Birch's ease of use and reasonable price, have made it a great craftwood,
for almost any woodworking project. It's used extensively for firewood
and makes wonderful ornamental trees. It has been turned to make
all the toy parts you need, tongue depressors, tooth picks, pulped
for paper, and turned into high end furniture. There is little it
has not been used for.
Yellow Birch: The Official Tree of Quebec,
White Birch: The Official Tree of Saskatchewan,CAN
The Tree: Betula family
Birch trees grow abundantly in North America, with nine species
in this family that are relatively well known, but over 50 species
found around the world, including many ornamental and shrub bushes.
Yellow(silver or swamp birch) and paper (sometimes referred as white
or canoe) birch are the two most common trees in Northern Ontario,
although sweet, river and gray birch have some commercial recognition
in other parts of Canada and the United States.
"White" birch, as we know it, is not really a species but rather
a combination of either paper and/or gray birch. Red Birch is not
a species at all, but rather refers to the heart stock of the yellow
birch. Almost all members of this family have a smooth resinous
white bark, that peels, rolls or curls, in some fashion. Some types
of birch bark peels up the tree, rather than the traditional "around
the tree". The bark gets very thick and deeply ridged as the tree
gets older. Birches are usually the first to establish in cleared
land, but start to die once other trees move in and offer shade.
The trees will average a height of 70' and a diameter of 2'.
The appearance of the wood will vary between species, but generally,
the sap wood is creamy white and the heart stock, golden brown.
Paper birch is predominately sap wood, with small brown knotty hearts.
The wood is mostly white but as it nears the core will show brown
flame patterns, with white sap edges.. quite dramatic. Yellow birch
on the other hand, tends to be a larger tree and exhibits a more
consistent golden brown colour, with little creamy white sap wood.
Often yellow birch shows a nice curl pattern. In commercial operations,
unlike maple,it is rarely sorted for colour.
All birch has a fine and uniform texture, closed pored and no significant
odor. Birch dries with a fair amount of shrinkage. It loses almost
16% of its volume going from green to dry lumber and does like to
warp and twist if enough weight is not applied to the green lumber
as it air dries. Once dried it is stable. It is not resistant to
decay, fungal and insect attack. Spalting is very common. Of all
the quality domestic hardwoods, Birch would probably be the lowest
in price. This is its most redeeming feature. A beautiful wood to
look at and work with, and sold at a reasonable price.
40-45lbs/cu.ft., white birch slightly lighter than yellow birch.
Birch stains and finishes easily, due to its closed pored structure.
In fact often it is used as a substitute for Maple. Birch is significantly
easier to stain, will give you an almost identical stained finish,
but with much less grief, especially if you are trying for a relatively
In all categories, birch exhibits good machining properties. It
planes and sands to a smooth finish. It cuts and drills with limited
difficulty although I would always predrill for nailing. Birch does
hold nails and screws relatively well and glues up easily. Where
curly or wild grain is apparent, you may have to be careful. Taking
a shallower cut and using a cutting angle of 15 degrees will usually
solve the problem. Look at the grain direction to determine the
right feed direction when jointing. It turns with ease, but will
show cross grain scratching so sand meticulously before staining.