Birch is a species of contradiction. The white bark boldly stands out from all other trees in the forest, but in the shop the species has one of the subtlest appearances. Complementing its whitish color,
a faint pattern sweeps across this closed-grained, evenly textured wood—a desirable characteristic when the project's design needs to dominate the wood's appearance.
In the shop, birch works well with both hand and power tools, particularly for a wood that falls between oak (harder) and cherry (softer) in hardness. It saws, planes, and turns well, with relatively little tearing and splintering. Birch experiences significant shrinkage while drying, but once properly seasoned it offers good stability and resists warping and twisting. It is unequaled when it comes to accepting a clear varnish or polyurethane finish but is much less suitable for staining because of its tendency to become blotchy.
Birch is a suitable choice for structurally critical parts in furniture because it compares to oak and maple in strength and beats both of those species quite significantly when it comes to shock resistance. For use in a bending project, birch offers excellent elasticity, somewhat similar to ash. However, keep in mind that outdoor applications are simply out of the question for this species because it is highly susceptible to decay.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com