Characteristics and Usefulness of Sassafras

Beauty and versatility give this lesser-used wood some economic value. January 18, 2011

I have several thousand board feet of sassafras logs available. I would like to know if they are worth sawing? What is the value and where would a person market it?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor G:
It is wonderful cabinet wood - medium brown tending towards the reddish side of brown. It has a uniform color and nice grain. Itís also easy working and takes stain without blotching. It finishes easily and when freshly cut smells great like root beer. It has an absolutely distinctive smell, which unlike cedar, does not persist after cutting. It does not have a tendency towards shake or internal flaws. It dries easily without degrade (end waxing is a good idea). It seems to yield a lot of clear or high grade pieces and it is not expensive. (I am a great fan of it here in southern Indiana.) From your point of view however it does not have much in the way of a market.

From contributor T:
It has a oaky grain and grows in abundance but no dollar value around here. The older generations split as fenceposts and rails, used as barn gates, wagon beds and barn siding due to its weathering durability. I've heard some restorers use it when they can't find the "American chestnut" reclaim wood.

I'm personally cutting 3/4" x 8"- random for some cabin lap siding. I haven't nailed any on yet but if it's as durable as the older generation says it should work great naturally. I'm going to test some 5/4" for decking but not sure on the splinters. Most loggers around here don't like to cut due to the internal hollows we find, which affects the purchasing value. I think between the rocky hillside soils and the older farmers burning fields off in the spring it damages the timber. I've cut some beautiful lumber from all of mine.

From contributor A:
I sell most of mine from $1 to $1.25 bdft. If I can get widths wider than ten inches the price doubles. I sell a lot of 5/4 x 6 in four, six, and eights foot lengths if it is clear for boat paddles. The lumber sells well here and I never have enough. I like sawing thick slabs out of it as it is stable and often holds the bark with no problems. It works well and smells great.

From contributor S:
It's beautiful wood for furniture. It used to sometimes be used for making Conestoga wagons as it is light and fairly strong.

From contributor B:
My sister owns a house designed and built by Gustav Stickley, father of the American Bungalow style. The entire ground floor was wainscoted in chestnut 3/4 up every wall. When she expanded the kitchen, she wanted it to look as close to the rest of the house as possible. Sassafras was the closest they could come to matching chestnut - same bold figure with the distinctive contrast between early and late wood. Market it to Arts and Crafts style furniture makers and house restorers.