The American sycamore, or Platanus occidentalis, is a fast-growing native of hardwood forests in eastern North America. This tree produces white to light yellow or pink sapwood with dark brown to red-brown heartwood. Sycamore has an interesting grain figure and distinctive rays. It is moderately hard and relatively easy to work. This wood is infrequently used in commercial woodworking but is popular in many traditional projects.
Sycamore wood's ease of cutting and boring makes it a good wood for many storage containers. This wood holds nails and screws well and is often used to build crates and boxes, packing cases and barrels. Sycamore is also sometimes used to make shipping pallets. This material has very poor resistance to decay, however, making it a poor choice for storage and shipping containers meant for use in wet or decay-promoting conditions. Sycamore may be cut into thin strips and woven into baskets.
Sycamore is a moderately dense hardwood, harder than pine and other softwoods but softer than heavy lumber such as oak. It is lighter and easier to handle than many other hardwoods and is useful for rough boards or finer lumber for interior construction. Sycamore's interesting interlocked grain makes it difficult to plane but produces attractive wainscoting, decorative veneer and panelling.
This wood is rarely used to produce solid furniture. However, according to Hanafee Bros. Sawmill Co., sycamore sees extensive use as drawer stock in furniture made out of more costly wood. It also works well in plywood and veneer on furniture made from pine and other softwoods or from manufactured wood products. When quarter-sliced, sycamore produces an attractive flake or mottled pattern. Some boards have a ribbon stripe. Decorative sycamore veneer usually has a light finish, so as not to obscure the grain.
Sycamore wood makes good quality household objects, including candy and other food boxes, since it leaches no smell or taste into food. Sycamore makes good butcher blocks and cutting boards. It also works well in traditional berry boxes, tobacco boxes and sugar barrels. Sycamore sees some limited use in making gardening and other household tools.
The low cost of sycamore lumber makes it a good choice for piano backs and for the bodies of inexpensive mandolins and guitars. Instruments made from sycamore have an attractive, striking figure due to the wood's interlocked grain. However, woodworkers may experience some trouble making instrument bodies from this wood, as it bends poorly.