Two types of commonly used wood are birch and acacia. You would hear these types of wood discussed a lot in woodworking circles. What are the differences? Which one is better than the other? These are the questions you might look for answers to. It is good to know the details about these types of wood because they are two of the most versatile ones used in woodworking circles.
Birch vs acacia is a discussion that involves two types of hardwoods. Acacia comes from Africa, Australia, and Southern Asia and was brought to Australia and Southern Asia by settlers who moved from Africa to these two continents. Birch, on the other hand, is a specific type of wood. It is also versatile and well-known for the plywood that it makes.
Birch vs. Acacia
You will find birch growing in Europe with more than 50 different species. You will also find it in Asia and North America. Birch and acacia are both hardwoods.
While birch has a Janka hardness rating of 1,260 lbf, the Janka hardness rating of Acacia ranges between 1,430 lbf. and 4,630 lbf. So, as you can see, acacia is much harder than birch, and in many ways more durable and versatile.
Although you can find some very expensive varieties of birch, acacia can sometimes be exorbitantly expensive because it is an imported wood and there are some notably rare types.
Birch grows primarily in Europe and also in Russia where it is the national tree. It also grows in Asia. However, you will find yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) in the northeastern region of the United States. It grows to heights of 100 feet with tree trunk diameters of up to 3 feet.
Birch is a light wood and although it occurs commonly in Europe, yellow birch grows in the United States. Because this wood is strong yet elastic and soft, it makes good furniture. We also use it in the construction industry. But a primary use of birch, particularly Baltic birch is to make plywood.
Acacia is reddish-brown with striking woodgrain patterns. The trees come in various shapes and sizes. If processed properly, it can be made to look better than many other hardwoods. With over 1,000 species of acacia, it has no standard classification.
Acacia makes some of the finest indoor and outdoor furniture. It is a highly sustainable type of wood because of its rapid growth rate. It has a historical significance as it features Egyptian excavations of coffins. Also, historians believe that it was used to build the Ark of Covenant also called “Noah’s Ark.”
Acacia is primarily native to Africa but over the years, it moved to other countries and continents. In Australia, it has even become an invasive species. African people use acacia as firewood and create incense to prevent fever and treat joint pain.
Birch grows primarily in the eastern and northern regions of the United States, particularly in the Lake states. Its sapwood is pale, almost white with a reddish-brown heartwood. The woodgrain exhibits a straight grain and a uniform texture, although you may also see some occasional waviness.
Birch is an easy wood to work with and you can glue and stain it with ease. The wood also takes screws and nails quite well, but you should use pilot holes. It takes a long time to dry, but when it does, it tends to shrink quite a lot, making it somewhat dimensionally unstable.
Birch is hard with significant crushing strength and adequate resistance to shock. It is easily available, but you may not find it in a wide range of colors. We use birch for making furniture, doors and windows, flooring, wooden toys, millwork, kitchen cabinets, and paneling.
Birch vs. Acacia: Appearance
Acacia is dark brown or golden with a honey tint. Depending on how you apply a finish, you can darken or lighten it as required. Birch on the other hand has a lighter shade. It exhibits distinct patterns but is more pronounced than acacia.
The grain pattern of acacia is not as striking as that of birchwood. Acacia wood looks very distinct and beautiful when processed properly. The straight-line grain with wavy-to-figured appearance ushers in some exciting possibilities.
Birch has a fine and straight grain. You will see waviness sometimes including curls, burls, birdseye, and blotches.
Birch vs. Acacia: Durability
We consider birch to be a perishable wood. It will not last outdoors and even needs to be treated if used indoors. Birch is also not as hard as acacia which can be as hard as 4,630 lbf. on the Janka hardness scale.
Acacia is denser than birch making it heavier. Because of its extreme hardness and high density, acacia lasts longer in high-traffic areas like kitchens and dining rooms and is popularly used for making countertops and flooring.
Acacia also has considerable resistance to termites, moisture, and rot. The high oil content in this wood makes it resistant to insects and moisture. Birch on the other hand has no such durability. But in the form of fine plywood when treated, birch can prove to be considerably durable.
Birch vs. Acacia: Maintenance
Birch needs considerable maintenance because of its vulnerability to insect attack, moisture, and rot. Therefore, with birch, you need to apply a suitable finish with adequate waterproofing.
Acacia on the other hand, doesn’t need too much maintenance or waterproofing. However, washing both these types of wood will always keep them fresh and clean. Avoiding excessive exposure to moisture will ensure the long life of these woods.
Birch vs. Acacia: Workability and Uses
With Birch, you will find it easy to use hand tools and machine tools. However, the knotted and curly sections can be a bit challenging due to the possibility of tearout. Birch also takes glue and finishes quite easily. We make boxes, crates, turned objects, and interior trim out of birch. But the best-known applications of birch are for making veneer and plywood.
As far as acacia is concerned, it is also equally workable, but working with the harder varieties can prove to be a bit difficult. An added advantage of acacia is that it is quite flexible. Therefore, making intricately-shaped furniture becomes a possibility with this wood.
Acacia is dimensionally stable, meaning that it won’t contract, expand, crack, warp or twist with changes in temperature and weather conditions. The shrinking percentage is moderately low for this wood. But it is always advisable to avoid exposing acacia to excessive moisture.
We use acacia for boat building, decks, veneers, flooring, countertops, cabinets, different types of furniture, butcher blocks, and pulpwood.
Birch vs. Acacia: Price
Birch is typically cheaper than acacia but it can also be more expensive depending on the grade of wood in question. Acacia has an attractive woodgrain pattern that tends to push up the price of this wood. However, in plywood form, you can find some highly expensive birch, particularly with varieties like Baltic birch plywood.
Birch vs. Plywood: Sustainability
Neither birch nor acacia is considered an endangered species and they do not find a place on either the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species or the CITES Appendices.
Birch vs. Acacia: Special Features
Birch is not an exceptional wood, but it is well known for making some of the best plywood in the world. Acacia on the other hand does not have any unique characteristics. But it has some medicinal value and plays a prominent role in the food industry for the gum it produces that is used as a thickening agent.
Birch vs. Acacia: Comparison Table
|Botanical name||Betula alleghaniensis||No standard classification|
|Color||White to reddish-brown||Medium to dark brown|
|Durability||Not durable||Highly Durable|
|Hardness (Janka Scale)||1,260 lbf.||1,430 lbf. to 4,630 lbf.|
|Strength||Strong wood||Strong to extremely strong|
|Maintenance||Easy to maintain||Low maintenance|
|Price||Cheap to moderately expensive||Inexpensive|
|Suitability for outdoors||No||Yes|
|Suitability for wood carving||Yes||Yes|
|Workability||Easy to work with||Good|
|Availability||Abundantly available||Abundantly available|
|Special features if any||Well-known for making plywood||Used in the food industry|
Whether you get birch or acacia for a woodworking project, you can rest assured that either wood will serve its purpose perfectly. You might find birch a bit challenging if you want to do a project that looks attractive. However, if you apply a suitable finish or skillfully stain the wood, you can make it look smart.
Acacia on the other hand, is an extremely hard wood. But once you are done with processing it, the wood takes on a beautiful polish when you apply a suitable finish or stain. So, you can see each type of wood has unique features. With the information we have provided, you can probably make the most of either of these two kinds of wood in your next woodworking project.