veneer, paneling, and pulp for writing paper.
Note: Resembles maple and is often used interchangeably with it.

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BIRCH, YELLOW (Betula alleghaniensis)

Other Names: American birch, Quebec birch, hard birch, silver birch, and swamp birch.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Grows in Canada and eastern United States.
Apperance: Straight grained with a fine, uniform texture. Grayish white to grayish brown heartwood and lighter-colored sapwood. Often sold as poplar or cottonwood.
Physical Properties: Heavy, hard, strong, and stiff. High shock resistance, bending and crushing strengths. Has low dimensional stability and decay resistance.
Working Properties: Machines well but is somewhat difficult to work with hand tools. Pre-drilling required for screwing or nailing. Glues, stains and finishes well.
Uses: Excellent turning properties – used for spools, bobbins, shuttles, dowels, bowls, etc. Highly valued for plywood, paneling, furniture, and cabinetry. Other Uses boxes, baskets, woodenware, cooperage, flooring, interior finish, doors, fixtures, and musical instruments.
Note: Resembles maple and is often used interchangeably with it.

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BLACKWOOD, AFRICAN (Dalbergia melanoxylon)

Other Names: Mozambique ebony, Senegal ebony, mpingo, grenadillo, banbanus, ebene, mufunjo, and Congowood.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Grows in East Africa.
Apperance: Mostly straight grained with fine texture, dull luster, and slightly oily nature. Dark purplish brown heartwood with black streaks and narrow, white sapwood.
Physical Properties: Extremely heavy and hard and rates high in strength, stiffness, shock resistance, and decay resistance (heartwood). Very stable in use.
Uses: Often used for woodwind instruments such as flutes, piccolos, oboes, clarinets, recorders, bag pipes, and so on. Also used for brush backs, knife handles, chess pieces, bearings, pulley blocks, walking sticks, inlay, and carving.

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BLACKWOOD, AUSTRALIAN (Acacia melanoxylon)

Other Names: Black wattle.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Grows in Australian states of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania.
Apperance: Usually straight grained, sometimes with a fiddleback figure, even textured with lustrous Apperance. Straw colored sapwood, reddish brown to black heartwood with attractive bands.
Physical Properties: Heavy and strong with moderate stiffness, shock resistance, and decay resistance. Fairly stable in service.
Working Properties: Works easily with hand and power tools. Reduced cutting angle recommended during planing to prevent chip-out. Turns well. Takes nails and screws well and polishes to an excellent finish.
Uses: Used for high-quality furniture, cabinets, paneling, veneering, interior joinery, tool handles, gun stocks, turnery, canes, and billiard tables.

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BOXWOOD (Buxus sempervirens)

Other Names: Abassian, Circassian, European, Persian, or Turkey boxwood depending on country of origin.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Found in Europe, western Asia, and North America.
Apperance: Straight to very irregular grain, very fine, uniform texture and a uniform light yellow color.
Physical Properties: Very hard and heavy with moderate stiffness and shock resistance. Quite stable in service and not especially decay resistant.
Working Properties: Sometimes difficult to work due to hardness of wood (may cause burning) and irregular grain which tends to tear in planing. Pre-drilling required for nailing and screwing. Glues easily and polishes to an excellent finish (clear finish often used to preserve its unique color).
Uses: Considered one of the best species for wood engraving. An excellent turnery wood making it ideal for shuttles, textile rollers, pulley blocks, mallet heads, and especially tool handles. Also used for carving, rulers, engraving blocks, musical instruments, and inlays.

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BRAZILWOOD (Caesalpinia echinata)

Other Names: Bahia wood, Braziletto, para wood, pernambuco wood, and Brazilian ironwood.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Grows in eastern Brazil.
Apperance: Straight to irregular grain with fine, even texture and a natural luster. Nearly white sapwood and bright orange heartwood that matures to a deep red.
Physical Properties: Very hard and heavy with exceptional shock resistance, stiffness, bending strength, and compression strength. Not suitable for steam bending. Highly resistant to decay and very stable in service.
Working Properties: Sometimes difficult to work due to hardness – blunting effect on cutting edges. Pre-drilling required for nailing and screwing. Glues easily and can be brought to a very smooth, lustrous finish.
Uses: One of the finest woods for violin bows. Also prized for turnery, gun butts and rifle stocks, parquet flooring, exterior joinery, and decorative veneers.

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BUCKEYE, YELLOW (Aesculus octandra)

Other Names: Buckeye.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Grows in eastern to central United States.
Apperance: Generally straight grained with an even texture. Creamy or yellowish white heartwood and white sapwood.
Physical Properties: Light, soft, weak, and low in shock resistance and decay resistance.
Working Properties: Easily worked by hand tools but machines only fairly.
Uses: Applications similar to those of aspen, basswood, and yellow-poplar which include furniture, boxes, crates, food containers, drawing boards, plaques, trunks, casks, miscellaneous woodenware, and novelties.

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BUTTERNUT (Juglans cinerea)

Other Names: White walnut, oilnut, tropical walnut, nogal blanco, and tocte.
Type: Hardwood
Range: Grows in United States and Canada.
Apperance: Straight grained and coarse-textured with a satiny luster. Light brown heartwood with occasional darker streaks and nearly white sapwood.
Physical Properties: Soft, moderately light, with low strength, stiffness, shock resistance and decay resistance. Quite stable in service.
Working Properties: Works well with machine or hand tools but softness necessitates sharp cutting edges. Screws, nails, glues, stains, and finishes quite well.
Uses: An excellent carving wood, once highly valued for church altars. Used for furniture, cabinets, paneling, interior trim, veneer, boat building, boxes and crates, instrument cases, trunks, and millwork.
Note: Resembles black walnut when stained but lacks its strength or stiffness.