Things to Know About Beech Wood


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Beechwood is among the most versatile and cost-effective woods that you can get on the market today. In addition, the flowers, nuts, and leaves of the beech tree are edible. Beech trees have the distinction of having been featured extensively in Game of Thrones.

Beech is a light, homogenous wood that does not darken naturally over time. Beech has a variety of applications, and the food and beverage industry uses beech for smoking purposes. Beech also has a high BTU value which makes it burn slowly and steadily rendering it suitable for firewood.

Interesting Facts about Beech

new beech panel wood texture

Beech has many properties and uses. Although people use it for firewood, it plays a role in several other applications. Here are some interesting things to know about beech wood:

Divine and Historical Symbolism

Celtic mythology considers Beech a symbol of femininity and the queen of British trees. The botanical name of Beech, Fagus sylvatica, comes from the name of the Celtic god Fagus due to its forked branches, which people use for water divining.

Writers, religious leaders, and historians used the thin bark of the beech tree to write upon before paper came on the scene. The English word “book” comes from the word “bók,” which means “beech” in Old English.

“Buch” is the word for “book” in German, and “Buche” means “beech tree.” Beechwood tablets were commonly used as writing material in ancient Germany before the invention of paper.

Pliny the Elder, an ancient Roman naturalist, and philosopher wrote that the beechnut saved people from starvation in Chios during a siege.

In ancient times, beech leaves were used as medicine, and they were boiled to make an anti-inflammatory poultice to alleviate swelling. Even today, homeopathic doctors use beech flowers for medical formulations.

A Hard and Versatile Wood

patterns on the bark of a beech tree with lichens

Beech bark is extremely soft, which tempts people to carve images and initials, permanently scarring the tree. But in contrast, the wood is significantly hard, and European beech has a Janka hardness rating of 1,450 lbf.

Despite its hardness, beech is quite easy to work with. The wood is strong, making it useful for joinery, carpentry, and engineering purposes. It also plays a prominent role in making frames for furniture in construction.

One major drawback of beech wood is that it lacks the durability to use it outdoors, although it wears well.

The Food and Beverage Industries Use Beech Chips

The smoke of beech chips exudes a nutty flavor which is milder than hickory or mesquite. The seafood industry uses it for smoking purposes, particularly salmon. It is also effective on other foods like chicken and pork.

A notable use of beech chips is in the process of brewing beer. There is a particular stage of beer brewing called “lagering.” During this process, distillers add beechwood chips to fermentation tanks to preserve yeast cells.

German beer brewers burn beech chips and logs to produce smoked beer. They also burn beech logs for drying the malt that they add to their beer.

Beech Wood as a Fuel

The uniform, strong burning of beech wood makes it an excellent choice for firewood. Although there is a school of thought against burning beech for fuel, the fact is that it serves the purpose quite well.

You will find this wood easy to split, and it ignites easily, burning with a bright and steady flame. If the wood is left out in the sun to dry for a few days or months, you will get the best results while burning it. The residual soot from burning beech wood forms bistre or bister, a pigment that goes into paints.

Beech Has Multiple Uses as Lumber

We use beech wood for many things other than lumber, which we have discussed above. But as lumber, beech is useful for various purposes such as in construction, cabinetry, furniture, musical instruments, sports equipment, tool handles, wooden cookware, plywood, and tool handles.

But beech is more known for being used for things that you can’t see, like table legs, drawer bottoms, and insides of cabinets. Woodworkers use it in combination with more expensive and exquisite woods for its sheer strength.

Although beech doesn’t look great in its natural state, once steamed, it takes on an interesting reddish-brown, making it look a bit like cherry, maple, or mahogany.

Pros and Cons of Beech Wood

The texture of beech wood

Like most woods, beech has many advantages but a few downsides, too. Therefore, you need to consider the good and not-so-good aspects of this wood if you want to use it for your woodworking projects.

Beech Wood Pros

  • Beech has excellent impregnation properties making it suitable for staining and varnishing.
  • This wood is extremely hard and strong. It is more solid than oak.
  • Despite its extreme hardness, you will find beech relatively easy wood to work with.
  • Being a solid wood, beech makes excellent furniture and interior fittings.
  • Beech is a hard-wearing, dimensionally stable, and resilient wood.
  • It has a high degree of flexibility which makes it suitable for steam bending.
  • Beech is also one of the most preferred types of wood for fuel. It is because the calorific value of beech is quite high, and it holds heat well. The result is that it burns more slowly and steadily than other firewoods like spruce.
  • Due to the above reason, you will often find grilling wood briquettes or pellets made of beech wood.
  • Beechwood does not contain resin, which makes it more or less defect-free. For the same reason, it will not shower sparks while burning it as firewood.

Beech Wood Cons

  • Beech is a dense, heavy wood, making it difficult to carry around.
  • It tends to crack, which can be remedied with regular oiling.
  • This wood also loses moisture fast. Once dry, it becomes rather brittle and more suited for firewood than using it as lumber.
  • You will need to add preservatives to beech wood to impart weather resistance, as it doesn’t stand up to the elements very well.
  • If you are looking for a wood that darkens with age, then beech wood will not serve the purpose, as it does not darken over time.

Conclusion

Beechwood is a special category of wood. It isn’t an exotic variety of wood, and it certainly does not look visually appealing. But you will find beech a versatile, strong, and solid wood that you can work with quite easily with hand or power tools.

It is used in more places than you would realize – it’s only that you may not see it. We use beech wood in combination with other woods and in places where it cannot be seen easily.

With the information that we have provided here, you can go ahead and use beech wood in some of your woodworking projects. Satisfaction guaranteed!