Ron Ruscio Photography + Craftsmen in Wood
Ron Ruscio Photography + Craftsmen in Wood

Natural hardwoods offer sustainability, authenticity, and comforting natural beauty. The added bonus? They are all derived from a material straight from the soil. In fact, North American hardwoods are among the most plentiful and well-managed resources in the world. Within the Western hardwoods growing region, one species is quickly gaining popularity in the global wood industry: alder.

What is Western Alder?
Alnus rubra, better known as alder, offers an appealing combination of workability, versatility, and beauty. The growing range of Alder extends from southern British Columbia to Northern California. It’s a relatively small tree that only reaches about 90 to 120 feet in height at maturity (40 to 60 years), with an average trunk diameter of 12 inches for logs that come into the mill.

What alder may lack in size, it makes up in feasibility, utility, and charm. That’s why Northwest Hardwoods, the largest manufacturer of hardwood lumber in North America, has been an industry pioneer in recognizing and utilizing this viable and valuable hardwood species as a prime lumber source.

Why Use Alder?
What makes alder so popular is that it’s a fairly straight-grained wood with uniform texture, and little difference or color variation between the heartwood and sapwood. In the past, the wood, because of its visual appeal, was used as a substitute for cherry, maple, or birch, but today it has gained popularity as a stand-alone species because of some of its characteristics:

  • Workability: Alder is excellent for machining, turning, surfacing, drilling, boring, carving, and molding.
  • Versatility: Alder can be nailed without splitting, screwed without pre-drilling, and glues well.
  • Beauty: Alder is sandable to a smooth finish, paintable. and stainable. (It is ideal for light or natural finishes and offers a warm honey color when finished naturally.)

Where to Use Alder
Alder can be used to deliver a knotty, rustic, or distressed appearance, in addition to a beautiful clear look, making it ideal for use in a broad range of applications, such as cabinets, doors and paneling, moldings and millwork, furniture, electric guitar bodies, interior joinery, and other specialty wood products.

Sun Mountain Custom Doors + Wide Plank Flooring
Sun Mountain Custom Doors + Wide Plank Flooring

As with most hardwoods, applications for alder vary depending upon the grading of the wood. That’s why Northwest Hardwoods developed proprietary grades that meet exact specifications demanded in various market segments. Alder plywood is also available, which further expands the range of applications that can take advantage of the beauty of Alder.

Workable. Versatile. Beautiful. It’s easy to see why alder continues to gain popularity in the global wood industry. Bottom line: The use of alder is on the rise.

For more information about alder wood or other hardwoods, visit