|Common Name||American basswood and American linden.Basswood, American Basswood, Lime, Linden|
|Scientific Name||Tilia americana|
|Distribution||The Basswood tree is native to eastern North America, from southeast Manitoba east to New Brunswick, southwest to northeast Oklahoma, southeast to South Carolina, and west along the Niobrara River to Cherry County and Nebraska. It is the sole representative of its genus in the Western Hemisphere.|
|Tree Size||basswood is a medium-sized to a large deciduous tree reaching a height of 18 to 37 m (60 to 120 ft) exceptionally 39 m (128 ft) with a trunk diameter of 1–1.5 m (3–5 ft) at maturity. It grows faster than many North American hardwoods, often twice the annual growth rate of American beech and many birch species.|
|Dried Weight ( average )||26 lbs/ft3 (415 kg/m3).|
|Specific Gravity||32, .42|
|Janka Hardness||410 lbf (1,820 N)|
The Tilia genus consists of exactly 30 species that are usually referred to as either Lime (even though this tree has nothing to do with lime fruit) or Linden in Europe, while in North America it’s most commonly called Basswood. The American basswood is the best and most sought after wood for beginners who are interested in trying their luck in wood carving.
The Tilia americana is an ideal wood for many woodcarvers and carpenters. Its soft, fine, even texture all thanks to the presence of very few or sometimes absolutely no grains makes it easy to work with. While its pale, inconspicuous color and that fact that it does not give off any particular odor even while working with it don’t detract from the carved patterns of the finished product (which also makes it easier to paint and color).
As the American Basswood is a light, soft, and very easily workable type of wood, this wood has managed to become the hardwood lumber of choice for many woodworkers who are interested to quickly and easily produce lightweight wood products.
This odorless and finely grained wood has easily managed to gain immense popularity on the worldwide commercial market, where it is today used not only for the larger-scale operations such as the creation of wood pulp, veneer, plywood, musical instruments, and window shutters and blinds but also remains the hardwood lumber of choice for woodworkers or anyone with a knack of carving small designs onto wood objects of all sizes, create small and intricate models, puppets and musical instruments using basswood sheets, wood carving blocks, basswood planks, etc.
Archeologists have found that the fiber from this tree was used to make clothes in the Bronze age leaving a great historical significance.
Though Basswood has high initial shrinkage, the wood is stable in service after it has been dried. And though the wood is both lightweight and soft, it has an outstanding MOE-to-weight ratio. However, its MOR is on par with its low weight; simply put, when put under stress, the wood will remain stiff, but will still break (rupture) at a relatively average weight. The American basswood that can be used as basswood sheets, wood carving blocks basswood planks, etc are not durable and under favorable conditions like high moisture content, low sunlight, etc. their hardwood readily decays.
Color: The pale white to light brown color of both the sapwood and heartwood, these sections are not clearly defined. Growth rings tend to be subtle, and the color is mostly uniform throughout the face grain of the wood. Knots and other defects are uncommon.
Texture: The grain is straight, with a fine, even texture, and moderate natural luster. Diffuse-porous; medium pores predominantly in radial multiples or clusters of 2-4; growth rings indistinct or distinct due to marginal parenchyma; medium to large rays, normal spacing, noded; parenchyma banded (marginal), apotracheal parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates.
Odor: No characteristic odor even while working with the wood.
Workability: Easy to work, being very soft and light. Perhaps one of the most suitable wood species for hand carving. Basswood also glues and finishes well, but has poor steam bending and nail holding characteristics.
The American basswood is an ideal choice for woodcarvers and people who are beginners to woodcarving as they are soft and easy to learn on. They don't need sophisticated tools to work with and they dry fast and finish easily which makes it that much easier to learn or work on.
But the one flaw these woods have is that they are not durable and that they will readily decay when the conditions of rot are favorable. Therefore the products made from this wood should be treated and protected with a coating so that the shelf life of the products can be increased.
There are no specific allergies that this tree, wood, or the fine dust from this tree when working on it can cause other than the standard health risks associated with any kind of wood therefore necessary precautions should be made.
Availability: These woods are widely available as lumber or carving blanks. As these can be grown easily and have a relatively quicker growth rate. Prices are in the lower range for a domestic hardwood, though larger carving blocks are more expensive. This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Uses: One might misunderstand that the Basswood tree is mainly useful only for the woodwork purpose. But this is a tree that one will have to reconsider as almost all the parts of the tree are useful to us in more than one way.
The most popular uses having to be carvings, lumber, musical instruments (electric guitar bodies), veneer, plywood, and wood pulp, lumber, smaller furniture, carvings, model making, marionette and puppet making, musical instruments, aquarium accessory, veneer, plywood, wood pulp, boxes, food containers, turned items, picture frames, toys. fiber products, trim work, handles, and fiber products. Today, after centuries of use for the creation of smaller household items, the use case of this type of wood has shifted into two categories - commercial and small scale.
Commercially, Basswood is used extensively for the production of window shutters and blinds, plywood, veneer, wood pulp, and fiber products. On the other hand, woodworkers from all around the world have found Basswood incredibly suited for the production of intricate carvings of all sizes, statues, model building, marionette, and puppet making. Additionally, since Basswood has great acoustic qualities, it is also extensively used for the creation of various wind instruments, recorders, guitar and bass guitar bodies, recorders, drum shells, and others.
The other uses of this tree lie within the parts of the tree. For instance the basswood flower has sweet nectar and is used for tea. Other parts of the tree like leaf, stem, root, etc. have medicinal purposes. They contain flavonoids, volatile oils, and tannins that are excellent for your metabolism.
Frequently asked questions
Commercial applications of Basswood are numerous, especially for the application of detailed carving work since the timber of this tree is especially known to be soft, moldable, with very little grain, low density, and easily worked with even most basic carving tools. Today Basswood timber remains in high demand not only for the creation of small art and household items but is also a wood of choice for lightweight window blinds and shutters.
The other uses of this tree lie within the parts of the tree. For instance the basswood flower has sweet nectar and is used for tea. Other parts of the tree like leaf, stem, root, etc., have medicinal purposes. They contain flavonoids, volatile oils, and tannins that are excellent for your metabolism.
Basswood is a common southern Ontario tree, ranging into central Ontario as far north as Lake Nipissing and Sault Ste. Marie, but also in the northwestern corner near the Ontario-Minnesota border.
This tree can be found often growing in large-trunked, multi-stemmed trunks along fencerows, or as single-stemmed trees within the deciduous forest.
The basswood tree can be identified by the large, heart-shaped leaves with toothed edges and a short point. The twigs have a noticeable zigzag appearance. The fragrant yellow flowers and round grayish-brown fruit hang from the center of a leaf-like bract. When released, the bract acts like a helicopter wing and carries the seeds away in a breeze. The bark is gray-brown with long narrow ridges.
Basswood has almost no grain and is very soft, making it ideal for new woodworkers. It is also popular in lower-cost musical instruments, making up the bodies of some woodwinds, and electric basses and guitars. Basswood blanks can be found easily and are a great wood to start learning to carve on since it is malleable and inexpensive.
Affordable and abundant, basswood is particularly associated with mid-level or budget guitars. But basswood is a good tonewood by any standards, and it has been used by many high-end makers with excellent results. It is a very light and fairly softwood, and it’s light in color, too, with minimal grain.
Solid basswood bodies have a fat, but well-balanced tonality. There’s a muscular midrange, but also a certain softness and breathiness. On a well-made guitar, basswood can yield good dynamics and definition with enough grind to give the sound some oomph.
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