Alder is one of the most overlooked of all the hardwoods. Straight-grained and soft, it is easier to work with than most traditional hardwoods like oak or ash. It is often used in cabinet and furniture production and frequently used as a less-expensive cherry or birch substitute. It is readily available in all grades of plywood and lumber.
Cabinetmakers use alder lumber for the cabinet face frame and use alder plywood for the jambs. Alder lumber is also used in the production of raised panel and inset panel cabinet doors. The chameleon character of the wood can blend into the woodwork of most homes, even if the bulk of the woodworking in the home is not alder. In most cases, when the cabinets in the home are advertised as "birch," they are actually alder face frames with birch plywood.
Furniture and Molding
Furniture makers know that alder grain patterns and colour closely resemble cherry. Even for experienced woodworkers, it can sometimes be difficult to tell them apart. For this reason, furniture makers will often laminate pieces of alder together to create legs for tables, hutches, chairs and desks. Laminated alder legs are also used on woodworking lathes to create spindles, balusters, newel posts and stair railings. Due to the straight grain of alder, it is also used in the production of all profiles of moulding---from complicated crown patterns to the everyday ranch style base and interior door trim casings. Alder is also used as an internal framing material for upholstered furniture like couches and chairs as well as cabinet framing in recreational vehicles and motor homes.
Alder has been utilised since the turn of the century, longer than most hardwoods. This is partially because it grows wild along streams and river banks, matures faster and is easier to cut than all the other hardwoods. Due to its user-friendliness and availability, alder is also used to make everyday items, such as bowels, spoons, cigar boxes, caskets and even musical instruments like Native American flutes.
Alder is used in smokehouses to provide a mellow, flavourful taste to game and fish. Smokehouses rely on chips supplied by cabinet and furniture makers and lumber mills to create their delicious products. Another traditional use of alder is the production of charcoal, which is also one of the raw ingredients in gunpowder.
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