Once a great American utility-wood stable, obtaining long boards of American Elm, presently, can prove to be a most difficult task. Elm’s heartwood colors range from a muted tan, to light to medium reddish brown. Its sapwood is easy to distinguish, being considerably paler in color. Recommended applications are those of a utilitarian nature, and preferably indoors; the wood has proven itself to be decidedly “non-durable,” and is known to possess poor dimensional stability. Its grains are typically interlocked and its texture is coarse. Although it glues, stains and finishes well, its diffult grains and texture makes resawing a difficult chore, with tearout not uncommon.
Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Boxes, baskets, furniture, hockey sticks, veneer, wood pulp, and papermaking.
Comments: The story with this wood is that its trees used to be among the most populated and frequently seen throughout North America. In times past, this medium-density wood was a heavily-used utility wood and was a staple in the paper / pulp industry … then Dutch Elm Disease showed up, and its numbers have been decimated since continually gathering steam. Across the midwest, from the 1950’s through the ’70’s, the population of Elms was decimated. By the late ’80’s, both Canada’ and the US’s Elms were, numerically, not far from extinction.
To its credit, the species has managed to not only survive, but maintain some longevity — due to its early seed-bearing tendencies, and quick rate of growth. Despite successfully enduring, the average life span of an Elm tree has been greatly foreshortened; very few trees survive long enough to reach full maturity.