Uses for Cottonwood

Uses for Cottonwood

I have a couple of large cottonwoods that need to come down. What is a good use for the wood?

T. C. Knight: The poplar usually used for interior parts by furniture and cabinetmakers is tulip poplar which is not a true poplar. Cottonwood, which is a true poplar, is normally used for pulp for fine paper production, in plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), and other more rough uses. Cottonwood is a diffuse porous hardwood, which simply means that the annual rings are not very prominent. It is light in weight, moderately weak when bent, moderately soft, and low in ability to resist shock, so don’t turn a golf club head out of it.

However, it glues well, does not split easily, paints well and, again, is light in weight. The biggest problem with cottonwood is its propensity to grow in a leaned-over fashion, causing most of the wood to be compression wood or tension wood which causes a whole host of problems like warping, bowing and cupping while drying.

That being said, if you are able to get some good, straight, dry wood from yours, it is useful as interior parts and kitchen utensils such as spoons and cutting boards. If you plan to use it for interior parts, there is no reason to mill any more than one inch stock. However, I would recommend milling five quarter and as wide as possible so that you will have room to mill out cup and bow and still have half and three quarter stock.

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