Ash wood is a well-loved wood in the Forest 2 Home woodworking community, and it is no wonder; with its light, yellow color and prominent grain, it is sure to be an eye catching part of any woodworking project. This hardwood has deep roots in American culture as it has become the featured species of the baseball bat. Not only is Ash well loved by woodworkers and makers, but this tall and fast growing tree is a staple to wildlife habitats throughout the northeast, providing shelter as well as sustenance through its bark, leaves and trees. There are somewhere between 40 to 60+ species of Ash trees, so how much do you really know about your favorite hardwood? Read on to learn more about Ash trees, including the White Ash wood that you can find at Forest 2 Home.
White Ash wood growth
White Ash (Frazinus americana) trees have a large area of natural growth ranging from north to Nova Scotia, down south to northern Florida and east to southern Minnesota and eastern Texas. While it grows in a large region, White Ash trees have very particular requirements as far as climate, soil fertility and moisture. Most commonly, White Ash grows on fertile soil with high nitrogen and moderate to high calcium. Its best growth occurs in moderately well drained soils though it is intermediately tolerant of temporary flooding.
The White Ash tree can grow to heights of 80 feet with a crown that spreads over 50 feet wide, though larger trees are not uncommon. White Ash seeds are one of the only seedlings with the capability of penetrating thickets of invasive plants while having the will to persist and reach the forest canopy. It takes between 3-years to 15-years for the White Ash tree to reach 5-feet in height, but by then, it will have a well-established root system and grow rapidly without being deterred by weeds or surrounding invasive species. The White Ash tree is enduring and persists against the odds as a fast growing, strong species.
Threats to White Ash trees
There is a serious threat to the White Ash tree species; a threat that could eviscerate the nearly seven billion trees that stand tall today. Despite its size being as small as a penny, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) insect is annihilating the Ash species.
Native to eastern Asia, the Emerald Ash Borer beetle was first found in 2002, though it was thought to have been introduced sometime in the 1990’s. Its population has grown significantly and in a short time, it has killed millions of Ash trees. These beetles damage the tree as larvae, chewing through tree bark to feed on the inner layer of cells which, in turn, severs the trees access to nutrients and water.
If something is not done soon to control the invasive insect and lessen the damage it has caused to the White Ash tree species and Ash trees in general, the species could kill almost every tree within a few decades and leave any kind of future for the remaining White Ash trees in doubt.
While the Emerald Ash Borer is the greatest threat to the survival of the White Ash tree species, the tree is up against additional threats that include tree disease, air pollution, fungi and additional insect and animal damage.
Are Ash trees hardwood trees?
Hardwood species are classified by the seeds the tree produces. Each hardwood tree species has a coating that takes the shape of a fruit or a shell that becomes a flowering plant. These flowering seeds are known as angiosperm, which translates in Greek to “vessel seed.” Additionally, hardwood trees lose and regrow their leaves annually, making them deciduous trees.
They differ from softwood trees, as trees classified as softwood’s seeds do not have a coating and are instead dropped to the ground to deal with the elements. Examples of softwood tree seeds are needles and cones that are dubbed gymnosperm, meaning “naked seed.” Except for the Larch tree species, all softwood trees retain their needles year-round, making them evergreen trees.
The White Ash is dioecious, meaning it has flowers that appear with or before its leaves in April and May and seed crops are products about every three years. These flowering seeds are transplanted into the soil to grow the tree. These kinds of seeds are known as angiosperm and make Ash trees deciduous, hardwood trees.
The Janka Hardness Scale is used to determine the relative hardness for domestic wood species, like Ash wood. The test measures the amount of force that is required to embed a 11.28mm steel ball hallway into a piece of wood. While the Janka Hardness Scale is traditionally used to determine whether a wood species is suitable for flooring, it is a good measure of determining a wood species resistance to wear and its overall durability. Wood species with a higher number rating are harder than wood species with a lower rating. The data from the Janka Hardness Scale is expressed in pounds-force, or lbf.
