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Solid Birch - Workability and Suitability?

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Forum topic by JohnMcClure posted 03-29-2017 11:36 AM 462 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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JohnMcClure

100 posts in 479 days


03-29-2017 11:36 AM

A local sawmill has 8/4 x ~10” x ~8’ birch stock for pretty cheap. I’ve never worked with roughcut lumber before. The birch looks like it’s just asking to be made into a coffee table; would I be frustrated by the hardness if I tried to hand-plane it? Some resources I found online suggested that it is so hard, it is rarely hand-worked and not typically suitable for furniture.

As someone new to hand work, do you guys recommend I gain experience with “easier” woods, or is the hype about birch overblown?

PS I don’t know what species of birch it is, but the sawmill is in Southeast TX.

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail


9 replies so far

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Ron Aylor

1789 posts in 486 days


#1 posted 03-29-2017 12:05 PM

Well … it is hard and brittle. You would need to make sure you saws, planes, and chisels are indeed sharp. Highly figured birch can we a bear to plane.

”... it is so hard, it is rarely hand-worked and not typically suitable for furniture.”  That’s true today, but in the 1600s and 1700s there was an awful lot of furniture made of solid birch. What does that  say about modern man?
 

 
My suggestion … buy some! But also buy some soft maple and work with it for a bit … then tackle the birch!

-- Ron in Lilburn, Georgia.  Knowing how to use a tool is more important than the tool in and of itself.

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Andre

1495 posts in 1644 days


#2 posted 03-29-2017 01:04 PM

Made the base of my Workbench from Birch and have milled some birch for my own use. Very similar to Maple in fact I used Birch moldings and casings to finish my basement development to match the Maple on the main floor, 1/4 the cost and no one can tell the difference after it is stained.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

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bondogaposis

4480 posts in 2190 days


#3 posted 03-29-2017 01:26 PM

It is very similar to maple, it has a little more color but not much. If you can work maple you can work birch. It very comparable in hardness to other domestic hardwoods. Harder than cherry but softer than maple.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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Woodchuck2010

704 posts in 697 days


#4 posted 03-29-2017 01:31 PM

I made this end table without issue, but with mostly power tools.

-- Chuck, Michigan,

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Ron Aylor

1789 posts in 486 days


#5 posted 03-29-2017 04:39 PM



... without issue, but with mostly power tools.
 

- Woodchuck2010

Great looking top!

-- Ron in Lilburn, Georgia.  Knowing how to use a tool is more important than the tool in and of itself.

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BurlyBob

5064 posts in 2104 days


#6 posted 03-29-2017 04:45 PM

Chuck. Where did you get that edge profile cutter? I really like the looks of it. That is a very nice table.

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dday

129 posts in 1268 days


#7 posted 03-29-2017 04:57 PM

Yes, very nice table. What do you do to prevent blotching?

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Woodchuck2010

704 posts in 697 days


#8 posted 03-29-2017 09:26 PM



Chuck. Where did you get that edge profile cutter? I really like the looks of it. That is a very nice table.

- BurlyBob

Its an ogee bit that I’ve had for a couple years now. MCLS or something like that. lol Thanks for the compliment.

-- Chuck, Michigan,

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Woodchuck2010

704 posts in 697 days


#9 posted 03-29-2017 09:30 PM



Yes, very nice table. What do you do to prevent blotching?

- dday

I bought the Charles Neil stuff. Worked great. Definitely makes the stain lighter, but I like it. It was scary for sure putting on the stain. I didn’t want to ruin the bookend top that I glued up. Thank you!

-- Chuck, Michigan,

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