BASSWOOD

BOTANICAL NAME: Tilia americana, Tilia cordata, Tilia heterophylla

consists of 30 to 35 species native to Eurasia and North America and all species look alike microscopically

NOTE: The list of species below is quite incomplete and will be expanded at some point

The word tilia is the classical Latin name, probably from the Greek ptilon, wing, referring to the wing like set of flower clusters

COMMON NAMES: lime and lime tree in England and Europe, linn, linden, American linden, American white wood, bass-tree, basswood, bee-tree, black limetree, gray linden, lein, limetree, linden, linn, linn-tree, spoonwood, tilo, white linn, whitewood, wickup, yellow basswood

The common name comes from its inner bark, or bast, used by Native Americans to make rope

some breakout by subspecies (not all of the known common names are listed here for these species):

Tilia americana = American basswood, American limetree, American linden, American whitewood, Amerikaanse linde, Amerikanische linde, Amerikansk lind, bass-tree, basswood, bee-tree, black limetree, gray linden, lein, limetree, linden, linn, linn-tree, spoonwood, svart-lind, tiglio americano, tiglo americano, tilleul americain, tilleul noir, tilo americano, white linn, whitewood, wickup, yellow basswood.

Tilia caroliniana = Amerikaanse linde, Amerikansk lind, basswood, Carolina basswood, Carolina linde, Carolina linden, downy basswood, Florida basswood, Florida linden, linden, southern basswood, tiglio Americano, tilleul Americain, tilleul de Caroline, tilo Americano, tilo de Carolina.

Tilia cordata = basswood, common lime, English lime, European small-leaf lime, large-leaf lime, limetree, linden, littleleaf linden, small-leaf lime (and MANY more)

Tilia heterophylla = American lime, Amerikaanse linde, Amerikansk lind, basswood, bee-tree, beetree linden, Tiglio Americano, Tilleul Americain, Tilo Americano, Tuleul Americain, white basswood.

TYPE: hardwood

COLOR: heartwood is a pale light brown sometimes with darker streaks and sometimes with a faint reddish tint, sapwood is creamy white

GRAIN: straight, fine and even to the point of being unnoticable, although it is not 100% uniform and even good pieces may contain an occasional small knothole or brown streak. Side rays can be very attractive and much like those of hard maple (sometimes identical) but end-grain is almost nonexistant.

TEXTURE: medium, very even

PROPERTIES / WORKABILITY: light, moderately soft, weak to medium in strength. Machines well and the lack of a stong grain pattern means that it takes nails and screws very well with little danger of splitting, but the softness means it does not hold nails and screws well. Its Uniform density leads to low tendancy to chip or split when using power tools, but there is some tendancy tendancy to rip or crush under the pressure of a cutting tool and sawing produces a woolly surface. It glues very well and can be sanded to a good smooth finish. It works very easily with hand tools and is a premier carving wood.

DURABILITY: poor mechanical durability and poor resistance to decay

FINISH: does not take a high natural polish and finishing usually requires a sealer. This is one of the few woods where even I recommend paint, which it takes very well. One report says that it contains no resin so takes stain very uniformly and well but most reports emphasize blotchy effects in staining due to porosity and softness.

STABILITY: It has fairly high shrinkage initially but is exceptionally stable in service once dry and in fact that characteristic leads to its preiminance in the realm of scientific instruments that require lack of movement (high end engineering rulers are an excellent example).

BENDING: poor for steam bending

ODOR: no odor or taste

SOURCES: Europe, Canada and United States

The natural range of American basswood is from southwestern New Brunswick to central Quebec, Ontario and southeast Manitoba, south to eastern North Dakota and northeastern Oklahoma to northern Arkansas and Tennessee, east to North Carolina, and north to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

USES: Its smoothness, uniform texture, and lack of resin make it a favored wood for turning and carving and because of its exceptionaly stability, it is the most popular wood for high end rulers and wooden scientific instruments that require little change in size and shape. Its relative softness make it ideal for carving with a knife and it is very popular for model building. Also used for picture frames, woodenware, toys, food containers, cabinet drawer interiors, framestock, boxes, crates, cooperage, furniture, millwork, drawing boards, novelties, pattern making, dowels, handles, venetian blinds, core stock, plywood, pulp, decoys, fiber products, furniture stock, caskets, mobile homes, shade rollers, signs, sporting goods, wooden ware, and novelties. An important specialized use is Venetian blinds and shutters because of the uniform texture and light weight. One report says it is used for musical instruments but that seems unlikely to me. It is used for high-end industrial model building in the car and ship industries.

TREE: can reach a height of 120 ft., with a diameter of almost 5 ft. and may grow to be more than 140 years old. The trees have straight trunks, with most of the bole limb-free, and narrow, short crowns. The trees grow as a cluster of stems, developed from stump sprouts. The bark is initially dark green and shiny, developing to a grayish color with deep furrows.

WEIGHT: very light, about 30 pounds per cubic foot

DRYING: dries fairly rapidly with little distortion or degrade

AVAILABILITY: common

COST: about $5 per board foot as lumber, but frequently sold as craftwood in small sizes that pro-rate out to much a higher BF cost.


web quotes:
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... very similar to tulip in appearance.

Basswood is weak and tends to break when cut into small parts.