Boxelder is a widespread, adaptable, and easy-to-grow tree from North America. Its popularity has earned it a lot of names among proponents and opposers alike.
The tree can grow almost anywhere but is more prevalent in wet bottomlands. However, is it good for anything?
It is easy to write off boxelder wood from the descriptions as an unnecessary evil that grows haphazardly with no apparent use. However, boxelder wood is a great variety used for pulp and rough lumber boxes, carvings, turnings, charcoal, crates, treenware, toys, interior finishing, and simple furniture or storage projects. It is also a great source of fiber used in fibreboard.
The boxelder tree species and wood type have acquired a polarizing reputation, with some loving the wood and some using it on some of their most lovely designs. I am here to settle that controversy once and for all.
The article examines five specific facts about boxelder wood to help you get started.
5 Facts About Boxelder Wood that You Should Know
1. Fast-Burning Lightwood for Outdoor Needs
Boxelder is low-density hardwood with combustion characteristics as softwood. It is heavy when wet but lighter than balsa wood when dry. Boxelder wood is not excellent as a wood burner.
It burns very quickly, almost similar to soft maple wood. This quality makes it ideal for starting fires and making decent kindling. Splitting the wood is a bit tough as it is gnarly and twisted.
If you were to seek out good wood for burning outside and indoors, boxelder would not be the first wood species on your mind, but it just works out just fine.
It has been shown to burn well in an outdoor fire pit, mainly because it does not emit smoke or throw embers all over.
Also, It doesn’t produce high temperatures, so it is most suitable for spring when the outside temperatures are mild.
Boxelder will produce enough heat to keep you warm in a fire pit for a day, but it probably works best when mixed with other wood species, especially maple or other hardwood varieties. You can maximize the heat of the wood variety by letting it dry completely before use.
The recommended drying time is up to a year. Just be prepared for some unpleasant foul odor when burning the wood for fuel. You can increase its heat content by converting it to charcoal, which burns longer and may be great for outdoor stoves.
2. It Is Brittle and Burns With Some Power Tools
Boxelder is a carver’s dream and will give a kick similar to working with soft maple. The wood is easy to get hands-on as it is relatively inexpensive.
I always have an easy time cutting the edges, bit and abrasive, perfect for beginners and children to work with.
I can also use extensive power tools on the boxelder tree with varying levels of success. Utilize sharp cutting edges on the wood at all times as boxelder tends to burn. Do not force-feed or hesitate the workpiece when slitting as it may increase boxelder burning.
It is more advisable to have a steady feed rate or fixed moving tool. A smooth cutter is likely to achieve a very smooth surface on boxelder wood, making it perfect for sanding. It also provides an excellent opportunity to practice hand-planing skills.
Unlike other hardwoods, always increase the rotations per minute when working with a boxelder.
If you have a broad piece of wood or one with a large diameter, clear out the chips to reduce the chances of burning. Utilize a backing board at all times to reduce the chances of tearing out the brittle wood.
While the boxelder holds screws and nails well, it is always a fantastic idea to pre-drill the wood to reduce the chances of splitting. Boxelder may be resistant to gluing in some instances, but a glue ribbon at the adjoining surfaces may do the trick.
One final challenge you may face after working with boxelder wood is staining. In most cases, boxelder wood has a blotchy stain that you can reduce by applying a layer of conditioning sealer before regular stain or gel stains.
3. Easy to Carve
The soft nature of boxelder makes it excellent for carving out different artifacts and furniture pieces. The wood is easy to work with and won’t be a headache to beginners at carving.
It is a bit more brittle and has to be handled more carefully than other carving wood varieties to avoid runouts on straight cuts.
Though the outer wood may be brittle, I do not experience any problems rotating the wood on a lathe. The most common items created are turned bowls, stem-ware, and pens.
The tree has been a central part of the carving past of the Native Americans being used to make bowls, dishes tubes for bellows, wood flutes, drums, and pipe stems.
Always carve the wood with low moisture contents to increase the stability of your projects. The preferred moisture content for outdoor wood is 12%, and indoor wood is 8%. Always be gentle with the wood.
Feed the straight boxelder at 90-degree angles to avoid twisting or tearing the wood. Always use a rip profile with 24 to 34 teeth and a 40-teeth blade for crosscutting if you need a clean-cut.
Avoid drilling holes with a twist drill as they may stray in the boxelder and cause a breakout.
4. Boxelder Wood is Red Stained
It is easy to identify the boxelder wood due to its red stain. The stain ranges in shade and color from light pink to dark red.
However, it fades with time when exposed to sunlight. The coloring is often attributed to a fungal infection in the wood called Fusarium reticulatum.
5. Boxelders Wood is Easy to Find
Boxelder wood is a fast-growing flowering plant from North America though it can be found in Guatemala. It is an invasive species introduced in Europe and Australia around 1688. There is a small commercial market for the wood, and it is often sold alongside soft maples.
I must stress the fact that boxelder has a low commercial value. Its value is dependent on your needs.
If you just need softwood for issues like interior, carving, or boxes, then boxelder is an excellent wood, but for more robust projects, the wood is not good enough.
The wood is very cheap, with a board going for as low as $2 per board. I recommend getting the wood from an online store or a furniture store near you.
Boxelder wood is an ordinary softwood with little market value in lumber but has a few tricks up its sleeves. The wood is a perfect source of fuel when adequately dried and can be used for carving a host of artifacts.
Use it carefully to avoid burning, tearing, or breaking the wood due to its brittle nature.