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How to Identify and Source Quality Ash Wood for Your Projects

Timber Knowledge
18 July 2023 min read

How to Identify and Source Quality Ash Wood for Your Projects

Ash is a fantastic material if you’re looking for reliable, versatile, and attractive wood. Its strength, durability, and aesthetic appeal make it an ideal choice for various projects, from furniture to flooring and musical instruments to cabinets. 

However, not all ash wood is created equal, and it's essential to identify and source high-quality ash wood to achieve the best results. 

This article will explore how to recognise and source premium ash wood for your projects.

Identifying Ash Wood 

Before you can source high-quality ash wood, you must correctly identify it. 

Ash has a distinct grain that is straight and uniform, with a light to medium-brown colour. The wood has a moderate texture, and its pores are visible but not so large as to be distracting. Because of its unique colour and grain characteristics, it’s easy to distinguish ash wood from other types of wood. 

One factor that affects ash wood's appearance is where it comes from. Another essential aspect is that there are two types of ash wood: white ash and black ash. 

White ash is more common and easier to work with, as it has a dense, straight grain that resists splitting. On the other hand, black ash is a bit harder to find, but it is preferred if you want to use it for projects with a curved pattern because it has a more flexible grain pattern.

Inspecting Ash Wood for Quality 

When purchasing ash wood, it's crucial to inspect the wood for any signs of damage or weakening in strength. The quality of ash wood can be checked by looking at the general appearance of the wood, its grain pattern, and the presence of any visible defects.

High-quality ash wood should not have any noticeable flaws, such as knots, checks, or splits. Any knots in the wood should not be loose or dark in colour, as this can indicate weak points that may affect the wood's durability. The wood’s grain should be straight and uniform, with a consistent colour throughout. 

Additionally, you should check the moisture content of the wood. Wet or green wood will be heavier and less likely to burn and deform as it dries out. Also, opt for dry ash wood with a moisture content of around 6% to 8%, as this will be lightweight and stable, making it easier to work with and less likely to warp.

Checking Ash Wood for Insect Damage 

Ash trees, especially in North America, have been vulnerable to the emerald ash borer, an insect that can cause significant damage to the wood. Insect damage can affect the integrity and aesthetic of the wood, so it's essential to thoroughly inspect for any signs of such damage when sourcing ash wood.

Look for any small, D-shaped exit holes or winding tunnels under the bark—these are tell-tale signs of emerald ash borer infestation. High-quality ash should be free from any such damage.

Understanding Ash Wood Density and Hardness 

One of the key characteristics to consider when identifying high-quality ash is its density and hardness. The hardness of ash wood is among the highest of hardwoods, resulting in its excellent strength and shock resistance, which makes it ideal for furniture, flooring, and tool handles. 

Density, in particular, plays a significant role in ash's workability. Denser wood will be more challenging to work with but will typically provide a more robust and durable result. 

You can perform a simple 'knock test to assess the wood's density.' High-density wood will produce a higher-pitched sound when knocked on, while low-density wood will make a lower-pitched, dull sound.

The Role of the Growth Region in the Quality of Ash Wood 

Where the ash wood was grown can impact its quality. 

For instance, ash wood from colder regions tends to be denser and harder due to slower growth rates, while wood from warmer areas might be less dense. 

By considering these additional factors—density and hardness, responsiveness to finishes, potential insect damage, and growth region—you can be more assured in your ability to identify and source high-quality ash wood for your projects.

Sourcing Quality Ash Wood 

Once you've identified high-quality ash wood, sourcing it for your projects is the next step. You can purchase ash wood from various sources, but choosing a reputable supplier that provides high-quality wood is essential. 

At Woodshop Direct, we are committed to sourcing our wood from sustainable sources. This conscientious approach ensures we do not contribute to forest depletion. Additionally, it guarantees that the wood you receive from us is high-quality and complies with international environmental regulations. 

Taking Care of Ash Wood 

After finding high-quality ash wood, it's essential to take good care of it to ensure its durability and longevity. One way to maintain the wood's quality is to store it in a dry place to prevent it from warping and cracking. 

Further, it's essential to treat the wood carefully when working with it. Ensure that your saw blades are sharp and maintained, as cutting with a dull blade can produce jagged edges and ruin the wood's grain structure. Similarly, use appropriate sandpaper. Less fine, and the wood surface will be hard to coat, and too rough will result in a less refined finish.

Ash Wood's Responsiveness to Stains and Finishes 

Another crucial factor affecting your woodworking project's outcome is how ash wood reacts to stains and finishes. Ash is known for its excellent staining qualities, so you can easily customise its colour to match your project requirements. 

High-quality wood should absorb stains evenly, resulting in a consistent colour. You can test this by applying a small amount of stain to a hidden area of the wood piece. The wood is likely high-quality if the stain spreads evenly and absorbs well. In contrast, low-quality wood may result in blotchy or uneven staining.

Woodshop Direct’s Wood Solutions

When it comes to identifying and sourcing high-quality ash wood, there are several factors to consider, from the appearance of the wood to where it comes from. Your choice of wood can make or break your woodworking project, so it's critical to be discerning when sourcing ash wood. 

By identifying and buying quality ash wood and then caring for it properly, you'll end up with beautiful, long-lasting wood pieces you can be proud of.