Ash

Botanical name Fraxinus excelsior L.

Historical and cultural information
From the spear rods, hoe and axe handles of the Neolithic Era, in today’s modern days ash wood is used for making hammer, pick and spade handles. Expert artisans know that the fibres must run lengthwise. This reduces longitudinal ruptures due to violent stress. Ash wood, which is stable and elastic, was ideal for making carts. It was also used for automobile chassis, however, as in the production of skis, it has been replaced by other materials. Who remembers wooden train benches with a curved ergonomic shape? However, light-coloured ash remains an attractive material for making quality furniture.

General information
Usually ash is scarce in forests (about 1%), though in some areas of riparian forests, it is fairly common. Ash is to be found, on the one hand, on valley floors or river banks, and on the other on humid ground and at higher altitude, up to 1200m. Growth is rapid and ash can reach the age of 250 years; in productive forests it is felled after 70 – 90 years at a 0.4 – 0.6 m. diameter.

Characteristics
Ash is a species with undifferentiated heartwood. The large vessels in spring wood are visible to the naked eye. This feature, together with its light colour, make it easily recognizable. Generally there is no difference in colour between sapwood and heartwood. A “coloured heart” may develop secondarily, but not necessarily. American ash wood is evenly greyish-brown to brown and clearly pale, while in European ash the variation in colour goes from greyish-brown to olive, often crinkled. Colour distribution is occasionally ring-shaped in cross-section thus producing coloured radial streaks. Due to its resemblance to olive wood (Olea europaea), part of its botanical family, ash logs with particular patterns are called “olive ash”. These can pay good profit in the rotary cutting phase.

Properties
With dry density at 670 kg/m3, ash is classified as one of the hardest and heaviest types of timber (Brinell hardness 38 N/mm2). It is tough and elastic. Machining ash wood requires an average level of energy consumption, however care must be taken in distinguishing the hardness differences between spring and late timber, especially in case of wide growth rings with extensive portions of late wood. Steamed wood can be easily bent, cut and peeled. Drying is quick and does not cause flaws, however artificial drying may cause the colour to change from light to an undesirable grey. When exposed to light, white ash wood tends to become yellowish.

Use
This pale wood is particularly suitable for decorative rotary cut veneers, flooring (parquet), stairs, and bent wood furniture. Thanks to its good mechanical properties, it is used for making sport equipment (parallel bars, paddles, wall bars), tools (hammer and axe handles, ladders), as well as utensils and musical instruments (drumsticks). Fiddleback figured Turkish or Hungarian ash wood (a type of manna ash – Fraxinus ornus L.) is most appreciated by furniture manufacturers.