Ash: the right wood in all the right places

 

With its straight grain and exceptional strength, ash has long been a staple in the legs of chairs, rockers, and benches throughout our collections. Balancing its strength, ash is also remarkably resilient– providing just the right “give” to make a spindle Thos. Moser chairback every bit as comfortable as it is beautiful.

 

 

Tom in the shop, perfecting the ash spindle back.

Tensile Strength

What is this “give” that makes ash so desirable to use for making spindles and legs? It’s known as tensile strength or the elasticity of the material. Every piece of wood, metal, glue, fiber, and even our own hair has tensile strength. It is the measure of how much pressure or stress can be placed on any one element before it breaks.

Tensile strength is the maximum stress or force a material can withstand while being stretched, pulled, or absorb before breaking. Ash is an optimum choice for furniture makers to use for legs and spindles, as it can be manipulated and bent while still maintaining its strength. In addition, ash is not as heavy as other hardwoods making it perfect for creating a chair that is built to withstand everyday use that is not cumbersome.

Characteristics of Ash

Ash or Fraxinus is in the same family as the olive and lilac tree. Named for its spear-shaped leaves, the ash tree has over a dozen different varieties that grow throughout the Eastern United States and Canada, with the most common being green or white.

Color

Light in color, it is often difficult to see where the sapwood (the outermost part of the tree) and heartwood,( the innermost part of the tree) begin. Over time, the creamy color of ash will age into a dark golden hue.

Strength

Ash, is considered a “hardwood” as are the cherry and walnut we use in our furniture. However, the term “strength” or “hardness” of wood is incredibly ambiguous. That is to say, there is more than one way of determining the strength of the wood and its application.

The bending strength (when weight is placed perpendicular to the grain) of ash is 15,000 psi. In contrast, cherry is 12,300 psi and walnut is 14,600 psi. The hardness of ash (determined by engineers driving a metal ball halfway into the wood’s surface) is 1,320 lbs of force, compared to 490 lbs for cherry and 1,010 lbs for walnut.

Grain Pattern

Ash contains a relatively smooth and straight brown-beige grain pattern giving it a neutral palette that complements the varied grain patterns of cherry and walnut. Though it is generally known for its straight grain, conditions in its environment- soil, moisture, pests- can result in figured or spalted ash.

Building Furniture for a lifetime

When we build furniture, we do so with the utmost respect for the materials. We employ its natural strength and do so with the keen eye of a master craftsman. And in doing so, we carefully select wood that will dutifully withstand the rigors of daily life. As a natural polymer, wood resists stress by spreading the weight throughout the length of any given board. We follow its lead, utilizing the natural cathedrals of the grain as ornamentation that naturally enhances our aesthetic.

For us, ash’s tenacity and durability to withstand a lifetime of use in our chair legs and spindles simply make it, the right wood in the right place.