What is ash veneer?

mountain ash image by Dianne Burridge from Fotolia.com

Ash is the common name of trees of the genus Fraxinus. In woodworking, white ash is the most valuable, and builders commonly use it to produce a veneer, which is a thin slice of wood. Builders use ash veneer to cover blocks and planks of common wood that later will become doors, windows, floors or pieces of furniture. Ash veneer can have different grain patterns, which depends on the way the logs were cut.

Flat Cut and Burl Ash Veneer

Flat cut ash veneer is made in parallel slices and its grain pattern is similar to common flat-sliced wood. The process of making flat cut ash veneer is called plain slicing. Burl ash veneer shows very elaborate patterns, with circular and irregular lines. Logs with abnormal outgrowth or burls are necessary to produce the rare burl ash veneer.

Quarter Ash Veneer

To produce a quarter ash veneer, the blade cuts in a angle, about 45 degrees, to a line parallel to the log's centre. This results in a striped grain, because the cut is perpendicular to the tree's growth rings. Although more common in oak veneer, it is possible to make rift ash veneer, which is similar to quarter ash veneer. The logs are cut into quarters and put off centre in the cutting lathe. This results in bigger vertical grain patterns.

Distribution of American Ash Species

In the U.S., all ash veneer is produced using one of the five species of ash tree available in the country. White ash (Fraxinus americana) is the best known and preferred for woodworking. White ash ranges from the Great Plains east and from southern Canada south, excluding the lower Mississippi River delta and coastal plains. Black ash (Fraxinus nigra) ranges from southeastern Canada through the northeast of the U.S., while green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) ranges from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan south through Montana to east Texas. Blue ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata) is scattered across the upper Mississippi and Ohio River valleys. Pumpkin ash (Fraxinus profunda) is more common in the southern areas.

Wood Strengh

White ash one of the strongest woods available in the U.S., comparable to red and white oak. White ash's wood is heavy and weighs 19.1kg. per cubic foot, while black ash lumber weighs 15.4kg. per cubic foot. When compared to the other grainy hardwoods such as oak, ash is an inexpensive wood. However, ash wood has little resistance to decay when untreated and in constant direct contact with the elements.

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