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Thread: Pros and Cons of Elm?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011

    Default Pros and Cons of Elm?

    Hi, I have a few huge logs of elm I procured for free and I've never worked with it before. So I'm just wondering what are some of the problems with milling (with a band-saw mill) and working with elm?

    Any pros and cons of the wood would be helpful to fill my complete lack of experience with the wood!

    Thanks for any input,

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    The thriving metropolis of Ayr, Ontario

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of Elm?

    From my very limited understanding, red elm has to be cut properly to avoid severe warping during the drying process
    If a man speaks in the forest, and there's no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Real Name
    Mark Rose

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of Elm?

    To add to what Steve said, it also stinks really bad when you work with it...
    Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's nut, that held its ground.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of Elm?

    I've only used small amounts a couple of times doing repairs to some antique furniture. I've found it to be easy to cut, mill, plane and sand. I have not noticed any strong smell with it but the stuff I used was well dried. It has a very pronounced grain pattern and it will show through most topcoats. If you wanted a smooth finish I think you'd have to use a grain filler.

    "Congratulations. You've just figured out the most complicated way to hold a board 30 inches off the floor."
    Tage Frid

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    London, ON

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of Elm?

    Been a while since I used it -- used to be plentiful round here. The grain pattern is a bit like oak, and I did use grain filler on it. The grey elm I had was pretty hard, and had a number of tiny black "knots" in it that were hard enough to nick blades if you weren't careful. I've been quite pleased with how the pieces made with it have aged -- very little movement and no warping. At one point it was used by the Royal Navy to build ships when they ran out of oak. However it's said to be unsuitable for outdoor furniture becuse it doesn't stand up well to intermittent moisture.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Sutton - Georgina Ontario

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of Elm?

    When looking for characteristics of wood from a usability/engineering point of view this reference is as good as any...

    Direct link -- maybe

    Title: .Wood Handbook, Wood as an Engineering Material (All Chapters)
    Publication: Forest Products Laboratory. Wood handbook - Wood as an engineering material. General Technical Report FPL-GTR-190. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory: 508 p. 2010

    Tables of all the characteristics you might ever want -- and lots you could care less about...

    “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” —- Mark Twain

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  9. #7
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Atikokan, Rainy River District, Ontario.
    Real Name
    just what you thought :^')

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of Elm?

    I have used quite a bit of Elm, though only in turning not flat work.

    However when you say Elm, I ask which Elm, as there are several Elm species growing here in N.A.

    American Elm aka White and Grey Elm is not a very hard wood, Red Elm aka Slippery Elm is a softer Elm, Rock Elm aka Cork Elm (branches look like Burr Oak with rough edges on them) that the English favored for their Navy ships is a very hard and tough wood (splinters would kill more sailers than the actual bullet, so wood that doesn't splinter easily like rock Elm was preferred).

    Other Elms like Cedar and a few more grow farther south in the US.

    There's also foreign Elm growing here, of which the Siberian Elm is quite prevalent here in Canada as well as the US, as it isn't affected by the Elm disease, it is also only medium hard wood.

    I found the wood on most Elms not easily cut when wet, but when dry they turn well and sand and finish just fine, my favorite Elm is the Rock Elm, good looking wood with nice grain and color.

    The Elm wood does shrink quite a bit drying from wet to dry, but is stable afterward, so would assume that flat sawn Elm will move a lot and should be dried carefully.

    Have fun and take care
    Leo Van Der Loo

  10. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Port Colborne, Ontario
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of Elm?

    I would love to see a big old Elm tree, they are all gone from around here which is too bad considering I'm in Elmvale.

    Canada's South Coast
    Port Colborne On.
    Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
    Benjamin Franklin

  11. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Toronto, Ontario

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of Elm?

    At the end of the 1800's and early 1900's, elm was very proment in the North American furniture business. If you look closely at some of the older antiquie furniture, you can spot it very easily. On flat sawn sections, there is a very distinctive herring bone pattern between the growth rings. Personally, I love it. I also hate it because when I was a kid, I got the task of spliting it for firewood to tide us over the winter. It can have the snarliest, #$@#$% grain going and is a bugger to split but it burns great with lots of heat and very little ash. I still have some boards buried in the shed and as stated above, it does have a habit to twist and warp during the drying process. I have not found it to be unstable once dried and make into furniture. I have used it for table tops and have had no problems if you follow the basic rules of furniture construction. Just make sure is is well stickered and lots of weight on top to hold it down if you are planing to air dry it.

    Wishing you great luck with your endevors

    I've cut this thing three times and it's still too dang short

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