The beech is a unique-looking tree with grayish bark that is remarkably smooth from its twigs to its trunk, giving romantics a palette to carve their names. Rebecca Rupp, in her book of tree folklore titled Red Oaks and Black Birches, mentions the Presidents' tree of Takoma Park, Maryland, which is, in fact, a beech. The wood is distinguishable by its evenly distributed tiny red-brown flecks. Even- textured with small, consistently spaced pores, it has superb machining qualities.
Beech accepts finishes well and polishes to a nice sheen. Steam bending and laminating both work wonderfully, making it a top choice for bent chair parts. It has poor decay resistance. It is quite difficult to dry and prone to significant shrinkage and warping during the process. Once dry, however, the wood is relatively stable, if not subjected to extreme swings in humidity.
A national beer brewer boasts that its flagship brand is "beech wood aged." The irony is that what beech offers for this purpose is really what it lacks, a strong taste or odor that might taint the flavor of foods and drinks. While other species like walnut, cherry, and oak grab the limelight for their looks, beech (a relatively plain wood with a reddish hue) often is employed for hidden structural parts in furniture.
It also is a favorite for hand tools, workbench tops, flooring, desktops, and counters, since it resists wear as well as nicks and dings.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com