Sponsored by: Northwest Hardwoods: Lumber that’s Graded For Yield®.
The United States is home to several species of ash, including the commercially viable Fraxinus americana (white ash), Fraxinus pennsylvanica (green ash), Fraxinus nigra (brown and black ash), Fraxinus latifola and Fraxinus velutina (Oregon ash), and Fraxinus quadrangulata (blue ash). Unfortunately, the United States is also home to the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a tiny green beetle native to Asia, that has proven to be a big threat to these trees.
Its destructive nature was first recognized in Michigan in 2002. Since then, the EAB infestation has spread to a number of states and in 2014 the U.S. Forest Service estimated the EAB was likely to kill 99 percent of the U.S. ash tree population. Hardest hit would be black and green ash, with projections indicating that the EAB would spare roughly 30-40 percent of the nation’s blue ash, and 20-30% percent of its white ash species.
White ash is considered the premiere species of North American ashes. It is prized for being hard, strong, high in shock resistance with excellent bending qualities. It also can be easily worked with machinery and hand tools.
Louisville Slugger bats, manufactured by Hillerich & Bradsby, are made of white ash as well as maple. The company, which recently announced its purchase by Wilson Sporting Goods, notes, “pound per pound, ash is the strongest timber available. Ash has a flexibility that isn’t found in other timbers like maple. It tends to flex rather than break, which gives a strong ‘sweet spot’ in terms of breakage. Ash is lighter than maple, giving a wider range of large barrel models.”
The timber dries fairly quickly with minimal degrade and small movement in service. It has a light to medium brown heartwood, with the sapwood tending toward beige or light brown. The grain is typically straight and regular, and the wood takes a finish well. When stained, it can look similar to oak, but without the wide rays.
Other uses for this species include furniture, church pews, flooring and sporting goods equipment, such as pool cues, tennis racquets, hockey sticks and oars. The wood is also a favorite species for making bent wood parts for chairs, boats and umbrellas, as well as tool and implement handles. Part of its popularity is due to the fact that it is among the least expensive utility hardwoods, with pricing similar to oak.