American alder

Alnus rubra

General Description

Red alder is almost white when freshly cut but quickly changes on exposure to air to light brown with a yellow or reddish tinge. Heartwood is formed only in trees of advanced age and there is no visible boundary between sap and heartwood. The wood is fairly straight grained with a uniform texture.

Other Common names

Red alder, Western red alder, Western alder

Distribution & Availability

West coast USA, principally the Pacific North West, where it is the most common commercial hardwood. Available in a range of grades and specifications as both rough lumber and dimension stock, although veneer production is more limited.

Case Studies

John Kelly Furniture

John Kelly Furniture

John Kelly’s J1 series in solid American alder shows off the natural characteristics of the material.

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View Physical & Mechanical Properties

Physical & Mechanical Properties

Red alder is a relatively soft hardwood of medium density that has low bending strength, shock resistance and stiffness.

American alder - Physical & Mechanical Properties

Specific Gravity (12% M.C.):0.41
Average Weight (12% M.C.):449 kg/m3
Average Volume Shrinkage (Green to 6% M.C.):10.10%
Modulus of Rupture:67.571 MPa
Modulus of Elasticity:9515 MPa
Compressive strength (parallel to grain):
40.129 MPa
Hardness:2624 N
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Working Properties

Red alder machines well and is excellent for turning and polishing. It nails, screws and glues well, and can be sanded, painted, or stained to a very good finish. It dries easily with little degrade and has good dimensional stability after drying.

American alder - Working Properties

SawingGood
PlaningGood
DrillingGood
BoringGood
TurningExcellent
Carving
Good
Moulding
Good
Nailing
Good
Screwing
Good
Gluing
Good
Finishing
Excellent
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View Main Uses

Main Uses

Furniture, kitchen cabinets, doors, interior mouldings, turning, carving and kitchen utensils. Widely used by furniture industries around the world, its colour makes it an ideal substitute for cherry.

American alder - Main Uses

Doors
Flooring
Furniture
Joinery
Kitchen cabinets
Mouldings and
turnings
Veneered panels

Sports goods

Tool handles

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Other Information

The grading rules are unique for this western USA hardwood. Key points include the following: The lumber is kiln-dried, surfaced, and then inspected from the better face. Pin knots are a natural characteristic and are not considered as defects. The primary grades include Superior (Select & Better), Cabinet (No.1 Common), and Frame (No.2 Common), which adapt themselves to similar uses as the standard NHLA grades. When specifying red alder, it is best to work closely with the supplier to find the best grade for the end use.

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