From Alaska to California, red alder is the most common commercial hardwood. This cousin of birch and aspen generally prefers wet climates and usually grows in groves along stream banks or on moist hillsides. Red alder grows like a weed, doing especially well on logged-out or burned land. It often overtakes the efforts of foresters trying to replant softwood species like fir and spruce. Alder's ability to resist the ravages of forest fires also has contributed to its abundance.
It could be called a chameleon wood, for it is widely used to imitate some mighty pricey competition including walnut, mahogany, and cherry. Its ruddy coloring and indistinct grain pattern allow a creative finisher to mimic the hues of these other species, and its hardness makes it a suitable wood for furniture and millwork. Also popular with turners, particularly mass production shops, it requires little sanding and has a uniform grain pattern, which reduces tear-out on the lathe.
The top choice of clog-makers for hundreds of years, alder has left a unique footprint on history, and its role can still be described as pedestrian. Alder often makes up the core material in high- quality plywood like Baltic Birch and is widely used for industrial purposes like pallets, broom handles, and commercially made toys.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com