Usefulness of Alder Wood

but it has its own good and bad points. June 28, 2005

I am looking for some information about alder wood. I am trying to find out what the density is, and what other more common wood can it be compared to. I presume it is a smooth grain wood that may be comparable to soft maple? I would also like to find out how stable it is, and if it is useful in building furniture. I'm looking to use it as an interior grade part in furniture. Any information would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor F:
I don’t know the scientific specs on alder’s hardness. It is stable and used extensively in furniture and cabinet making. At one time it was used a lot for the understructure in upholstered furniture (and probably still is). These days a lot of makers use it as a primary show wood, and it can be stained to mimic other woods like cherry. It certainly would be acceptable as interior furniture members.

From contributor K:
Alder is a hot commodity. It used to be a poor boys maple, but with the advent of modern milling and kiln technology it has come into its own as a hardwood for cabinetry and furniture. It even supports a market for character wood using the knotty, stained and void containing boards that used to go to the chipper. It finishes beautifully with a light color and tight grain structure.

It tends to warp as it dries, so if you are air drying you'll really need to sticker, strap, and weight it well. Alder isn’t very good in the realm of rot resistance. If you use it for furniture, use it indoors only. Under moist warm conditions (underneath a bathroom cabinet) it will turn to pulp. The fully sealed/oiled cabinet door will be ok, but the interior face frame will rot.

From the original questioner:
Thank you for the information. This doesn’t sound like a wood I want to use for my application. Does anyone have any reccomendations for interior grade applications in wood seating that require a high degree of structural integrity (and wouldn’t set me back a lot)?

From contributor F:
To the original questioner: As far as the price goes, alder is usually one of least expensive hardwoods. Structural integrity will come from the method of building your seating. Oak is medium priced and would wear well as seating.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Alder is rather soft and dents easily. It is used as a substitute for cherry in applications where it will not be subject to denting. It is a rather expensive wood today, especially in wider sizes. Often, the grades are special grades owned by a company rather than the NHLA grades used for other hardwoods.

An excellent book “Utilization and Management of Alder” was published in 1978 by the Pacific NW Exp Station of the US Forest Service. Many libraries in OR and WA will have copies; your local library can probably get it through interlibrary loan from Oregon State university.