Use and finishing tips: Cottonwood

Cottonwood is a good quality, light-to-medium duty wood. 1998.

by Professor Gene Wengert

I have some cottonwood which supposedly came from Arkansas. I would like to build some bookcases out of it. Is this practical? How stable is it and how does it take stain?

If the cottonwood is dried correctly (6 to 8% MC) it is a good material to use for lightweight book shelves and cases. However, for a heavy load, the shelves will sag quite a bit. It glues very well, but you might have to use more nails/screws or larger nails/screws to get the required holding power. The wood takes stain fairly well, with a little blotchiness at times. It can be stained to look very close to cherry or walnut--only an expert will know... Avoid the stained or brown colored wood. Overall, cottonwood is underrated; it is a very good wood.

Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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