Ash comes from the Fraxinus genus, which belongs to the family of olives and lilac. An interesting fact about ash is that it can be either an evergreen or deciduous tree.
In this post, we look at 14 different types of Ash wood and their characteristics that we use for furniture, flooring, and many other applications. Read on to find out more about this versatile and popular type of wood that woodworkers use throughout the United States and even across the globe.
You will find ash wherever you go in the world. These trees grow abundantly across Europe, Asia, and North America. The trees are robust and withstand different soil conditions, climates, and water levels.
Properties of Ash Wood
Ash wood has a straight grain and is light brown to beige, with a tendency to darken over time. So, if the wood is light to start with, it will darken, but the curious thing is that darker woods may become a bit lighter over time.
This wood takes on stain quite well without giving up its natural grain or texture. However, it can resemble oak when stained, making it difficult to distinguish between the two wood types. That is why you should always buy ash or oak from a trusted source.
Ash has a moderate hardness of 1,320 lbf. on the Janka scale. It is fairly durable and extremely dense, tough, and strong. It has a reasonable degree of elasticity and is quite pliable.
Uses of Ash Wood
Ash lumber plays an important role as commercial lumber, particularly white ash and European ash. The attractive color and simple grain pattern make it a preferred choice for all types of furniture. It is also very flexible, so it finds use for tool handles, baseball bats, and tool handles.
Ash makes good staircases, especially ornate curved staircases because you can steam and form the wood. In addition, it has good resonance properties, making it suitable for making musical instruments like guitar bodies. Finally, ash serves as fuel as it burns easily and evenly, and we sometimes use it for meat smoking.
Types of Ash Wood
Now that we have discussed the properties of this versatile wood, let us take a look at the numerous types of ash wood available in the market:
Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra)
Other names for this wood are hoop ash, swamp ash, brown ash, and basket ash. It grows in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. Black ash trees grow up to 65 feet, and the trunks grow up to 2 feet in diameter.
The wood is light to medium brown, considerably darker than white ash. The sapwood is understandably lighter and wide-grained. Black ash is medium to coarse in texture with a straight grain structure, without knots.
Black ash is comparatively soft with a Janka hardness of 850 lbf. It is easy to work with and makes baskets, tool handles, baseball bats, boxes, flooring, and electric guitars.
White Ash (Fraxinus Americana)
White ash also goes by the names of American ash and Biltmore ash. You will find these trees growing in eastern North America. They grow up to 100 feet with tree trunk girths up to 5 feet in diameter.
It is one of the commonest varieties of ash wood in the United States and perhaps one of the most valued. The heartwood is medium-brown with sapwood from beige to light brown.
The grain of white ash is usually straight but can be occasionally curly, and the wood has a coarse texture.
White ash is extremely resistant to shock and makes good tool handles and sports goods like baseball and cricket bats. It also plays a prominent role in high-quality furniture and makes durable hardwood flooring.
Blue Ash (Fraxinus quadrangulate)
You will find blue ash mostly growing in the midwestern region of the United States. The trees grow to a height of 80 feet, and the tree trunks grow to a diameter of 2 feet. The heartwood of blue ash is light brown to medium brown, and the sapwood is beige or light brown.
Interesting fact: The tree gets its name from the inner bark that turns blue when exposed to air. People used to use this bark for the extraction of blue dyes.
The wood has a straight and regular grain, sometimes curly, with a medium to coarse texture. The wood is quite hard at 1,290 lbf. And it is useful for flooring, millwork, boxes and crates, baseball bats, and various turned objects like tool handles.
Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)
Other names for green ash include water ash and red ash. You will find this species of ash in eastern and central North America. Green ash trees grow up to a height of 65 feet with tree trunk diameters up to 2 feet.
The heartwood is medium to light brown, and the sapwood has a wider color variation from beige to light brown. The wood grain is coarse, straight, and mostly regular, but some occasional curls may from. Green ash, like most other ash woods, is not very durable and prone to insect attack.
Green ash is moderately hard with a Janka hardness rating of 1,200 lbf. It is easy to work with and makes flooring, boxes, sports goods, and tool handles. This wood also has good resonance, making guitars with a bright sound without losing tone.
