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What is Ash Lumber?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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Ash lumber is lumber produced from trees in the genus Fraxinus, also known as ash. Black and white ash are both common choices, but a number of other individual species may be used as well. This lumber is famous for being very hard and strong, making it suitable for a wide range of applications where strength is highly desirable. The durability of ash lumber leaves something to be desired and it may require special treatment if it is being used in an application where it needs to hold up well over time.

This lumber varies in color, depending on the species. It can be pale or creamy to brownish and sometimes has a reddish tinge. Ash scores high, around 1300, on the Janka hardness scale used for hardwoods, but it is also very flexible and shock resistant. This makes it useful for applications where it will be subjected to shock. Tool handles are commonly made from ash and it is also a popular wood for baseball bats and other wooden sporting equipment.

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The term “ash” is derived from a word meaning “spear,” referencing one historic use of this wood. Ash was once very widely used for tools, as well as eating utensils and bowls. The wood is highly workable and can be readily carved and textured with sanding and other techniques. It can dull tools because of the hardness, something to watch out for when working with ash. Ash lumber is also usually very dense, with a close grain and a smooth, even texture.

Problems with ash lumber primarily involve its susceptibility to pests. Mildew and mold colonize it readily and can be hard to eradicate once they penetrate the fine grain. Insects also like ash lumber. Treatments can be used to reduce the risk of mold and insect infestation and the lumber shouldn't be used in environments where there's a high risk of exposure to fungus and boring insects. Ash lumber, for example, makes poor decking.

While the wood generally takes drilling, nails, and screws well without cracking, it can splinter while it is being worked, especially on devices like lathes. This is an important consideration for woodworkers, as the process of finishing the wood can be more challenging because they have to watch out for this problem. Ash can also have an unpleasant color, requiring staining or other treatments to make it more visually interesting if people are using it in a project where the color of the wood is important.

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