On the Janka Hardness Scale, the ranking for standard Ash hardwood is 1320, making it stronger than Red Oak wood (1220 lbf), Walnut wood (1010 lbf), and Cherry wood (950 lbf). It is no wonder that it is a go to option for furniture, as it is one of the most durable options of northeastern hardwoods.
Different kinds of Ash
As previously mentioned, there are 40 to 60+ kinds of Ash wood trees, though some more closely resemble White Ash wood than others. Ash trees fall into the Fraxinus genus within the Olive (Oleaceae) family and while they have similar properties, their differences are prevalent. Different types of Ash trees include:
- Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra): this close relative to the White Ash tree tends to be slightly darker with growth rings that are much closer together. Black Ash trees may be aesthetically dissimilar to the White Ash tree but the two types grow within similar regions of the northeastern United States and into eastern Canada. The Black Ash thrives in cold and wet areas and can grow between 50 feet to 55 feet tall.
- Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica): found within the northern and eastern United States, the Green Ash can be found in a slew of different climates, growing easily despite pollution and poor soil conditions. The Green Ash is a medium sized tree that grows between 40 feet to 60 feet tall.
- European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior): this Ash tree can be found across Europe and into southwestern parts of Asia. The European Ash can grow to be more than 70 feet tall, making it comparable in height to the White Ash tree. Like the White Ash has made roots in American history through its integration with baseball, the European Ash has deep roots in European history through its presence in folklore.
- Blue Ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata): this unique tree received its name as the inner bark turns blue when exposed to the air and was once used to create blue dye. Growing from 60 feet to 70 feet tall, the Blue Ash is commonly found parsed through the mid-west of the United States.
- Manna Ash (Fraxinus ornus): the Manna Ash grows in parts of southwestern Asia and Europe. Though this medium sized tree only grows up to 50 feet in height, its impact is much larger thanks to its mention in the Bible where its sweet sap is dubbed a sacred food.
- Velvet Ash (Fraxinus velutina): also known as the Arizona Ash or Modesto Ash, this Ash tree grows in parts of the north and southwestern United States. These trees grow between 30 feet and 50 feet tall and while they do best in wet and alkaline soils, they can also grow in dry conditions.
- Narrow Leaf Ash (Fraxinus angustifolia): native to Southwest Asia, southern and central Europe and northwest Africa, this Ash tree has beautiful purple foliage and can thrive in acidic soil. The Narrow Leaf Ash will grow between 60 feet to 80 feet in height.
Ash tree look-alikes
When you love the look of Ash but would like to make a change, there are various tree species that can act as a substitute. The most notable is Sassafras, which is available by the board foot at Forest 2 Home.
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) closely resembles Black Ash in both color and grain pattern. Even its density is similar to that of Black Ash. The biggest difference between Sassafras and Black Ash is the scent of Sassafras; Sassafras is known for its strong, root beer-like scent.
Ash wood and the baseball bat
While we have yet to see a baseball bat created from Forest 2 Home White Ash wood by a woodworker in the F2H community, Ash wood has historically been the preferred species for baseball bats. Prior to the conception of aluminum bats, Ash wood bats were the standard for baseball equipment. The White Ash trees light weight and porous characteristics are ideal for making a flexible yet dense bat.
Ash woodworking projects from Forest 2 Home
Woodworking project inspiration
Long boards made from Ash wood and Walnut wood
(created by @jettywoodwork on Instagram)
Macramé and wood hanging plant holder made with Ash wood
(made by @ross_woodworking and @nikki__mans on Instagram)
Custom built shower bench
(built by @a_mano_woodworking on Instagram)
Find more woodworking and DIY project inspiration on the Forest 2 Home inspiration page.
Have any questions about the other Forest 2 Home lumber species? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment down below!
Are you ready to create your next project with Ash wood? Be sure to tag @shopf2h on Instagram so we can see and share your work! If you include the hashtag #BuiltWithF2H on final project photos shared on Instagram and Facebook, you will automatically be entered into the #BuiltWithF2H Project of the Month consideration! Happy Woodworking!