Pumpkin Ash (Fraxinus profunda)
Pumpkin ash or swell-butt ash grows in eastern North America. The trees grow up to 65 feet with tree trunks of up to 3 feet in diameter. The tree gets its name from the shape of the trunk. It tends to swell to assume the shape of a pumpkin.
Pumkin ash trees are among the tallest in the ash species and are most abundant. The wood is light to medium brown, with light brown sapwood. Pumkin ash wood has a medium to coarse texture with straight and regular grain.
Pumpkin ash is extremely affordable, and it is one of the softer ash woods with a Janka hardness rating of lbf. It is easy to work with by both hand and machine and glues and stains well. Pumpkin ash is commonly used for making baseball bats, crates and flooring.
Tamo Ash (Fraxinus Lanuginosa)
Tamo ash is also called Japanese ash, Aodamo ash, and Manchurian ash. It grows in Japan, China, Russia, and Korea. Tamo ash trees are tall and grow up to 100 feet with tree trunk diameters of 2 feet.
Tamo ash is light to medium brown, and the unique feature is a three-dimensional figuring pattern in the wood grain that resembles peanut shells. It is caused by vines that entwine around the trunk, constricting the nutrient flow and causing uneven growth.
Legend has it that in days of old, Japanese cultivators tied ropes around young trees, artificially inducing the peanut figures.
Tamo ash is reasonably hard with a Janka hardness rating of 1,010 lbf. Thus, it is good for making devices that require strength and flexibility, such as skis, baseball bats, tennis rackets, and wooden instruments.
The wood with peanut figuring is much sought after for making decorative items like chests. However, since tamo ash is imported, it is a rare and expensive wood in the United States.
European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
We also call European Ash common ash. It grows in Europe, southwest Asia, New Zealand, and some parts of North America. The trees grow to a height of 115 feet, with wide tree trunks up to a diameter of 6 feet.
European ash is among the most commercially valuable ash woods in the world. The wood is extremely durable and resilient, and we use it for a variety of purposes. The sapwood is creamy or light brown, and the heartwood a darker, almost olive-brown.
The wood has a coarse, open-grain color. The combination of the color and attractive grain pattern make European ash a favored choice by woodworkers. The wood is rather hard with a Janka hardness rating of 1,480 lbf.
However, the European ash is easy to work with and gives satisfactory results for making furniture, flooring, and even sports goods.
Oregon Ash (Fraxinus latifolia)
You will find Oregon ash growing in western North America in British Columbia, California, Washington, and of course, Oregon. The trees grow to a height of 80 feet, and the trunks grow to a diameter of 3 feet.
Oregon ash doesn’t have as much commercial value as white ash, and the trees grow sparsely in the United States. Although people often compare it to eastern ash, it is not widely used due to its limited availability.
It is a light to medium brown wood with a medium to coarse texture. The wood glues and stains well and is quite hard with a Janka hardness rating of 1,160 lbf. It is easy to work with, and you can use it to make sports goods, tool handles, and flooring.
Pink Ash (Alphitonia petriei)
Pink ash, also called almond ash, is native to the island continent of Australia. The trees grow up to 65 feet, and the tree trunks to a diameter of 2 feet.
Although we call this wood “ash,” it does not share the botanical generic name “Fraxinus.” We sometimes call it “white ash” which is not technically correct because the botanical name for white ash is Fraxinus americana.
The heartwood is orangish-pink with pale-yellow sapwood. Streaking can also occur, and the wood darkens over time. The wood is straight-grained with an even, fine texture.
With a Janka hardness rating of 760 lbf. pink ash is easy to work with and turns, glues, and finishes quite well. We use it to make furniture, utility wood, carving, turned objects, and other specialty wood applications.
Coming to the last type of ash wood on our list, we come to olive ash. It is not even a member of the Fraxinus genus but refers to some dark, streaked wood in ash that resembles the wood found in olive trees.
You may also note that ash and olive come from the same family, Oleaceae. It also resembles another characteristically striped wood, zebrawood.
We have included this type of ash in our list because the grain patterns from olive ash are quite striking. This wood is much sought-after for making veneer, and the timber makes good turning blanks.
We hope you have found this post on types of ash wood interesting and have enjoyed reading it. The numerous types of ash make it important to any woodworker to familiarize themselves with the different varieties available.
Once you can identify the different species of ash wood, it is possible to select the most suitable species of ash for your woodworking projects.