Ash: White & Black
Ash is a great craft wood, but best known as the wood of choice
for baseball bats. Other woods are stronger, but it has the best
strength to weight ratio, and since most players do not want a bat
greater than 32 oz. this becomes significant. For the same reason,
it is used for tool handles, hockey sticks, and canoe paddles. Historically
it was used for food bowls because it had no significant odor or
taste. Curved components for chairs, snowshoes and boats capitalize
on its wonderful bending properties. Really you can use it for any
fine woodworking, with only your imagination as the limiting factor
The Tree:Oleaceae (olive) Family
There are about 70 species in the world, and it is the oil in the
wood that is chemically similar to olive oil, that links this tree
with the Olive family. There are only about 17 types of this tree
found in North America and only 2 or 3 that have any commercial
significance. We predominately talk about white (Fraxinus Americana)
and black (Fraxinus Nigra) ash in the lumber industry. The tree
is never found in pure stands, but rather is widely distributed
among other species
The wood is straight-grained, open pored, and hard, with no distinctive
taste or odor. It is tough and yet elastic, with high shock resistance
and excellent steam bending characteristics. The wood is relatively
stable with little downgrade in drying. It only occasionally shows
interesting figure in crotch wood. It is not considered to be a
durable wood when in contact with the ground. It is susceptible
to fungal and beetle attack. White ash has quite a clear white to
pale yellow sapwood, with heartwood pulling more to the light to
medium tone browns. Often the commercial lumber yards pull the sap
out of the pile to form a more consistent white stock in the higher
Black Ash is a more consistent pale brown, or tan colour. Rarely
have I found curly stock in the black ash, but it is nice to work
with, since it tends to splinter less than the white variety.
I also prefer the black ash because it does not yellow in the
same way as the white ash, rather stays a beige colour if left natural.
It is a little softer thus making fabrication somewhat easier.
Weight: approximately 41lbs/cu.ft.
Ash finishes relatively easily and takes a beautiful stain. It is
ring porous, so if you are looking for a glass like finish you must
use a pore filler. It can be stained to look like oak as the grain
pattern of the two woods is very similar. Ash has less chatter (ie.
the little lines) between the rows of open pores, so tends to stain
a little brighter than oak. You must sand carefully to eliminate
cross grain scratching, particularly if you are using a dark stain.
Ash works easily with hand and power tools, with normal wear on
cutting edges. It glues well, but pre-drilling is recommended. It
holds screws well. It is most known for its excellent bending characteristics.
It does have a very long fibre, so splintering can be a problem
when turning it on the lathe. Make sure your tools are sharp and
take a finer cut. Watch the grain direction, when jointing the edges.